There’s no party atmosphere at the top of the Hautacam. No collective jubilation and no private sense of euphoria either. Maybe that would come later. For now the focus is food: Honey bread, salted crackers, orange segments, whatever there is. Then the rain, which had been kind enough to wait until I’d crossed the finish, begins again.
“Go and get your medal.” The older gentleman at the bottom tells me. “You’ve earned it.” I’d free-wheeled the thirteen kilometres down the mountain to the village, thinking the whole way not of medals but dry clothes, and stopped to ask him where the car park was.
“I think I’ve earned a bath and six beers.” I reply, resting my leg against my front wheel for warmth, the rim on fire after eight miles of firm braking. I didn’t think I had, actually, earned anything, I just really really wanted them. I certainly didn’t think a medal was in order. I thank him and roll on.
No sport revels in the vocabulary of martyrdom quite like cycling does. But I had just ridden 150 kilometres – 95 miles in old money – of which half were uphill, and at least half – not exactly the same half and at my own initiation, but still – during which I would say I had suffered.
And all I could think was “What was the point of that?”