Day 8 - Stage 20 - Annency to Annency - Semnoz - Semnoz and Paris
6am starting time. Man I'm glad I got used to riding early in the morning this summer, because I'd normally be a bear to get up at this time of the morning. Also cheers for French Coffee, even if it's filtered. So much better than the stupid K-Cups, though the Java Shack is pretty good still.
A whole bunch of Duvine / Cannondale folks were also staying at our hotel, and it's a good thing we rolled out by 7, because they were rolling out at 7:30, so two busses at the hotel entrance would not have been a good thing.
I rode with Gilles and Will to Saint-Jean-d'Arve. It was quite a long drive, even along an actual divided highway at over 100kph, such speed for France! I tried to get a nap, as I had been up pretty late packing last night, but sleep eluded me. The two of them talked about life after the tour. Gilles had another guiding gig taking some folks down the Seine River on boats that carried along with the flow of the river, and then would spend time doing his normal job as a photographer. Will was going to go back and work as a subcontractor in a shipyard for luxury yachts outside of Marseille. Knowing from discussions with Brackie as to what a varied job career he has, I'm guessing the life of a cycle tour guide doesn't draw your standard 8am-to-5pm 5-day-a-week job security kind of person.
Along the way, Will played a mix CD, with a song that soon became my song of the tour, even tough it was on the next to last day.
- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - Can'd Hold Us.
Listening to the Lyrics, I found some common themese that paralelled with my journey:
Looking for a better way to get up out of bed /
Instead of getting on the Internet and checking a new hit
I used to get out of bed? No, I spent a lot of time sleeping in late. Now I get up and instead of just sitting infront a monitor playing some game, I now want to get out on the road and ride my bike. That new hit isn't a song, or a video, it was a new time sink of a game, something to distract me from getting on and living a life worth living. Playing someone elses life and thinking that it was mine.
Get up! Fresh out, pimp strut walking, /
little bit of humble, little bit of cautious
Somewhere between like Rocky and Cosby. /
Sweater gang, nope, nope y’all can’t copy /
Yup. Bad, moon walking, this here is our party, /
my posse's been on Broadway, /
And we did it our way.
With all the weight I've lost, I've got a new walk, but it's still not a comfortable walk. It's been a battle with the image of me that's recorded in my head. I've been fat for so long, even a year into this, I still think of myself as that 285 pound guy. I'm not used to clothes fitting tightly, because tight clothes showed rolls of fat. Now it shows a different me, a changed me.
And I did it the way you're supposed to. No stomach staple, or surgery, or taking the easy way out. No bulemia or other eating disorder. No heroin, cocaine, or any drugs other than that multi-vitamin and ibuprofen. I did it with eating better, eating less, and exercising.
Grown music, I shed my skin and put my bones into everything I record to it
And yet I’m on.
Let that stage light go and shine on down,
The only way to have done this was to put everything into it. I had to change so much to get here. There's still me inside; I still love computers and computer gaming, but my new muse and music is the sound of a tire on pavement. The sound of the wind whispering in my ear, changing pitch as the headwind turns into a crosswind, that is the sound of glory. My daughter's glee and joy when daddy comes home from a long rough bike ride makes it all worth it. Hoping that the only fat me that she's able to know is though the old pictures of me and her mommy.
The stage light, is the gifts of God, and what I hope is my mother and family in heaven watching me with pride in everything I achieve, being there to remind me of everything when I'm weak.
I realize with the rest of the song, there's giving back to the people. I'm working on that next part.
I also grew wistful over the impending end of my tour in France, and that this was the last ride I would have with Will. More than he knows it, he became a great friend to me. I truly believe you don't know someone wholly until you've riden a bike with them. I know this was a job for him, but it meant alot for me to have someone of his accomplishments to be so supportive and interested in where I had been and what I had done, to have him there with me today made it even more worthwhile.
After a couple of repeats of the CD, we made it to Saint-Jean-d'Arvey. Out Will and I popped, to join along and ride half of today's stage, which included the Category 1 climb of Mont Revard
and the HC climb up to Semnoz.
See where Saint Jean d'Arvey is, I was to ride that ride. All on the route of the Tour.
