I have not felt this good the day after a bike ride for some time. Yes, the legs feel like they did a ton and ground out 3,000m of climbing, but this morning I don't feel like someone slipped a sedative in my recovery shake. Maybe some more good signs of efficient recovery and Tour readiness? Or maybe I am just riding the wave of euphoria that is Champions League football at the Emirates next season, whilst our "noisy neighbours" enjoy the Europa League and mid-week appearances on Channel 5.
The Etap Du Dales was a glorious ride yesterday. Predominantly dry roads, no wind, some sunshine and spectacular scenery. What's more my misguided and disparaging opinion on the self-righteousness of Yorkshire men was put in the bin. You could not have wished for a more friendly and welcoming bunch to ride with. Shame on me.
I took it upon myself to serve as a domestique to my group yesterday. In cycling parlance, the domestique is the rider who sits at the front slicing the air, ferries bottles and clothing to their team mates, gives up their chances of victory to advance their leaders' prospects. A noble and selfless existence. Those sentiments aside, if I were a pro-rider, this is what I would want to be good at. Every team has them, diligently protecting their lead riders. When you serve long enough with little thanks, and manage to be on the winning team, you earn the "super-domestique" status. Now, we didn't have a team car to get back to yesterday but I did find myself on the front driving the pace a lot of the time for the first 75 miles and setting tempo on the kinder gradients. You know full well that if you are going to play this dangerous game that, as a weekend rider, you risk blowing up. This is what started to happen, the dreaded crack on a nasty climb at mile 75. That's it, race done, limp to the finish. However, that was not the case, recovering on the way back down, the strength returned. By this time it was too late to hop back on my group, they were long gone, but the legs came back to life and gave it everything for the best part of 30 miles to the finish. This sort of surge will come in very handy in France and more good signs that things are coming together. Very pleasing and not a big deficit to the group at the finishing line. They scraped a gold time and I settled for silver by seven minutes. Noble and selfless? Possibly, but my inability to wrench the cassette lock ring tight enough the night before leading to a number of unnecessary pit stops ultimately cost me.
The best part of the day... hitting 50 mph (80 km/h) coming off the top of the Dales and screeching down the tight lanes. Pure exhilaration.