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The Crazy Bet - Who won?
by Guy Andrews
So what was it like then, the Crazy Bet?
Still exhausted, we sat (well, slumped) in a bar in Pau on Monday afternoon to watch the Tour. Since finishing the Etape I'd been trying to remember the French word for shandy. Beer and lemonade, "biere et limonade" – it was the best I could do. It was stuck in my head somewhere and that was bugging the hell out of me, I was cooked though, so anything was an effort, thinking especially. I knew the word well and knew it had some relevance to cycling, I'd just forgotten it.
Strangely I have forgotten most of what happened on the bike over the previous two days too – at least most of what I was thinking about - where I was in my head? I have no idea. Training ride thoughts before the bet had been based around strategy; the equipment, the food to carry and how to carry it – Which kit to take? It all followed me around Hertfordshire… all vivid and gone over again and again.
However, of the previous days' activities, I have many lasting memories. Mainly around how well the Crazy Bet team worked out and the fact that we all had a laugh despite the pain and the unpleasant soggy feeling that you get after spending 20 hours in Lycra. It was loads of fun. We'd all agreed beforehand that it was going to be run off at a pace we could sustain for two days, but I think we all knew, deep down, that it was a tough call. One of us might not make it, it might be me, it might be all of us. We just didn't know.
The Marmotte was sunny and the Alps were at their beautiful best. We rode a short ride on the Friday and we were all enjoying the sunshine whilst shaking down our Independent Fabrication team bikes and discussing our tactics and the logistics for the next two days and it all had to work out. A mechanical, a crash or just simple exhaustion might mean that all this planning would be lost.
Bill Strickland's deep-set eyes, his fixed expression and occasional sentence of self depreciation, summed it all up really, he just kept going, like a miner's lamp, always there. Simon Richardson thought he looked like Fernando Escartin, and he certainly has the same style of the seasoned Spanish climber. We all did the quiet thing in the end – silent, lonely riders endlessly trudging on alone, as eventually we split apart silently too, we just needed to keep at our own sorry pace. "Make the plane, Make the plane, Make the plane" became my mantra and I just wanted it to be over. But we had to be on that airplane that was waiting for us on the tarmac at Grenoble… we had to get to Pau. No question.
We'd made it, just.
Zombies we may have been, but we were there on the start line of the Etape the next morning. It was a tough one this year (mainly due to the conditions, it felt like February rather than July) and the rain made the usuall beautiful landscapes something akin to a weekend in Wales, rather than the Pyrenees. But there is nothing in Wales like the Tourmalet. The first mountain challenge of any significance for the Tour riders of yesteryear and with the distant views lost under a blanket of cloud, actually made it easier just to concentrate on the task in hand. Even the ski station at La Mongie wasn't the horrible concrete mess I remembered, it was lost in a white fog, accented with a silent spooky ski lift and a far-away bleeting sheep.
Then the freezing descent of the Hautacam. Going up was bad, awful. But coming down was just plain silly. Keep you waiting for half an hour in freezing rain when you are out of gas and in dire need of some food. And a drink. And I knew which one I wanted… As I crossed the final summit I thought I would be emotional, kiss the finish line perhaps or have some profound thought. But as I wrestled the cheap medal into my pocket and found the last piece of sustenance therein (yet another bloody gel) all I could do was try to recall the French word for the drink I was desperate for – Panaché.
Guy Andrews is editor of Rouleur Magazine.
We would like to congratulate Eoin Hogan, from Ireland, on winning the Independent Fabrications frameset. Eoin's guess was within seconds of John Bradley's total time.