The Next Level. Today was the showdown. As all who watch cycling know, any stage with a mountaintop finish is where many of the overall selections happen, and when the mountain is the Tourmalet, which is enormous both in terms of the difficulty of the climb, as well as its history, it’s all the more definitive.
Thus we all held the hope that Ryder would be able to continue his brilliant run of form, but knew that as it was such a hard climb, anything could happen.
It was rainy this morning as the boys ran to the bus for the start, and with mixed feelings I watched them head off.
I was once again on hotels. The ambivalence was because I would actually be able to have a bonus rest day (no transfer again! Woo!), as well as watch the race unfold, and would also be out of the crappy weather; but would be that little bit distanced from things as they went down, and would be unable to celebrate with high fives, hugs and roars of “BOOMbah!” as whatever happened happened. (Boombah has become a significant portion of the staff’s fallback cry of celebration over the course of the season. I’m not sure why, nor what the etymology is, but there you go.)
The morning for me (and Alyssa, who was also on hotels) was taken up with sorting out our stock of water and drink mix and food, making sure we were right for the remaining couple of days. Then Chinese buffet for lunch.
We’ve been at this hotel for three days, and the hotel is right in front of the biggest Chinese restaurant I have ever seen. It has been calling my name for days, and I finally talked some people in to coming across and taking it on. An excellent decision.
Then it was back to watch our boys on the tv, yelling at the screen like any self respecting sport watcher does. The majority of the time was placid, watching the break dangle off the front, while the peloton did it’s thing, with the distinctive fluoro orange of the Garmin-Transitions helmets popping up regularly enough for me to be happy with the way things were panning out.
There was a brief period of dismay when there were sheep across the road, but thankfully it wasn’t on a descent, so all was well.
Once the final climb came along, I was glued to the screen, looking for glimpses of Ryder in the midst of the hitters group.
The final couple of kilometres was a particularly frustrating period, as the race for 1st place was covered on the screen, whilst all I was interested in was the group immediately behind those two blokes.
Every time they did flash back, there was Ryder, banging along with a smaller and smaller group around him. The only moment of worry, and it was small, was when they flashed back to the chase group Ryder had been in after the stage was won, and Ryder was nowhere to be seen.
All I was thinking then was “minimise the losses mate. You’re right up there, the damage won’t be too bad. Just tap along and keep it small.”
The absolute delight that was felt when they flashed to third place across the line and the lanky Canuck legend was just emerging from the mist for fourth was enormous. And this delight was verbalised and echoed throughout the hotel as those of us who were watching in the hotel all yelled and cheered for our man.
It was a great performance, and a brilliant result, setting Ryder into 8th place on the general classification, with two flat stages and a time trial to come.
Now the rubs and treatments are finished, and it’s mealtime, and the roadshow continues up the road to Bordeaux tomorrow.
Congratulations to Ryder on today’s ride particularly, but also on his performances of the past 19 or so days. A job well done by the Hesje, and the team as a whole so far.