I want to tell you how much parts of today sucked. How one teammate went up the road with a group of Dutchman. How she's probably mad at us for yesterday: when we all climbed separately and perhaps we should have regrouped after the descent off Glandon. How I cheered for her as I came down from the final climb and she was going up. How she looked straight ahead and said nothing. How four of us made dinner last night together in our apartment and she chose to spend the time somewhere else. How she probably didn't feel welcome and how, in so many ways, that is probably my fault, though no team leader has ever been clearly designated. How we haven't talked about this as a group and now there's silence and tension.
I should tell you about the strange energy between us and the leaders of the Dutch tour. I should tell you how much havoc I caused when I insisted that we bring a soigneur. I should tell you about all the side whisperings and the dinner table drama and the late night conversations in parking lots that ended with me crying frustrated tears into my computer.
We are all trying our best here but, bloody hell, we are kind of the perfect storm of functional dysfunction (sounding kind of like a family, huh?) and I could use a Care Bear Stare to make this all right again.
I should tell you about all that crazy stuff but you know what? I'm turning it all off. Blocking it all out.
Every day I get on the bike is a revelation.
Do you remember that they said we couldn't do this? Lots of people said that. They won't make it to the first eight stages to the first rest day. They won't make it through the Alps.
Stage 16? You think with all of the stuff we have dealt with that stage 16 is going to take us down? Throw mountains at me all day long. I'll ride until I die.
Every day I get on the bike and do it. We don't know how it is happening, but we have ridden 1430 miles in 12 stages. We have climbed 95,000 feet. Every morning we wake up and wonder what the hell we are doing but we are in so deep there is no turning back. After every bad thing that happens there is riding.
The riding. It has been the easiest and most beautiful part of this whole crazy expedition.
At night I put my headphones in and close my eyes and set negativity to the side. In it's place I invoke gratitude, compassion, kindness. In the van during the transfer I read your emails, tweets and Facebook messages and think about what this means to all of you in an attempt to figure out what it all means to me. I spent the first 10 or 20k of every ride repeating optimistic thoughts to myself, bringing good energy to the table. Trying to ride from a place of joy instead of a frustration. Trying to hold this in my heart in a special way because the time is flying by and there is going to be a day that I wake up and think, "Did that really happen?"
There is a point to laying all our dirty laundry out and it is this: We knew this would be messy. We knew there would be challenges. We probably didn't think there would be this many.
But we came anyway. We pedal anyway. We are making it happen anyway. Staff, leadership and riders make it come together every day. We could not do this without support. At the end of the day, we all need each other.
Perhaps the harder it is, the more it means. I'll probably come back to that thought in a few weeks.
Today at lunch we were informed that we had 3 hours to ride the final 100k: the result of some unexpected mechanical difficulties that our favorite Belgian tandem couple had experienced (we had to get back in time to catch the main bus so they could use our team van for other purposes). Let me tell you something. When I am riding 200k a day for three weeks, I don't ride 33kph. Even on a wheel. Even in a pack of 7 with two strong guys pulling. I bitched and moaned and threw down attitude but in the end I did it. We did it - the seven of us together: Matthias and Dave (the videographer turned pace car) and a ReveTour five pack.
I got popped on the final climb and after a few minutes one of the Dutch riders came around me. I thought he would pass through with a polite hello but he slowed his pace down and tucked in next to me. Not pulling, just keeping me company. He said nothing but stayed alongside me until I regained contact with my group. Then he rode away. I found him afterward to thank him.
A few days ago during the leisurely TT, my drivetrain froze up on a long descent and I stayed on the bike until it wouldn't coast anymore then came to a stop and hopped off to check things out. Bart, our soigneur, was right behind me in the car, but the Dutchmen I'd been descending with turned around and came back too. One of them said to me, "See. We are always looking out for you. We always know where you are."
We know where we are too. We're 12 stages into a 20 stage ride that we plan to crush. One big dysfunctional family helping each other find Paris. Perhaps, by the time we reach our goal, we'll also find a way to be together (on and off the bike, staff and riders both) in a way that is a little less tenuous and a little more joyful.