Well, I’ve made it this far and I’m exhausted. Feels like at least a year since Liege. The frenetic crashfest of the opening week. The abandons. The revelation of Sagan. The certitude of Wiggo. Cadel cracking. Van Garderen coming of age. Nibbles waiting for just the right moment.
I made it over the Alps and to the second rest day, but it wasn’t easy. There were a few days I didn’t think I would survive. There were times when I followed the parcours in a stupor, drifting in and out of consciousness, waking up on my couch with the stage over and Tivo asking me if I wanted to keep it or delete it. Four or five hours of live coverage a day. Constant updates on iPhone apps. And many miles still to go.
The third week is the hardest. “Lots of tired boys at the Tour this week,” Lars Michaelson told me at Superweek one July. We were on a rest day, alternating between 100km criteriums and 200km road races. We were tired too, but nothing like the Tour. You can see it in the peleton’s posture. Not everybody is so tired or relaxed. Some men get stronger as the race progresses. They are the opportunists, the men looking to secure a contract for next year or to redeem the Tour for their team. That’s how you get a 30 person escape that gain 10 or 15 minutes advantage. Not even the sprinters’ trains have the gumption to pull it all back together and the g.c. boys are content to let it go, rest while they can.
The race seems over at this point. The time gaps are substantial. They’re racing for scraps. But there’s still the balance of the week to go. I may still make it all the way to Paris.