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Le TBB Tour de France ala Le Lanterne Rouge « Jocelyn Wong's Blog

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Le TBB Tour de France ala Le Lanterne Rouge

Soon upon landing in Switzerland, I learned that I would be participating in our team’s own little version of le Tour de France, departing a week after my arrival.  Although I had completely missed the stage that went through our little village of Leysin, I had already done a couple rides on our Swiss Alp roads covered in Tour de France graffiti cheering for the bike racers.

departing for Stage 1...or the Prologue...or whatever

departing for Stage 1...or the Prologue...or whatever

Never one to be left out, I was excited as usual.  6 days of big bike miles over the mountains into France, and I would get to race in the famous Alpe d’Huez Triathlon too?  I didn’t mind that Coach had warned me (and continues to remind me) that I was not/am not ready for the bike riding here.  We would have two SAG vehicles and he did say we could only go as fast as the slowest rider…  And altitude, bah!  I’ll adapt.

the lovely and very cheerful SAG girls

the lovely and very cheerful SAG girls

I had never been to France before!  I made a list of things I want to do in France…

  1. eat French fries (freedom fries?)
  2. climb le Alpe d’Huez
  3. eat chocolate croissants every day…ok  just the epic days ;)
  4. try the crepes
  5. French kiss
  6. practice saying “voulez vous coucher avec moi?”
gorgeous mountains and cute little villages

gorgeous mountains and cute little villages

Indeed I was fueled by chocolate croissants–one of the cheapest and most abundant and oh yeah best tasting foods in France–which helped prevent bonking on those big rides over the mountain.  During Stage 2 they even saved me from being le lanterne rouge for the day…

the battle for Lanterne Rouge status

the battle for Lanterne Rouge status

LC held back a bit so that with our little German Christine, we had a good group of three riding more or less together.  Both of them are tiny so I considered myself an honorary member of the Smurfette squad.  Hobbits, whatever.  We climbed big mountains.

trying to blend in with the hobbits

trying to blend in with the hobbits

Apparently it is not mandatory to wear helmets when racing up and down steep mountains in France.

Instructions for the race helmet sticker:  ”Please place one sticker on your cycle helmet facing forward, or if you are not wearing a helmet, on the front of your shirt. Please place the other on your handlebars, facing forward.  Enjoy the ride.”

Especially enjoy the part of the ride where you crash going down the mountain and smash your brains to pieces because you weren’t wearing a helmet.

race poster with the real Alps and real superstar reflected

race poster with the real Alps... and real superstar... reflected in the window

For the conclusion of stage 2, we took the back route and only climbed the last 6 (of the 21) switchbacks of the famous Alpe d’Huez mountain featured in the race.  Little did I know that this would be the extent of my completion of #2 on my to-do list.  I soon also learned firsthand why Coach always wishes us “best mechanical luck!”  Sometimes there are things you have no control over–on Wednesday, race morning as we were descending to the lake for the swim start, Khan the Warrior Horse died a very sudden and untimely death.

the demise of my beloved warrior horse

the demise of my beloved warrior horse

Diagnosis?  An aneurysm to his rear derailleur hanger.  I cried a few tears as Coach threw the dying horse into the back of Coco’s red Red Bull Wagon.   I never thought I would have to endure two broken hearts in the space of a single week.  ”We may have to put the old horse down,” said a somber Coach.  I would have cried more if I hadn’t already wasted most of my tears on that douchebag loser who never deserved any of my affections…or come to think of it, if I had any idea what Coach had in store for the dead horse in the following weeks…

Khan has an aneurysm

autopsy results: Khan had an aneurysm

So I wouldn’t get to do Stage 4: the triathlon, after all.  But I am a professional triathlete, and we pros must carry on through hell, heartbreak, and bad mechanical luck.  Even though I couldn’t do the bike leg of the race, I could still swim and run.  I pondered if this would count as my first DNF; if I started the race and finished the race, but just skipped that little biking part in between?  I like to think of it as more of a DQ.

The water was cold but tolerable once I got moving.  It was calm and flat, much preferred to the seasick-inducing waves of my last race in Korea!  pretty uneventful.  I got out without the usual hurry-hurry of getting through transition because my second event would be hitching a ride back to the T2/finish area.  Easily enough with the signature Wongstar charm and smile.

The run portion of the race was a half marathon consisting of 3 hilly laps through the village of Alpe d’Huez, altitude 1850 meters.  I met up with Felipe (who was too young at 17 for the long course race) and we cheered for all our teammates, who were all kicking butt in their TBB race kits.

the young Brazilian and I will be back next year with a vengeance!

the young Brazilian and I will return with a vengeance!

I waited until all our girls got through T2, so it wouldn’t look like I was winning the race or something awesome like that!  During my first lap, I saw Coach, who told me to run for 2 or 3 hours.  On the next lap I asked “Can I run a marathon today?”  I felt I had to make up for missing the fantastically challenging bike leg.  His reply: “if it makes you feel better.”  He knew I was upset with more than just the demise of my beloved warrior horse.  Besides, I needed to burn off the chocolate croissant I had for breakfast.  And the one I had for lunch.

I ended up doing 6 laps of the run…which confused some of the volunteers and officials, but I did have an official bib number, so they couldn’t kick me off course.  I really enjoyed the aid stations–they had watermelon and dark chocolate!  The official photographers even took several snaps:

oh, the altitudes not too bad

oh, the altitude's not too bad

I got many cheers because I was pretty fired up and holding a steady clip, or maybe because I’m such a hottie in my Scody team sports bra, but hey, I had relatively fresh legs from skipping the bike up the mountains.  Each lap took me just under 40 minutes, so I ended up running a sub-4 hour marathon.  Later I found out that it was a marathon-plus…the run course was actually 22km so I ended up running a very hilly 44k… at altitude… in under 4 hours!  yeah!

my favorite part was the chocolate at the aid stations

show me the chocolate!

So yes, I did actually feel much better after the run…thanks for asking.  ;)

The next day was our flat stage going halfway home…under Coach’s orders, Steve resurrected the warrior horse as a single speed bike in the big ring.

Dr. Steve operates on the warrior horse

Dr. Steve operates on the warrior horse

In the days after our tour I would learn that this is all part of Coach’s master plan to transform me into a bike monster…Wongstar the bike monster.  It has a nice ring to it.  While the Stage 5 route going home was mostly flat, I still found myself doing a fair share of standing on the pedals to get through what hills we had.  Oh, Khan.  This is not the last you will hear of him.

the resurrection of Khan.  like Gandalf the White if you are into that LOTR stuff ;)

the resurrection of Khan. like Gandalf the White if you are into that LOTR stuff ;)

As for the to-do list?  Well obviously not everything has been crossed off.  But assuming Khan’s replacement comes in time, I’ll be returning to France next weekend for Embrunman…

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