Monday, April 4, 2011

Paris-Nice with Leopard Trek: Part 4

We change Bruno's flat and get him going. Then, we race up alongside all the cars that had passed back to our spot at 17.

It's about three hours into the stage and we start the final circuits. Jens is in a break and Kim keeps giving him time updates on the radio, "Allez, Jens! Allez!" By this point I'm also running on about an hour sleep in the last 36 hours and am still not over the flu. I can barely keep my eyes open and before I know it, I nod off.

My head falls to the side and I wake up. "Shit!" I say to myself. "Keep it together! You can't fall asleep during the finish!"

I look over. Kim's tell Jens the time gap and didn't seem to notice. I crack the window a bit because the car is burning up.

Kim rolls the window back up. I take the hint.



We go through the finish area on our first time around the circuit. I'm still fighting hard not to fall asleep. The fans are cheering on both sides of the road.

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I continue to have momentary lapses into sleep. Then...crash!

The cars block the road. Someone went down. We get there as a Sky mechanic comes to the rescue.

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We go through the start/finish again.

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This is the final lap of the circuit. Jens is off the front still and they're holding the gap. Go Jens!

There's another wreck on the back side of the circuit. Velits comes to his feet as we rush by.

Jens is still holding them off but he and his breakaway companions are losing time. The updates are getting less frequent and we can't tell what's going on. Occasionally we'll pass a rider who's fallen off.

We pass the 5k sign. No word about Jens or the break. Clueless about the race ahead, we pass through hoards of fans.

4k

3k

2k

1k

We drive until a gendarme blocks the road and waves us off. Leopard Trek has yet to have a win so the suspense is killing us.

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Something is said over the radio in French. Kim is bummed so I know Jens lost.

Kim drives along until we get to the team bus. I thank him and Gregor for the ride and then get out of the car. A fan approaches and asks for a bidon. I tell him there aren't any and he walks away.

I walk back to the train station, past the podium and all the fans. I feel the cool air on my skin and it perks me up. I'm beat but excited to get back and tell all my friends what just happened.

I catch the train to Paris and then back to London. I fall asleep the minute I get on the train. Cycling's been good to me.



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