The Tour d’Auvergne was a mix of exciting highs and painful lows in extremely tough conditions. With 5 days of sweltering heat, rain and a tough route I found myself limping in front of the Sweeper Vehicle with 60km to go on the final day. As my legs ground to a halt on the next climb, my body was empty and I was done. For the first time in my racing career I was in the broom wagon. I wasn’t the first rider in the tour to do this, with less than 40% of the starting field finishing the race I was in the majority, but it’s a first that no one forgets. Sitting in the depressing silence of the broom wagon, I had to consider that the race wasn’t all doom and gloom. Amid the torturous heat, there were some good days mixed in with the bad and a lot of valuable lessons learned.
Day 2 of the tour was easily my highlight. After 65km of punishing hills I was off the front with a strong group of riders, pushing it down a descent to open a gap. As we reached the valley floor, our group of 20 pushed on in the sweltering heat but, with a 10km climb to go and 40km of rolling hills to the finish, there was still a lot of work to be done. In the scorching 35 degree heat, it was no easy task. We crested the 10km climb with 50 seconds in the bank on the peloton. As we wound down the descent, however, cooperation faded in the group and the attacks started 30km out. Grabbing every bottle in sight, I kept myself cool as the group whittled down to 10 riders and I was still there. Just.
15km to go and our gap was sitting at 30sec. More attacks. This time I was left out. Out numbered, 6 riders disappeared up the road leaving me in the company of their teammates enjoying my slipstream. With a little hope left in my legs, I got into TT mode to try and save a top 10 for the day but, with 5km to go, I was snapped up by a greatly thinned peloton. To add insult to injury the front 6 survived by 22sec for the win.
The remainder of the tour was about suffering, in great quantities. Despite a good ride in the crosswinds where I was able to jump a few echelons, in general I was more on the receiving end of suffering than I was dishing it out. Eventually, it was the final day of the tour and with the broom wagon casting a shadow over my previous day in the sun, I put my thinking cap on and figured my race came down to fuel.
Burning 13 500 calories in 5 days on the bike means you have to eat. A lot. Looking back, food was something I just wasn’t on top of. It seems simple but stuffing your face full of pasta at dinner and breakfast for 5 days is no easy task. With a well tuned race engine, I let myself down riding on a less than full tank every day. Empty legs in sweltering heat had left me disappointed but learning lessons means you can correct your mistakes and correcting your mistakes lets you know you’re making progress. And progress is progress, even if it’s found in the back of the broom wagon.