The rhythm of tour life provides you with a very warm security blanket. I haven’t had to think for myself for three weeks. Just follow the instructions, make sure you know when mealtimes are and be ready to ride at the right time. On the “outside” this would drive me mad, being in the tour bubble this structure has been the enabler for a fabulous holiday. Riding your bike every day is made easier when you don’t have to think about what happens when you are off it.
I was asked to describe my tour experience in a single word. I fumbled around before I had a moment of clarity – FUN. On the bike and off the bike it has been constant fun. Whilst we are all on tour to ride our bikes and to complete whatever stages we have signed on for, the thing that will stay with me is the sheer enjoyment and laughter that we have had along the way. Without having to try there is an intimacy and bond that is created when you spend this much time with people sharing a common goal.
The complete obsurdity and hilarity of having a tour doctor examine your backside whilst you stand on the side of the road with your Lycra shorts down near your ankles is only fully realised afterwards when the story is retold in the bar. At the time it was just another problem that needed to be fixed so the pedals could be kept turning. Goodness knows what the passing motorists thought of the roadside diagnosis that was taking place.
So on our final day and a last spin into Paris the laughter and enjoyment continued. As we rode through the outskirts of Paris into Versailles there was a genuine end of term feel in the peloton. Then as we made our way through a surprisingly quiet Paris we seemed to magically arrive at the Eiffel Tower. Friends and family greeted many riders and Robyn and I took a moment to appreciate what we had been able to achieve and to send a photograph to our girls back in the UK.
Once we had regrouped we set off to do a lap of the Champs-Élysées. More laughter as we made our way across the cobbles, weaving and racing through the traffic to get to the Arc de Triomphe. The smiles gave way to a few tears as we bounced along the rode and the enormity of what we had done hit home. Circumnavigating the Arc, through the waves of cars coming from all directions, refocused our attention and we set off down the Champs-Élysées agin to complete our lap. Racing between traffic lights, heading down through the tunnel that many of us are familiar with from watching the tour on TV and back around the Louvre, we fought for position amongst ourselves and the traffic. Back upto the Arc, a right turn and a few KM later and we were at our hotel. We parked the bikes ready for transportation back to the UK, hugs all around and into the bar to continue the merriment.
We spent our final evening on a boat on the Seine taking in the sights of Paris with our fellow riders and their friends and family, all sharing in one more magical evening. What was meant to be a final beer back at the hotel turned into a singalong and some dancing for the final few revellers who clearly had not had enough when at 3am Depeche Mode blasted out of the sound system.