The more I reflect on the Etape the more it feels like I actually won the Tour!
Thanks to my employer trying to put a spanner into the works I only had a very short window of opportunity to do the event, so my dad and me flew out on Thursday, picked up the hire car and headed from Bordeaux to Salis de Bearn, and my Uncles house.
The next day we went down to Pau and registered, a nice simple straight forward affair, topped up on Rapha goodies (socks and hat to match the jersey I'd already bought and the free t-shirt) and then watched the days stage on the big screen.
On Saturday we got up at silly o'clock and arrived at the start in good time. I had some of the "breakfast" but topped up on my own supplies I then entered the start pen with about 45 mins to go, which was good as if I'd left it 10 mins I would have been at the back of my pen instead of 1/4 of the way down. The actual start was far less frantic than I'd imagined, in fact I never felt like I was riding with 1000's of other riders - it felt much the same as any other sportive.
I held a 20mph average to the start of the first climb, as advised. I passed many groupetta's along that stretch and was hoping I wasn't overdoing it.
I started the first hill, settled quickly into a rhythm and tapped away watching the km's fall and the gradient fluctuate, before I knew it I was at the first feed, then into the clouds, water stop and before I'd realised I had ridden my first big mountain I was meeting my dad on the Soulor.
Cold, cold descent, then another burst of 20mph to get me to the Tourmalet, which was like a sauna on the way up and a blast freezer on the way down.
The Aspin was probably the hardest mentally and at the time I was wishing I had put in more traning, but in hindsight all that would have meant is me getting to that point quicker, not less tired, the descent was nicerthan the previous two as I wasn't starting from so high in the clouds and the day had warmed slightly.
The Peyresourde was a drag with me having to remind myself every pedal stroke brought me nearer to the top, which when I got there was awesome, followed by the best descent of the day.
Coming up the finish straight with all those crowds flashing past at 25mph was an experience not to forget. I crossed the line #2577 met my dad at the end and headed back to my uncles.
I took a few days for the event to sink in and to some degree it still is.
I really enjoyed it and I'm already looking for my next challenge.