It wouldn’t have been a big deal to arrive late to the race. Honestly, I’ve gotten used to it. The worst part was that we actually thought we had plenty of time. We got ready at a leisurely pace, rode around aimlessly for a bit searching for the climb (always an enjoyable activity), finally found the climb, and wait, what? The race? It’s not due for another 45 minutes. Oh the drama. Of course, the police strewn all across the route immediately motioned for us to get off our bikes, but a clueless shrug of the shoulders and a fake pull over countless times saw us a good ways up the climb just moments ahead of the race.
Uh oh, better get going.
Getting The Rock Star Treatment
After we put on our deaf ears to get ahead of the race a little bit, we were able to enjoy the climb. One of my favorite things about race day bike riding? Being cheered like I’m in the race too. Considering how much we all quietly suffer on a day to day basis on bikes, it’s certainly not a bad thing to have hundreds of well-wishers wishing you well up every meter of the climb. This was the first time that Ashley had ever really experienced the cheering. She loved it. She’s still talking about it.
We have indeed been spoiled this year with big time bike races, but it never gets old. Every time I think the race will only be so so, and maybe not worth the effort, I have a moment just as the race approaches when I realize: yep, this is definitely worth it. And so it was again this past weekend on the slopes just above Sion.
The cameras finally on! Must…go…harder.
The early break was in the process of meeting its demise – two refused to sit up and accept their fate, whilst the other two, former Cross World Champion Lars Boom and Cofidis’ Herve Duclos-Lasalle, were ready to ease off the throttle and soft-pedal home.
Up ahead the lead two were ripping their guts out for a few more seconds of freedom, whilst Lars Boom was in a, yeah that was fun, I’m done now kind of mood.
The Race Takes Shape
Behind, the Liquigas boys were rolling full tilt for their man, Roman Kreuziger, but right behind, the wolves were waiting patiently. Saxo Bank were in prime position with FabпїЅ tucked inside the top 10, and right behind Saxo Bank the stage poachers of Columbia were getting ready to fire up another victory salute in about 25 kilometers time.
This lone Milram rider thought he might make a dig, but about five seconds later realized it was utterly hopeless.
Liquigas had the throttle wide open on the lower slopes.
The field was more or less together as they hit the base of the climb, but just over a kilometer in, and the seams to the brightly colored suit were coming apart rapidly. The bunched group was lengthening, straining, and around the middle – beginning to snap. It’s a beautiful thing to watch order thrust upon a bike race. The basic theme of a mountain is one of great uncertainty among the best – who is going to attack, will so and so be able to hold on, who will get dropped where?
Think you’re a good climber? Try starting a climb around 50th wheel and see how that goes.
For most everyone else though, it’s a stark truth: their time is up, their ticket punched, exit to the rear thank you very much. The early part of a climb is not the best place to see the winning move go, but it is a special place to witness something you rarely get to see on television – the process of natural order.
Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler were in no hurry. Recent PEZ interviewee, Will Frischkorn, is right behind them.
For the most part, no matter how good the climber, if you’re not in a good spot heading into the full throttle lower part of a climb, your chances of making the elite selection are nil. I always thought this was a little exaggerated, but to see the field come roaring by, it was fairly clear that it would take a Herculean effort to make up even 10 spots, let alone 50. It does in fact make perfect sense why the lead-in to the big climbs is so hectic. We could see the swarming chaos down the road below us, but as they reached us, the chaos was beginning to die down and the task of actually climbing was taking precedent over positioning.
After about the first 50, the resignation was apparent, the faces set to take care of the work. A little beyond that? The faces were drawn, but there was no hurry whatsoever. The latter riders had made it to the final climb, 25k to go, with the field, so there was no worry of getting time cut. The parachute had been pulled, and they were going to enjoy an easy-ish spin up the climb. I mean, easy as it can be when you’re climbing up a very large mountain.
Free bottles! Excellent.
After the race passed, Ashley came running up with three new bottles. These were her first race bottles, and a proud find they were. The rush for bottles as a race passes is one of the more humorous things I’ve seen. Normally, when a bottle hits the ground, at least four different people will trade furtive glances, a moment of tense waiting will pass, and then the truce will be broken and one spectator will dart for the rider’s gift. We didn’t have that problem on Saturday. The bottles were just falling everywhere around us. Ashley was a happy bottle picker upper.
We tried to keep going, but the road was unpleasant to say the least. It was a highway grade, main road climb with lots of traffic. Being as spoiled as we are, it took about five minutes before we said, erm no. We turned around, descended back to the car, and called it a day.
We turned around early, but not before being confronted with our home province about 48 times in the span of 3 kilometers. Tirol was definitely a sponsor of the Tour de Suisse. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The medieval center of Sion was a pleasant way to end our faux bike ride. It had boulangeries and gelaterias galore. Is there anything more that one can ask for? I think not. Well, at least we were satisfied.
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