After the climb, the descent

It sits there in the hallway, untouched. It pleads with me every time I pass it, but I ignore it.

I ignore it as long as I can. But there comes a point where you have to take the bike out of the box and reassemble it.

Out it comes, number still attached to the centre of the bars, dustier than I remember. The frame sticky with a coating of sweat, energy drink and road dirt.

It’s almost a week since the Etape and it’s the first time I’ve looked at my bike since packing it away for the journey back. I’ve ridden the 4km to work a couple of times without thinking much about exerting myself and that’s as much as I’ve concerned myself with riding a bike.

What are you meant to do after you’ve achieved a goal as massive as the Etape? There’s no reason to go out and ride it again. (There wasn’t much reason other than the “because it’s there” one in the first place)

Mentally there’s no next step to take. Physically my body craves rest and complains when I so much as suggest exertion.

I take myself down to Hillingdon on Tuesday for the first ride since the Etape. People say how much they liked my video piece while I fret about my handlebars not being on straight.

It’s the usual 4th Cat routine, so I try my legs in the first quarter hour to see how they feel. Sore, no snap when I click up a gear and push the pace.

So I do what I always do: wait for a slight lull in the pace, then increase the effort and move off the front.

My breathing is steady but I can feel the pain rising. Nobody will come across the gap, they’ll just drag me back within a lap or two.

Then there’s suddenly someone across and we’re two away. He’s pulling harder than I can manage and every time I try to come through my legs choke, forcing me to drop back into the wheel.

A few more riders come across but I can’t hold the wheels, my legs are numb. I need to let this one go. So near to making that magical break happen.

Shuffle back through the pack, I’ve done my turn.

Wait for three laps to go and the watching to begin. There’ll be a drop in pace and that’s the time to go hard.

There it is. Bit too far back but I’m going anyway. Pace hasn’t dropped as much as I thought and there’s still two to go.

Another Dynamo follows the counter and goes away. That’s the ticket: attack in pairs or follow the chaser and use them.

He’s away, I’m spent, sit in the back and let the race go away from me.

Don’t see the finish. Wonder where and when I’ll find the courage to stop making excuses for not getting up there in the sprint.

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