We’re greeted in the morning by a lovely breakfast of yogurt, granola, fruit, croissants, fresh-from-the-bakery French bread, etc. I’m sure the bread and water bit will show up tomorrow, after we’re lulled into a false sense of contentment by all this, but then are too tired from riding to notice. We then get ready to go out – I’m renting a bike from Ade and Shelley, and am in fact using one of Ade’s bikes.* We set off, me on a bike I’ve never ridden before, down a very steep hill, with wet pavement since it’s been raining all morning.
Some might say this isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
*Note: I have to add here that none of my mishaps can be blamed on Ade’s bike. It’s a great bike, shifts perfectly, and Ade has dialed it in as much as possible to my measurements, and put my saddle and pedals on it. It feels remarkably close to my bike at home. So to make it clear, it’s not the bike. It’s me.
As I’m clipping in, I notice that the group is already way ahead of me, so I try to hustle a bit. But now I’m going down a steep hill, with sharp turns, and I can’t brake very well on the wet pavement. Shit. I careen along, braking, heart pounding, and stop about a mile down, hands shaking, while a couple from the nearby house looks at me, concerned. God forbid I should have bothered to learn a word of French, so I have no idea what they’re saying, but the look of “are you okay? You look a bit unwell” is pretty universal. I give them a wan wave and smile, and set off again. Down this insanely steep hill. With hairpin turns and blind curves galore, all on a narrow road.
So I’m careening down, unable to stop and barely able to slow down, picking up speed as I go, and vaguely recalling that this hill is 10km straight downhill. In other words, there’s no section in which it levels out. At this point, I realize that I can either crash now or crash later, but there’s no way in hell I’ll make it down the rest of this crazy hill in one piece. Hence, my executive decision – there’s a curve up ahead, and a grassy ditch, which represents what is possibly my last chance to not die. I head for the ditch. And unlike my other bike crash, which was of course far worse and of which I don’t remember a damn thing, this one I remember all too well – the bike speeding up, careening into the ditch, hitting the ground rather hard, whacking my head on the ground, seeing stars. Being thankful when I realize I didn’t do any major damage.
I’m standing there picking grass out of my helmet and jacket and off the bike, when Chris rolls up in the AlpCycles red van – a van I’ll be getting to know quite well. I guess when everyone else showed up at the bottom and I was still nowhere to be seen, Chris got sent out as the search party. We put my bike in the van, and as we’re heading down, I see that in retrospect, it’s a damn good thing I crashed when I did. Seriously. Because the rest of the way down are a series of steep inclines followed by one hairpin turn after another, and at the far end of the hairpin is either a brick wall or a cliff to go tumbling over if I hadn’t been able to slow down enough. Given that, the ditch looks like a brilliant choice.
The van pulls up to the rest of the group in a town at the bottom, hanging out waiting for my sorry self.
Me: Sorry to make you all wait. I crashed.
They all look at me in silence. I have grass burn on my face and a cut on my chin, and in other words, am a total shambles. A walking Alpinian disaster.
Penny: Umm, you have some grass stuck in your shifters.
I start picking at it, lip quivering, trying not to cry. Ade is as nice as can be, patting me on the shoulder and asking me if I’m okay, though I’m sure the thought bubble over his head is saying “What kind of idiot IS this girl?” He hides it well though.
Me, grimly: I’m okay. But it’s going to be a long week.
I’ve crashed on Day One, 5 miles in. I think that says it all.