L'Etape 2009 diary: Piling on the miles

Lindsay Crawford prepares as Mt Ventoux looms

BikeRadar diarist Lindsay Crawford is in Europe with his wife Estelle, preparing for his eighth L'Etape du Tour. He's ridden two sportives in preparation for the July 20 assault of Mt Ventoux. This is a second in a series from Crawford, 69, who's reporting from Nîmes, France.

Apologies for being a bit below the (Bike) radar these past few weeks. Some of you may be wondering: 'What about L’Ariégeoise the week after Quebrantahuesos?'

For the second time in three years, I got food poisoning just before a cyclo-sportive. This time it was three days before L’Ariégeoise, which left me flat on my back for a couple of days with very little to eat. I picked up an event packet the day before even though I considered not riding. Heavy rain the night before reinforced the idea of not riding. However, after traveling 9,000 miles to ride, I thought I might as well start and see what would unfold.

I was well-seeded for the start, as we were sent on our way by Bernard Thévenet, winner of the 1975 and '77 Tour de France. The first 15km were slightly uphill, at 1- to 3-percent grade, and I could hardly hold my place in the field. Of course, as the start of the first real climb pitched up to 12 percent, I knew it was going to be a long day and settled into a sustainable rhythm.

Several times I considered how to bail out and head back to the hotel. However, after breaking the event down into attainable goals, I was able to get past all of my possible escape routes until between Massat to Saint-Girons, where it became a case of total commitment or the broom wagon.

Somehow, I persevered and made it to the finish in an unremarkable 33rd in the 60-plus category, about an hour down on the category winner. Overall, I was 452nd of 801 finishers with about 2,000 starting.

From there, Estelle and I moved on to the Mediterranean coast just north of the Spanish border, so I could recover from the food poisoning episode and enjoy some beautiful, rugged coastal road riding into Spain.  

After a few days, we traveled to Prades to meet Procycling contributor Bruce Hildenbrand, and get in some adventurous rides, something we enjoy back home in Northern California.

Being dirt ride lovers, we tackled a dirt loop from Prades up to 7,000-plus feet elevation. The ride practically took all day for only 35 miles, but it was just what the doctor ordered, helping me get back on track.

Not many avid mountain bikers would tackle this, but Crawford and Hildenbrand (pictured) actually enjoy this stuff

Couple of days later, I added a 100-mile ride from Prades that started with a 39km climb and 10-percent average over the last 13.5km. In my opinion, it was a good ride for L’Etape du Tour preparation.

I finally started coming around and feeling much better as I moved on to Nîmes and more long rides.

Just four days to the L’Etape du Tour, and I'm feeling positive again. Weather forecast indicates no rain; just hot and humid.

Should be a good day for riding with 9,500 other brave souls.

Stay tuned for Lindsay's post L'Etape du Tour report early next week, as the Tour de France peloton prepares its own assualt on Mt Ventoux July 25.

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