It was a bit rough starting out with cold legs right onto a climb, but we had places to be, people to see, babies to kiss, so it was climbing right off the bat. According to the video and strava, it took me a good 15 minutes to get them loose. Will was supportive all the while, telling me I was killing it (it sure as hell didn't feel like that), and here I was passing people on the climb (and I was, so I couldn't argue with that.)
As this was the last stage before Paris, the crowds were already out in force, and cheering was not unusual, and though no one tried to run along side us, there was a group that kept driving ahead of us and stopping and ended up cheering us a couple times.
We hit a false summit at La Feclaz, and stopped to take some pictures:
This area is also a winter wonderland zone, but more of a cross-country skiing area:
And the campers were already camped, and everyone walking up towards the summit:
Got back on the bike, and off we rolled:
I did spot this sign, as Here is Froome Cheese Country!
It was still 3km up to the summit of the climb, and we finally hit the 1km to go banner:
That last kilometer was one of the most utterly devistatingly beautiful rides of my life. Off to the left, just at the base of the mountain, was Chambery, Aix Les Bains and the Lac du Bourget off to the Nord-Ouest. This climb was so worth doing, even if it were so freaking long.
The summit KOM wasn't even finished being built yet:
Then was a long long descent. I probably could have ridden faster, but I stick by my descending commandments.
At the bottom, was a tricky right hander that if it weren't for the Tour de France arrows, we would have missed (Getting from the D913 to the D211). A small river climb, then into Montcel, and down to the D103...
Where another one of those freak things happened:
I've now been to Hell
and now I've met the Devil
(who is German, by the way).
The road flattened out a bit here, and we were able to draft off some other riders, and then get to the gorge at Le Cheran.
Then it was onto Semnoz. I could tell that something was up, as Will was on the phone a couple times. I knew this wasn't a good sign, as we had to be at the 1km to go marker by 1pm, and it as almost noon.
Though there were cows... With Bells.
We hit Quintal at the base of the climb around 12 noon. Figured I was done for, since from Quintal it was an 11km climb at a 8.5% grade. But I still gave it my best.
I made it to the 4km to go banner, before time caught up with me. Had I another 20-30 minutes, I would have been able to complete it all by bike, but because the entire tour was waiting on me, I loaded onto the van, and trucked up the next 3km, with Will having sprinted off, and then catching the last 2km hanging onto the window, with jeers from the assembled crowd "Cheater!"
Got unloaded and back on the bike at the 1km to go banner:
And you could hear over the speakers that they were talking about Custom Getaways... That's us. 1km to go. And it's not an easy 1km. 8.2% grade. Here we go...
Just getting back started was a little hard, in that it was still up hill, but once started, I just moved up to trail behind the car. At some point in time I realized the cheers were for our tour group and for me. I was so grateful to be finishing the climb, and as much as I thought I didn't earn it, everyone told me that had I more time I would have.
And rather than risk getting kicked off the top of the mountain, I brought it home behind the Skoda car, even though I could have sprinted past Mark at the end. The TdF gentleman seemed very adamant that we stay behind the car.
Here's me after the finish line:
Then we all got to get up and have our picture taken up on the actual podium of the day, and not just infront of the podium like we did at Gap. At some point in time someone handed me a bundle of flowers. I didn't know then but they were the flowers given to the Polka-Dot Jersey during the presentation.
We were ushered off the stage quickly. Everything was on a time schedule, and I think that the TdF people weren't all that happy with us actually using the bouquets.
We then went to move our bikes down to the back of the mountain to the vans, so we could change and come back to watch the stage. I hopped on my bike, stopped to take a few pics, then actually found the summit of the mountain.
There was a lone chalet on this side of the mountain, where we would end up eating lunch.
Looking back up to the top, there was a bit of a ski lift too, but my legs felt like jelly and I was not up to the task of walking up:
I then waited for the rest of the crew to show up; I think they took the instruction to walk their bikes out, and then thought what I did and rode the rest of the way.
I was gobstruck again with the absolute beauty of the scenery from the top of Semnoz. Mont Blanc in the background didn't hurt either.
I then got lunch with the group; a sausage pan seared in a white wine sauce with onions and sauerkraut, chips (pomme frites), and a beer. Quite a good after ride snack. We then walked back up the mountain to the Technical Zone. While the technical Zone at Gap was almost a couple acres, the TZ here on top of Semnoz was about 50 square meters. It was quite small in comparison, and felt more like a punishment than a reward. There was no refreshments provided, and the sun was hot and glaring down. I'd rather have been in the Izoard or the hospitality tent today.
