Weather: Cloudy 22 degrees.
As I heard the bagpipes (they wake up the camp, early doors, with a real, live bagpiper) for the final time, I felt my eyes welling up. I can’t put my finger on why, perhaps a combination of the haunting sound of the pipes themselves, the fatigue, the anticipation of the final stage and then the end of 6 months of planning and preparation. I wiped my eyes and continued with the daily housekeeping of breakfast, prepping kit, suncream, and packing up for the last time.
19 degrees and a cloudy morning greeted us, nice. I knew I’d be just fine today. My throat and chest were still sore but it didn’t seem to matter, I could choose my own suffering, at my own pace today. And that’s what I did, I gently rode through the continuous stream of tired legs, up the never ending climb. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate climbing! But my legs felt surprisingly OK, and as the local South Africans lined the steepest parts of the climbs, it was just brilliant. They love it out here, proper shouting at you, music banging from the car radio, beers flowing. It certainly helps.
This was a day to enjoy. One of my my favourite parts of mountain biking is loose, fast descents, as taught by Mr Alex Slater. We don’t really get much of these in the UK due to the (lack of) size of our hills. For the descents today, they said “take it easy, make sure you get through the day”. People were taking it easy, too easy! I picked the rough line, the line that no one wanted and rode on past the endless queue of brakes and tyre scrubbing. I needed that, we all express ourselves somehow, and I love expression on a bike.
So the end finally came, the last 5km convoluting through the Val de Vie estate, it seemed never ending as I clung on to the back of some blokes’ wheel into the head wind. Weirdly, it wasn’t that emotional, I think I’d done that bit yesterday and this morning. It was certainly satisfying, I enjoyed the circus of the medal and t-shirt collection, certainly a well oiled process.
Looking back, I need to ruminate all the things that have happened in the previous week or so and the build up to it. The “easy” part really was riding the bike, I didn’t crash, I didn’t fall and not a single mechanical – though I did experience the spray of tyre solution up my leg as a puncture sealed itself. It’s basically whether you can cope with everything else that is thrown at you, i.e. living with 1500 other people, eat, drink, sleep, think smart etc…
Now for the flight home and I’m ready for the hit of post event blues. That’ll pass soon enough, once I focus on my next event.