OK, this is what you've all been waiting for, what the TPC has been leading up to: the Queen Stage! See the full profile of this monster in PT's previous blog. Incidentally, PT, how did you manage to pull off this technofeat? Every time I tried, Blogger would eat the upload. The stage included 3 massive climbs, the 14 km Col du Peyresourde, the 12 km Col de l'Aspin and the 17 km Col du Tourmalet. They should rename these summits Cold de___. The Queen stage is as tough as anything in the Tour de France, and I finished it! But the real story can only be conveyed by Gene Wilder's line from the Producers: 'I'm cold, and I'm wet and I'm in pain!!!" The day began cold in the 30's and I was bundled up with long gloves, Balaklava, baselayer, longsleeve winter jersey and Gore jacket, and it ended that way. The Peyresourde and the l'Aspin were both climbed in the sun, so I quickly soaked all of my clothes, leaving me vulnerable to cold and wind on the summits the whole day. Particularly on the Tourmalet, which depleted my intravascular volume and glycogen reserves after slogging up 9-10% grades for the last 7-8 km. This was as tough as any climbing I've ever done. Shivering levels reached those I experienced last year on the Galibier. But somehow I didn't bonk, and rewarded myself to a bowl of French onion soup, two cups of hot chocolate and pie in a summit restaurant. You'd be amused to hear that in this restaurant, it is accepted practice to take off soaking wet clothes and climb into dry ones at your seat. Very cool. As for pain, it wasn't too bad since I stayed in a comfortable aerobic rhythm the whole way up, but I did take unusually close notice of all the signs for 'Pain' on the way up, pain being the French word for bread, but that was not my first interpretation given what I was going through.
It's time to ask the key question why I am actually going through this. Is it for the challenge, as the name applies? Is it a desire to get a good workout? Is it for the health benefits? Is it for the danger or to impress people with a good story? Is it for the fellowship forged with other like-sufferers? Is it to see a beautiful part of Spain and France? Do I do it for you? There are people suffering from non-self-inflicted afflictions worldwide and here I am subjecting myself to pain, and paying to do it. Is there something too self-indulgent about this? Would I do it again? Like anything in life, there are no simple answers to these questions, and somehow a balance must be struck after further reflection when I get home. I don't have time for introspection now since I have to somehow dry my clothes by 8 am tomorrow when we begin our assault on another monster, the Col de l'Aubisque. The names of these cols strike fear into the heart of the cyclist, including your intrepid blogger. I'm going to sign off early tonight so as not to repeat last night when I got only 5 hours bad sleep before taking on the Queen.