I know you might have thought le Tour de France was just a gaggle men flying through the streets of France on bikes that cost as much as your car and in skintight spandex with colors so bright and logos so bountiful that your head feels slightly woozy from just a glance.
You didn’t know that there was a woman in the Tour de France?
And it was me?
Sigh. And I thought we were friends.
Okay so you’re right there are no women in the entire Tour.
Not now. Probably not ever. Uhhh. I won’t address this issue today, but c’mon France.
A 10-day vacation in California, plus NBC Sports showing coverage at all hours meant that I was obsessed with the Tour this summer. Hundreds of miles of pedaling every day! You might think it’d be as boring as watching golf everyday for 3 weeks, but no no, it’s so much more; the strategy, the drama, the luscious scenery of France as the backdrop. Don’t let me miss a mile!
In addition to finding the Tour ever so interesting to watch and track, watching the tour was part of my training regimen for the charity ride Brian and I were doing (I told you about here.)
I remembered reading in a psychology class long ago about a study of students learning basketball. What they found was that students improved exponentially just by watching others play basketball. (I think those who improved the most both watched and practiced, but I conveniently forgot about that and really adopted the just watch strategy to prepare for this long charity bike ride.)
When the charity ride came two Saturdays ago and my stomach was filled with so many nerves and endless fear that I’d collapse over dead, not being able to keep up and forever chasing the group (at that point the reality that I had not practiced nearly enough was much more prominent), I calmed myself down:
“Self, calm down.
It’s just like riding in leTour of France.”
And so it was…
My goal was to think of myself as Tour champion, Bradley Wiggins.
My only job: keep myself on someone’s wheel. My Froome was Brian of course and I spent all 100 miles of day one with eyes cemented to the back of his wheel, letting him pull me along.
There was a breakaway group that broke away early and fast (very fast).
Whatever that’s fine! My job: stay on the wheel! I’m wearing the yellow shirt in this game. Simple as that. No need to mess with this breakaway nonsense.
Mile 1 through 50 were perfectly pleasant and the fastest 50 miles I had ridden all season. We stayed as part of the peloton (I’m 99% confident 6 riders could never actually count as the peloton, but shh play along) and the route had us traversing along the Atlantic through Maine’s cutest seaside towns: York, Ogunquit, Wells, and Kennebunk (don’t worry Bush was definitely there cheering us on from his compound. How could he not?) which are pretty much just like the countryside of France clearly.
Mile 50 had us going through Biddeford, which involved an endless 4-lane road and too many rolling hills for the likes of my quads. I was not winning any green jersey points for sprinting that’s for sure.
The judges would have docked Brian and I several points (by several I mean 500+) for deciding to make up our own route when we learned that the last 50 miles would entail doing the same 25 mile loop twice! No thank you to that!
I moved at about the same pace that my grandmother walks for miles 75-85, but a Lara bar or two later, plus the increasingly closer prospect of giving my poor aching posterior a break whipped me right back into high gear. Leaving my man Froome’s wheel, I moved to the front and took matters into my own hands for the final leg.
Stage 1 ended. I was pleased with a ride time of 6 hours and 48 seconds. Nothing compared to last year, but I was delighted to end somewhat close to a time-frame deemed acceptable by the larger cycling community. The stage victory went to Kate and Dave’s group…that breakaway group from the beginning…whose average pace in the end 21mph. Yikes.
The peloton all gripped about the terrible last 50 repetitive miles that evening while devouring endless calories of pasta. (God bless Italy.)
Stage 2 from Biddefod back to Kittery was perfectly pleasant. I wanted the polka dotted jersey and attacked all of the many hills with legs that miraculously felt stronger (I can only attribute that to the spaghetti), but my chain kept dropping no matter how many derailleur adjustments Joseph made at every single rest stop (he did in fact follow us in a team car).
With sunny clear skies and endless greenery, at mile 63 we were all geared up for the last 12 miles when suddenly the route arrows led us to….our destination?
What? Only 63 miles?
The tour people clearly dropped the ball on mapping out the course which was supposed to 75!
63 is not 75.
For the record.
After entering the balloon arch finish and seeing giant bowls of luscious watermelon, we quickly accepted defeat and sub 12 miles considered it the end of the tour.
I didn’t get a yellow jersey, or any jersey for that matter, but the charity ride went better than any ride this season to date. (And we raised a lot of money for cystic fibrosis research!)
And I’m pretty sure I can attribute all my success to watching the actual le Tour de France
For the record in case you were really convinced that the charity ride I did was just like the actual tour, a few things you should know:
+ The tour covers 3,600 kilometres/2110(!) miles throughout France and a few nearby countries (minus these things called the mountains, riding through Switzerland and France how could that not be wonderful?) See map below.
+ On average the overall speed for all of the 2110 miles is somewhere near 40mph (What!?)
+ They ride for 21 days! And get 2 rest days! (uhhh)
+ On average, riders burn about 5,200 calories per day
+ Four contenders have died during the Tour de France; 26 bystanders, officials and other non-contenders have also died during the tour. (bummer)
Also read these awesome Tour awards