Protected between the two vehicles, with the horns of both cars blaring, we rode six abreast for the final kilometer. Traffic flowed around us, sometimes honking support and sometimes just honking. The chaos was unimaginable and along the side of the road every person walking on the sidewalk stopped to take pictures, wave and cheer. Photographers darted out to get a better shot. The din was so surprising and overwhelming that all we could do was grin stupidly and look at each other every so often to confirm that it was really happening. Two blocks from the Arc de Triomphe we began to spot our families among the crowds and when we stopped pedaling, they mobbed us: Maria had 12 people fly in from Puerto Rico!
Following up our introduction to Team Rêve earlier this month, this is part of Heidi Swift's account of the final kilometer of the Tour de France route, which she finished alongside the other five women on her team, Kate Powlison, Jennifer Cree, Kym Fant, Kristen Peterson and Maria del Pilar Vazquez. Read the rest of the exciting conclusion at The Oregonian.
Way to go, Team Rêve! This was a massive physical undertaking for a group of amateur cyclists, and I'm sure the pressure was on to finish, and finish strong. I love the visibility that they are getting, and I hope that their effort inspires other women to push the boundaries of what they think is possible.
If you have not checked out Heidi Swift's articles written on the Tour at peloton magazine, please read them. They are spectacular pieces of writing and they make you feel like you're a part of the adventure. I find it really amazing that Swift was able to write after some of the grueling stages that she and her team rode. N'abandonne jamais!
The following is an excerpt from "REVE: Stage 13. Friday the 13th."
It's still the coldest descent that I can remember. I can only see 30 or 40 feet in front of me for the first 5k. What should be a ripping lark down a winding mountain road turns into numb-hands shiver-fest. I'm alone and singing to myself to stay alert. By the bottom, my legs are useless slabs of frozen meat with which I must immediately ascend the next category one climb.
Ahead of me, I know that Kate and Kristen are without their winter gear, having beaten the support van to the top of the climb. I send them warm thoughts. I catch up with Jennifer as she's stashing her warm jacket under the back of her jersey then she's off again up the hill. She's out of food. "I'm just going to death march this one out." she says as she rides away. I adjust my layers and then start climbing. The second category one climb of the day starts sweet and innocent and then juts unexpectedly into a few kilometers of 18 and 20% goat path madness. Here we are spread out along the course, steeped in solitary hells that feel somehow comforting.
Sometimes, the only way to ride together is to ride alone.
I spend the rest of the stage thinking intermittently about dinner, whether or not I should stop to drink the mini-Coke in my pocket, the rest day, the rest day and the rest day. And dinner. Did I mention dinner? All of the campers and roadside fans are cooking big sausages and getting drunk so I check the time. 6:05pm. Dinnertime. Why the hell am I on my bike at 6:15pm!? Let me off!
On my left leg in Sharpie pen I have written, "Can't Stop Won't Stop" in tribute to Adam Myerson and also as a mantra for the day. Just keep pedaling. Next to it in bigger type: QUICHE!! (There's one waiting for me in the van at the finish.) On my right leg I have documented the kilometer at which each climb starts and the average gradient. I've also written the day's total distance: 191k. It's nearly rubbed off from all of the rain and warming cream, but I can still just barely see it.
In fact, my computer reads 194 when I roll into town and see the van. I start singing Rihanna lyrics as loud as possible. I'm losing my shit. I've been on my bike for 9 hours and I can't remember the tailwinds or the little cheering toddlers in rain jackets anymore. I want my quiche. I want a recovery shake. I want to eat the entire world.
An hour later everything is fine. I am sitting in front of a plate of three-cheese pasta and I have forgotten the rain and the cold and the stupid, stupid goat hill.
New rough totals:14 days1690 miles108,500 feet of vertical111 hours