VALLOIRE, France (VN) — The Giro d’Italia’s second rest day has arrived, thankfully, and we now find ourselves in France. Odd I know, and the transition is a struggle, though not due to the fact that we are in France. France is great, but I find myself struggling with the language transition. I have become accustomed to answering, asking for things, or screaming (race situations) in Italian and suddenly (well, it felt sudden) I had to organize an internet password at the hotel this morning in French. Luckily French is the one thing I retained a bit of from school and those 80-100 words I know have come in very handy! I wish I could say the same for my Italian, but I seem to get along ok with a handful of important words: please, thank you, coffee, and bathroom.

As I said, it is the second rest day. It seems like a million years ago we were starting the journey out of Naples. This last week I have gone through the highs, lows, and the exhaustion of this grand tour. The end of the Giro is near and it may be just in time. Rice has become my enemy as we eat it three times a day. Oh, and the weather. We have endured our fair share of torrential rain. Northern Italy can be incredibly cold if it rains and it is even possible to face snow in late May at the higher elevations, which makes for incredibly cold and difficult conditions. The key to surviving these days is to stay with others and remember you are not alone in your suffering. The groupetto can be a beautiful thing on certain days as well. I have ruined three full sets of clothing the past two weeks and have started and finished two entire stages in a rain jacket, something I have never done before.

I’m sure I have learned more, but at this point of the tour (readying ourselves to start stage 16), it is all I can mentally muster up. Writing a journal for Velonews while exhausted isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I continue to not know what is happening in the outside world. All I know is that this time next week I will be parked up in my apartment back in Girona with my family, attempting to not think about riding my bike.

One incredibly interesting thing happens during a tour like this. Your heart decides to stop working the way it normally does during training and racing. I mean sure, after four- or six-day races your heart rate tends to lower and the maximum is not all that achievable. But in this tour, if you monitor it correctly, it truly is amazing what your heart rate can do. So for the data junkies, the difference between the first and the second week (for someone like me) is about a 15-20-percent drop in average and maximum daily heart rates. That is quite a lot!

So now it’s off for another six stages, another 600 miles/1000 kilometers of racing, some truly brutal mountain stages over historical and revered climbs, enough post-stage transfers to drive me crazy, enough rice to feed a country, and we have our team climber to keep up front and out of trouble. I’m sure by the end of it there will be many more stories.