Monday, 25 June 2012

SMIDDY PYRENEES' DAY 2

Assap-Aros back to Farmhouse
Distance: 170km's
Ascending: 3900 metres
Ride time: 8hrs 50mins
Avr speed: 21.6km/h
Temp: 32.5 degrees

How do I adequately describe what was one of the greatest cycling days of my life in 30 years of cycling? I can assure you that no matter what I write in this blog, it will not come close to what I saw and felt and experienced on a day that saw the Smiddy crew spend close to 9 hours in the saddle, but I am going to try. We knew that a long day awaited us so the rollout time was 7am, which meant we got away by 7:30am. From our overnight stop at Hotel Au Bon Coin and after a great breaky we were straight off the bat into our first decent of the day that lasted a joyous 5km's. The gradual descent weaved its way through dense forest so thick that the overhang kept the sun at bay and it was a crisp start to the day. I personally rolled out with leg and arm warmers, which was a bit of an overkill, as just a few kilometres down the road I was too warm and wishing I was like all the other smart riders and just started in my bike kit, plain and simple. The first 30km's the course was either flat or downhill, with just a few rolling hills, and thanks to this the group made excellent time to average 30km/h. Of course this average was only going to go down for the remainder of the day. Our first major climb was the Col d'Aubisque at 1710 metres, which was made up of a 16km climb with an average gradient of 8%. 100km's into our ride and the 18km long climb up the Tormalet began in earnest.

Without going on too much more about our spectacular day, I am going to take you from here to my highlights of the day package. Below is just a small snap-shot of just some of the things that occurred throughout our second day on the road. Be sure to see the crew choice of 5 words that best describes their special day.

Highlights of the day

The Sharky Swifty
On the Col d'Aubisque I was telling Rowan and Billy how good I felt just prior to commencing the climb. When we started I went out hard and got a gap on all the riders, once I was out of sight I quickly dismounted from my bike and hid in the bushes and waited for the group to go by. Rowan, Billy, Adam, Michael and Mark were in the front group and moving quite fast in search of the the elusive Shark. I then had to wait until the climb was completed 70 minutes later to find out if my desired result worked. Row informed me that the group worked hard together for a few kilometres before he broke off on a solo effort in an attempt to catch me. He admitted that after 7km's and still no Shark in sight that I had either got lost or that I had pulled a swifty on him. We all had a good laugh about that one. We did laugh hey Row?

Brotherly love
Once again the DeAngelis boys get a mention in this blog. Phil, who had a tough day yesterday, made the tough decision to give up his bike to Peter, so that Pete could enjoy a day on the road on a bike that did not weigh a ton and had more than 5 gears.

Pete's Bike makes a triumphant return
Finally some good news was delivered to pete today. His bike has been found and he will be reunited with his baby as of tomorrow. On a side note, Pete ended up giving Phil his bike back today so that Phil could ride to the remainder of the day from the Tormalet climb and back to the finish at the farmhouse. Peter then rode Clunker up the Tormalet and received a heroes welcome when he crested the top on the heaviest bike in the group.

Smiddy spirit in Adam Young
Adam Young today showed today on the Col Du Tormalet that he has the Smiddy spirit. He was clearly riding well and could have ridden his own ride and got to the top a lot sooner than he did. Instead he stayed back and helped Billy and Michael, who were having an awful time combating dehydration. At one time he stopped at a stream and collected water and poured it over their heads and filled their water bottles. Great stuff mate, you should be proud.

Descents worth selling your mother-in-law for!
You climb to the top of any mountain and your reward is the hair-raising, bottom sweating scary exhilarating descents. Going down the other side of both Cols today presented each of us with memories of unadulterated sheer joy, and at moments nail biting terror, especially when navigating through dark lightless tunnels with your sunnies on, or dodging stray sheep and cow's with noisy bells on them, not to mention the two punctures while traveling at 70km/h by Rowan and Anna coming down the Tormalet. I was behind Rowan at the time when his tired punctured and it was so loud that I jumped. He did an amazing job to stay upright as the tyre came off completely and he had to come to a stop while riding on the rim only.

Heat on the Tormalet
32.5 degrees is hot in anyone's language, but throw in an 18km climb that had the breeze behind us so there was no cooling effect at all from the wind, and the fact that it took most of us 2 hours to complete! This climb is renowned as one of the hardest climbs in the Tour De France, and I would like to acknowledge that this would be a fair assessment after managing, in the final 2 kilometres, to record a lowest speed of 4.2km/h! I was amazed that I could go so slow and not fall off!

