Wednesday 3 July 2019

Stage 5 (Wednesday): ... and Ice Cream

Stage 5 was our first real hilly day and it started out with my spirit at its lowest point so far this tour.
As I mounted my bike, I was full of anxious anticipation. I wasn't sure I could handle a harder day than the last four, to say nothing of the upcoming Stage 6, which I believe is one of the more difficult Stages on the tour.
I rode for about an hour, keeping to myself and thinking about where I was and what I was doing. "You’re in France Carmen, riding the f-ing tour. It’s supposed to be hard". That was the voice in my head, over and over.
I had decided that today was going to be a conservation day: slow and steady. I spoke with my team and let them know that I was going to go at 20% less effort today. I felt my body needed to heal and rest. They all understood – two deciding to ride ahead, and two deciding they felt the same way I did. So three of us rode together as a smaller team, each looking out for the other.
The conversation on our long, slow 5 km climbs became very personal, each of us sharing details of our lives with the others – strangers until a few days ago – the three of us bonding through pain.
The unexpected happened. This became, by far, my favorite stage so far. I felt stronger and lighter in spirit as the miles passed. After we completed the third of four climbs of the Stage, I was on a complete high. Everything but my butt felt great. The climbs were feeling easier.
Unfortunately, the fourth and last climb reverted back to feeling really hard (I figured it was an end-of-the-day thing), but we were done and we rode to our hotel. I saw a pharmacy along the way and yelled out that I needed to stop. My lips were very swollen from sunburn and I was in need of something balm-like.
While I was in the drugstore, Nick, one of my bookend riders today, darted off to the store across the street and returned with vanilla ice cream bars. The three of us sat on the steps of the pharmacy, enjoying a moment of friendship, camaraderie and relief.
Is it too much to say that it was the best ice cream bar I’ve ever eaten?

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