It's the look the other riders give you as you stand at the side of the road with a broken bike waiting for your team car. Something akin to your parents funeral. They are sad for you but underlying that is the overwhelming feeling that they are much happier it is not them.
Sunshine enveloped our travelling rabble this morning. Legs feel constantly like you have just run up 2 flights of stairs and away for a wee spin of 161km. After a ferocious opening 30k one of the New Zealand team said to a fellow Kiwi, "roads are terrible mate aren't they" - I'm still laughing as the entire county of Donegal where this young lover of sheep still has to spend 2 days, was tarmaced in the early 1960s using a mix of boulders, larger stones and black paint. Bless his Mavic Ultimates.
At 61.3k, and I know this distance for a reason as the race was still in a flight to establish a break with all the strong teams represented. At this point a noise came from my bike. It might have been a "ping" it might have been a "ding" but the sound was horrific. It was like your own blood splashing on a tiled floor. The front mech just broke, terminally. A small tear fell down my left cheek. Time slows when you wait for car 30 in the cavalcade. Time for a gel and to stand with your two bottles at the side of the road. When the team car pulls up you take a deep breath and shout 'spare bike' waving your arms like you have fallen out of a building.
Getting towed up to the back of the cavalcade isn't really permitted but like catholic sex before marriage it happens alot. There is an art to sitting 4 feet from the rear bumper and getting the manager to feather the clutch. No mad braking or accelorating. Just ease off for the climbs and nail the descent. Waiting off the back of the cavalcade is a motor bike commissaire to ensure I regain the peloton with honesty. My threshold Heart rate was 179 when I was a kid, now I time trial at 165. For the next 20 mins, jumping from car to car everytime I dared look at my wrist it was over 175. Eventually I got in to the bunch. It was like a hug from your mummy when you wet your pants. Damage had been done. I was ruined. Thankfully 20k later the break got clear and the pack relaxed to 27mph. For the next 50k I played a game of hide and seek with the wind. During those 50k the Czech team, all five of them, rode at the font. They either are stars and can ride into the wind for days or their directeur sportif got his experience in a McDonalds.
With 25k to go the pace lifted over the second last KOH. On the descent of this we started the final KOH and a large figure dressed in a black cloak carrying a large farm scythe, cut my legs off and I didn't care.
My limit was reached, breached and buried. A group of 10 of us lost 11 minutes and a few months of life expectancy. Every time, every single time I think I'm too old for this lark, David McCann, professional with RTS passes me flying. He's a month younger than me. Bastard.