Anna's ITB goes on the Tormalet
Poor Anna today got just 2km's into the climb and had to call it a day. Her ITB became so tight that it locked up her knee to the point that she could not turn the pedals without excruciating pain. She was devastated but did the right thing as with the treatment she got tonight plus heaps of stretching we are hopeful she will be a starter tomorrow.

Billy gets hot
The young gun made my day today. Billy decided that a mild case of heatstroke may be the best chance for me to beat him up any climb anywhere since I have known Billy from the 2009 Smiddy Challenge. Our small trio of Bad Boy, Jimmy and myself caught and passed a very sad looking Billy with 10km to go to get to the top. Soon after, Adam also went passed and made the noble decision to return and look after Billy all the way to the top. Great effort today Billmeister.

Rowan actually felt pain today
It is pretty rare that the big fella does anything physical that brings him to his knees. While the Tormalet did not quite crush Rowan, I know that last 7km's to the top instilled in him a deep respect for mother nature creating stupidly steep mountains that the French government will come along and stick a road on, for the pure joy of knowing that thousands of cyclists each year will come and torture themselves on it!

Jimmy, Bad Boy Pace me for 10km's
I would like to thank Jimmy for pacing Bad and I for the first 10km's up the Tormalet today. I wanted to stay with them as long as I could, so that when I was dropped I was a lot closer to the top of the mountain than if I was cycling by myself. I was first to go, then Bad did a turn and immediately dropped Jimmy. Now that's why he is called Bad!

The Beast boy never gives in.
David has had glimpses of good form these past two days, but on each climb he is suffering like a dog missing a hind leg. David is also having some knee issues to add to his woes. But through all this he never complain and more importantly never gives in. Beasty is the quietest person in the group, has a warm heart and a deep appreciation for life. I know he will ride into this event and by day 4 will be the beast machine that I know he is capable of being. Keep up the great work champ.

Sharky's last words
To get through such an epic day has pulled the group together even closer than what we already were. The small Smiddy huddle of just 15 people was so incredible special today because of what we subjected ourselves to today. The stretched parched skin on each of our tired faces clearly reflected our epic 9 hour day on the bike and nearly 4000 metres of climbing, but deep inside the eyes told another story. A story of mate-ship brought on by a shared suffering, of knowing that through our actions we are making a difference to peoples lives back home who are in need of our help. Those eyes looking back at me as I spoke to the group said to me that they were proud of what they achieved yesterday, but especially today, and rightly so.

Thank you to some special people
Lastly I just wanted to acknowledge and thank Neil and Graeme for all the hard work today supporting the riders, but mostly for the amazing feast they prepared for us on our return to the farmhouse. Also to Katrina, who took charge of the stinky cycling gear and organised the washing of these valuable garments. The cycling outfit is in the Australian colours of green and gold, with a small Aussie flag on the shoulder. The kit has a slight resemblance to Green Edge (Aussie Pro team) It is a fine looking kit and we imagine that some of the looks that we get and friendly toots on the horn are mistaking us for team Green Edge.

5 words sums up the crew's day 2 experiences

David Agudelo - Triumphant Beautiful, Painful, Inspiring and Grateful
Philip DeAngelis - Awesome, Tough, Excellent, Grueling and Grind
Peter DeAngelis - Invigorating, Momentous, Painful, Humbling and Sobering
Mark DeAngelis - Appreciation, vigorous, salt tablets, wine and tough
Jimmy Acomb - Picturesque, amazing, fast, huge and once in a lifetime!
Anna Tovey - Best day of my life!
Rowan Foster - Daunting, achievable, roller-coaster, hurtful and magnificent
Billy Elliot - Hot, epic, lucky, the general and How good is this!
Katrina Cousins - Hot, fantastic, back-breaking, tough and steely dan
Adam Young - Heroic, majestic, hot, downhills and sensational
Michael Harris - Challenging, variable, sensational, painful and triumphant.
Sharky - Grateful, mother-nature, friendships, laughter and late nights!
Johnny Bad - Fun, coffee, speed, pacing and camaraderie
Graeme - Crazy bloody Aussie's are fit!
Neil - Best cycling group ever, yo!
Hope you enjoyed this blog. I dislike the last nights, it is now 1:15am, especially after the day we had today, but it is worth it to get memories down that would be lost if not written about on the day.

Please feel free to send this on to anyone who you think may be interested in reading.
If keen to donate please visit www.smiddy.org.au

Thank you for your support.

Sharky

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