When I do European tours, I ride them for a few different reasons. First and foremost is my desire to see a place that is not les Etats Unis. Second is my desire to have a genuine adventure—to do some hard riding and have some thrilling descents. Also, I like to encounter the frustration that comes with getting lost in a strange place, eat new foods, struggle with a foreign language and meet fascinating people.
In the course of doing all this, I generally hope that I’ll gain some new insight into myself, that I’ll learn something that adds a level of understanding or complexity to my world. Sometimes that understanding comes in the guise of plumbing new depths as a rider, or it may come as a newfound appreciation of foreign cultures and their subtleties. On a few occasions it has unfolded as an existential curiosity about why I bother to ride a bicycle and why I choose to write about it.
To be honest, right now, I’m in a very different place. It’s, shall we say, much more elemental. I feel like some rookie cop who has heard that gang members may shoot at him, but then, when confronted with his city’s mean streets, looks at his partner and says, “Dude, they’re shooting!”
I have gas enough to fill a hot air balloon. I’ve developed diaper rash by the end of the ride most days. Back home, I almost never eat red meat; here, I have some almost every day because the alternative would almost certainly result in bonking. As a result of all the red meat, I smell weird. Not just body odor, mind you, but the gas is foul and even my urine reeks. I’m eating so many calories—or at least trying to—that I’m pooping at least twice and sometimes three times in a day. And yes, they smell like someone opened the fridge a week after the power went out.
I went into this trip with the best fitness I’ve had in years. Three days of cold and wet mauled me, forcing me to burn matches I was saving for later in the trip. Yesterday was the killer, arguably the tour’s queen stage, in which we climbed the Col du Galibier, the Col de l’Izoard and into the town of St. Veran, which lies in the shadow of the Col d’Agnel, about two-thirds the way up.
Or is it really as bad as I think? It took me most of the day to ride 64 miles, but we also climbed at least 10,000 vertical feet including two hors categorie cols. I road at a subsistence pace because the fatigue goes down to the bone, but any time the gradient wasn’t 10 percent, I could get on top of a real gear, not the bailout 34×32 (more on that in another post).
RKP‘s Top 10 Reasons Padraig Rode Like Crap:
- I’ve got a pinched nerve that kills my neck if I go too hard and long.
- My mother called to say she was joining the Jesuits.
- Sleeping at 2000m altitude has eliminated the notion of recovery.
- I can’t process beef protein unless it is accompanied by beer.
- My legs are too tired to pedal a low gear at a high cadence.
- My iPod died.
- This is the sixth day in a row I’ve climbed more than 7000 feet.
- Ugly may only be skin deep but cold goes all the way to the marrow.
- Maybe I shouldn’t stay up until midnight installing bike parts.
- I’m saving my strength for the really hard days ahead.
As it turns out, at least one of the reasons above is really true. First correct guess gets RKP stickers.