Wednesday 10 July 2019

Stage 11 (Wednesday): Reason to believe

Stage 11 – Flat Stage
Albi to Toulouse
167 km – 2023 total climbing with two small climbs.

We’re setting off towards the Pyrenees mountains and I’m pumped. One rider who left yesterday came up to me and told me that when he did the Grand Loop, day 10 was his darkest day. I am thrilled that I am nowhere near darkness – not today anyway. The day is beautiful, the route is flat and the millage is low, relatively speaking.

I rode with two guys for most of the day. We created a fast paceline and worked hard to keep a steady cadence. Hours passed in almost complete silence. We each seemed to be deep within our own thoughts. We passed field upon field of blooming sunflowers – a treat I was hoping to see since I signed up for this tour.

The day blew by fast. Up and down, we climbed the endless hills of this flat stage, completing over 2000 meters of climbing. I feel my confidence growing as I go. This kind of ride has become pretty standard for us and I have accepted the fact that France has no flats.

We ended the day with the addition of 35 new riders who want to conquer the upcoming mountains. Most of them are repeaters from previous years, but a few of them are very new, very green and it shows on their faces… they still look happy! Just kidding. My group is weary but strong. We have been through a lot together.

The mood has changed, though, with the new additions. The restaurant we are having dinner in is overflowing with what is now 90 riders, and the air is thick with conversation and laughter. Many of the new riders are yelling across the room for whatever reason. It’s loud and a little obnoxious and we’re tired. I wish the new riders had their own table.  I can’t describe it but it kind of feels like they are intruders on our journey, shaking the ground we are riding on. I want to include them, but their energy is humming on a different frequency. I will be nice but I am not sure I need to like it. I’m probably just over-tired.

On a happier note, every night on every stage there are three awards given out. One is a joke award, given to the person who brings shame to cycling. It’s all in fun and we have a good giggle. Tonight’s recipient received the shame award for telling bad cheese jokes all day. I didn’t know there were that many cheese jokes, let alone bad ones.

The other two awards are for either acts of kindness (the yellow chapeau) or for some achievement (the arrow). As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had been blown away by being awarded the yellow cap on Stage 3. Well… it happened again! I won the Arrow Award for Stage 11!! In spite of my internal grumbling a few paragraphs above, it seems that, through thick and thin, I’ve got this infectious smile pasted across my face. People noticed. In spite of the painful challenges I’ve faced and the dark places I’ve visited, I was awarded the arrow for coming out of the other side of it, still pushing, still smiling.

I’m beginning to believe in myself and that I will make it to Paris.

Nice cemetery back there! Where's the sign-up sheet?

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