‘Décrassage‘ this is the traditional French word for that tiny bit of sports you want to do the following day to clean and de-stress the muscles, without putting any strong efforts. In brief, a perfect recipe to avoid sour muscles! And it works, J+2 not an inch of pain! But before the recipe, the ingredients…
June 15th, 7:30 the race is about to start. With my number 15482 I cycle over the departure about 7:32, a really good start with some fresh weather for the first 15km of climbing… Right there, I decide to forget about numbers; with the 2400m of elevation, the 55-60km of climbing up, the more than 8000 cyclists about, I only know about -enjoying the atmosphere -staying safe -keeping the muscles pain free -and of course remaining my best partner, all this for the next 6 to 7 hours.
The Irish Executives hat is already making the headline, everybody asking what on earth I am selling… ‘Que du bonheur‘ of course, my Irish Executives 60s ready to shine, and my camera ready to shoot.
First stop, ‘col du Buisson‘, for the first picture of the famous hat… Next, going down to Lamastre… and with an average speed of 45km/hour, I am a slow cyclist, a good bunch of folks averaging 55-60 km/hour. My water bottle is full and my best friend today. I keep it for later… no drinking or eating in speedy downhill slope.
During the day, there are plenty of food and water stations, and plenty of volunteers with big smiles and big heart. I stop at Lamastre for bread and chesnut jam, two favourites of mine, heading up to Saint Martin de Valamas on a beautiful alpine looking road.
The winner of the day… the hat, of course. People keep giving me the thumb up as they overtake me. Never thought a hat could be such a great conversation teaser…. and trying to catch up with all the cyclists overtaking me, I arrive at the first 50km without realizing it (Saint Martin de Valamas), and soon the first 70km, (Saint Agrève). It’s already about 12:00 o’clock.
Saint Agrève is actually the first food station where I leave the bike on the side to enjoy the food on display… It’s weird to walk… and it’s worth it… bread, saucisson, banana, cheese, lot of cheese. Nearly everybody stops here -that means around 13000 folks during the day- and it’s packed with people, musicians, and the local TV. The next great thing? From Saint Agrève, it’s only 50km left, of which the last 20km are mainly going down hill for about 1000m… Pure Happiness… simply pure happiness that makes you fully forget the 25km to climb first.
7 hours 44 minutes after starting… the Irish Executives hat passes the arrival line!
Joy and Satisfaction for a job well done, 125km of fun for a great 5th birthday! A coach one day, always a coach, and indeed there is always something to learn, and always something positive, I call it the three tips of enjoying the magic:
1) With my Irish executives hat and my bunch of flowers, I collect thumbs up and congratulations all day long. People recognize me from one food station to the next, and wonder if my water bottle contains Irish coffee or whisky…. Not sure I want to share my secret there… The coach lesson? Humour again! Taking things seriously yes, taking yourself seriously no, and I promise you get fantastic result and always with a smile.
2) I keep a distant eye on the km done or to be done, just like a vague thing I know, and of course I pat myself in the back each time I reach another food station or another water break. I know the last milestone where I move to full speed, and until then it’s about enjoying and enjoying. The coach lesson? Horizon again! Know what you are aiming for, go at your own pace, pat yourself on the back, stretch yourself at time, and enjoy the journey… You need direction for your journey however the most important is still the journey.
3) Observation and modelling, my best friends of the moment, to lead my bicycle to the end, I take the lead of others and I lead others, it’s about the exchange, and for each thump up I receive for my hat, I gave a huge thanks and lots of encouragement, 5 minutes of conversation can give you wings and all this on water, cheese and bread! The coach lesson? Openness again! Enjoy always what is an offer, the words of people, their technics, their inspiration! Enjoy always what you can offer, a smile, a laugh, a can do attitude!
You’re right, Humour, Openness, Horizon, still ‘The Spirit of H2O.’