My view of the finish line:
And we did get to rub elbows with people we wouldn't normally have. I did get to see Bernard Hinault (but forgot to take a picture), and remembering what Valentine from Gap said, the main quality of a podium girl was that they were tall.
Then the publicity caravan came by. As in Gap, it's more of a formality at the finish line, since there's no handing out of goods at this point in time.
And then according to Daniel Mangeas, it was time for the race to finish:
We were instructed that 15 minutes after the winner crossed the line, that we should get walking back towards the Van. I tried to stick around to catch a sight of Quintana or Froome, but they didn't come out in time.
With much of the tour, which I think I've said before, but I'll say again, I felt rushed. With the access we had there at the end of such a pivotal stage, I would have loved to stay for an hour just walking up and down listening and watching the riders. But we had an Airplane to catch back in Chambery to get us to Paris.
Walking back I finally got sight of the extremely famous (well famous for having such a vocal fan club) Wouter Poels:
And Laurens Ten Dam:
John Gadret sitting down after the tough stage:
Christophe Riblon, the former Polka Dot holder:
David Veilleux on his way by:
Tom Danielson chatting up Bicycling magazine:
Andrew Talansky warming down:
A dejected Teejay Van Garderen, after not performing as well as hoped after targeting this stage for a win:
Imanol Erviti gets congratulated after the stage:
And then Rui Costa joins the fun:
Yukiya Arashiro, the Japanese Road Racing Champion:
Jerome Cousin, affectionately known for the Tour as "Mario":
Not sure who he is, but he seemed to have the best Beard on the tour:
Back at the bus, it was time to get our bikes out of the back of the van, as there were not enough seats for everyone to ride in the van down the back side of Semnoz, so we got one last ride before putting the bikes up for good. It was a bit of a celebration ride, as it was all downhill, but riding with sneakers on shimano SPD pedals meant there was no clipping in.
Just about broke down again when we got to the bottom. This was the last ride we would do together. Sure I was riding the Redondenee in Paris, but this was the last time I would see the bike that hauled me up Ventoux and Alpe d'Huez, and most of the way up Semnoz. It was the last time I would ride with the people on the tour, the guides, everyone. It made me a bit sad to know that I would probably never ride with any of my new friends again.
I did have some riding things that I would bring back with me, that rode with me the entire trip:
My trusty Fizik saddle, my helmet, Bikenetic and Bike Arlington water bottles, and my pedals...And me.
But I'm not the same that I was when I started. I've changed since Orange. Since I rushed to get everything onto the bike to get out for the tune up ride, I'm no longer that same rider.
I've ridden up Mont Ventoux. I rode up Alpe d'Huez. I rode up Les Deux-Alpes, Mont Revard, Villard Reymond, Col de Sarenne, and most of Semnoz. I've got more confidence in my cycling ability, maybe still not as much on the handling. I've conquered parts of me. They're still there, albeit now much quieter in my head. The me that has ridden up mountains can now tell the me that wants to quit and to fail to truly "Shut up!"
Once the bikes were unbundled from our gear, we bid adeiu to Brackie and Will, as they would be driving the van to Paris. We arrived at Chambery airport, and also said our goodbyes to Damien our bus driver. His skill in the mountains may be second nature to him, but we were all in awe over his ability to manoever the bus around the tight hairpins.
The Airport, much to our dismay, had no air conditioning. It was an enclosed roof, but was not completly sealed to the outside. This problem was tempered with the best airport food I've ever had. An avocodo cevice, in which the tomatoes didn't taste like tomatoes. A chicken breast with potatoes and asparagaus that was incredible, and a mango "trifle" like desert that was incredible. During the desert our plane arrived, and we had to rush a bit as there was a time limit to when the plane was allowed to take off, and if we didn't leave the airport, we'd be stuck, unable to fly out.
On the plane there was some champagne to celebrate the trip and our imminent arrival in Paris for the end of the Tour de France.
After landing at Charles de Gaulle, and waiting a bit for the new bus, we made it to the Hotel Stella, on Rue Carnot. It was now around midnight, so I was happy to get into a bed and crash. Tomorrow was to be a busy day, riding around the Champs Elysee and the Arch du Triomphe, and watching the end of the 100th running of the Tour de France!
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