This was my first Etape. I rode it with two guys who have done seven Etapes before.
The light drizzle at the beginning was nice, though did think that would make the down hills carnage.
First climb Madeline was good, and descent was great, though did get some lessons on how to descend as people were flying past me. Sean went past me, which was a good sign as he set off two pens ahead of me, so managed to stay with him as we climbed Gladon where in fact we caught Johnny Bridges, then at one point all three of us were together.
Legs started to cramp even on the Glandon and a bit of stretching and a rest and I had a second wind, and was cycling well going past people walking towards the top, then over the Croix de Fer and as a great descent down, where I passed Johnny.
Little climb up to the fourth col had a sting in the tail, but once over that was happy and descent was fast back down to St Jean.
Started the final climb and was not too bad and then body started packing in, major nausea and cramps. This was around 800m so only 800m to go, next couple of kms and 200m I was so bad, I shut my eyes and went straight to sleep I think...... anyway cut a long story short I still had 13km to go and 600m vertical (at around 10:15) and the way I was I reckoned that could take another two to three hours and thought was not fair on the people that would be waiting for me in St Jean and the fact that there was a very good chance I would not make it anyway!
So called it a day... after 4100ms of vertical climbing.
Looking back I made all the classic mistakes, not enough water, as I didn't want to stop with all the crowds, and I had heard stories about how they run out, so did ration myself.....then was using the new Hi Five Zero Caffeine tabs and that upset my stomach, plus took some gels which I don't usually do, should have just kept to what I do in the UK!
Also felt as if I did not have enough gears, couldnít quite work that one out?
And then there was the heat, low to mid 30's on the final climb, which always does for me, plus did not exactly have the best prep four weeks before with a sleep loosing bronchial cough.
Obviously very gutted having got so close - see on the results that only 4200 finished out of 10000 - bet I was the only idiot that packed so close to the finish!
Both Johnny and Sean said that was by far the toughest Etape they had done. They finished sub 11hrs and 11:45.