By Dede Demet Barry , T-Mobile CyclingTeam
I am sitting in the warmth and sunshine of Gerona, Spain now – far away from Les Alpes, where I was competing in the La Grande Boucle Feminin just yesterday.
Yesterday’s stage was perhaps one of the most epic days on the bike I have ever experienced. It was our third day in the rainy, cold Alps. It was the most difficult stage on the race profile, heading up three major climbs: le col de Madelaine, le col de Glandon, and Vaujuny.
It was cold and pouring rain at the start, and the organizers decided to allow us to skip the first fifteen kilometers of the stage, which traveled down a steep descent, due to the harsh weather conditions. We started the race at the base of the Madelaine.
My legs felt pretty good from the start of the race, despite the cold. I was happy to start climbing, as this meant it would be easier to stay warm. On the Madelaine, I managed to stay with the front group until the last seven kilometers of the climb when I got gapped off with Jolanta Poliakiachute. We rode tempo together and encouraged each other all the way to the top, where I stopped to put on clothes for the 25 kilometer descent before the Glandon. My jersey and shorts were soaked with water. I put a jacket and gloves on and went flying down the mountain.
It was difficult to see at the top, as we were traveling through clouds, with rain sputtering up into our eyes. Traveling down the switchbacks on the steep road, we were not really pedaling, this made it super hard to stay warm. I felt colder and colder as I descended and was beginning to shiver uncontrollably midway down the mountain. It was hard to steer the bike or shift gears and soon I was just coasting and having a hard time riding a straight line.
Hypothermia set it. I stopped on the side of the road to warm-up, two women ran to me with their jackets and put an umbrella over my head to keep me warm. I was shivering and it was hard to move. A support car pulled off onto the side of the road and offered to pick me up and it was race over for me.
I jumped in the car, which already had some destitute riders packed into it and we shivered together in misery. There were blankets for us and the heat was cranked, but it took an hour or so just to warm up. They drove us to the Glandon, where some of our team cars were parked to feed the riders who were still in the race.
This was a day of huge attrition. Many riders stopped due to the conditions, but my teammates all hung tough. Amber road superbly again, finishing eighth on the stage and showing the world that one day she will be a contender to win this race. She has what it takes, the climbing ability, the time trailing speed and most importantly the mental strength. It’s been neat to see her capabilities this past week. The rest of the team has ridden well despite the difficult weather conditions and I think they will have gained confidence and strength after having pushed through Sunday’s race.
It was tough leaving the team this morning, as I had finally begun feeling better and better on the bike after my crashes last week. I wanted to be in the race still, but sometime things just don’t come together as you hope or plan. I wished the girls luck for the final week of the race, rented a car and headed to Gerona, Spain, where Michael and I share an apartment with Christian Vande Velde and Dylan Casey.
It was nice driving south and into the sunshine. Christian and Michael are racing Tour of Burgos right now, so they are not here, but Dylan greeted me with a super home cooked meal, which brought a smile to my face. I am looking forward to training on the roads around Gerona the next few weeks to prepare for the Plouay World Cup.
Dede Demet-Barry is sending diaries to VeloNews.com throughout thisyear’s Grande Boucle Feminin. Sheshares a web site with her husband Michael Barry.