We crest Col de la Bonette, our final high altitude climb of the week, then descend with the 100km or so stretch back home to Nice set firmly in our sights. The headwind bites into us and although we are gradually descending, we still have to put the work in to keep our momentum.
Normally this is the sort of road which would have the potential to finish legs, deaden moral and lead to a spectacular bonk, however today this isn’t the case. With 48 hours in our legs these past eight days, we push harder than ever before. I feel as though I have long surpassed the mental and physical limits of which I was capable, pushing further and further into the unknown.
It feels bloody good and I keep on going. This is what the whole of our #NoGoTour has felt like. We started off at such a low point after our team collapsed. That week I felt absolutely terrible and, in all honesty, I think the most I managed on my bike was a couple of hours.
Setting off into the French and Italian Alps that first day felt like we were riding away from everything and it was one of the most bizarre feelings I have ever experienced. Almost immediately I felt lighter, more energetic and happier. I was simply riding my bike; pushing the pedals for no other reason than I wanted to.
We would wake up each morning thinking that for sure this would be the morning we’d both feel absolutely hammered, except that point never came. If anything, as the days went by we felt better and better, literally riding ourselves back into health. It was an eye-opening experience of the power of nature, friendship and self-powered travel.
As Mike Skinner sings in a famous Streets song, ‘you could settle wars with this’. In all honesty, I’m not sure Donald Trump has the temperament to handle a double puncture halfway up Col du Lautaret with as much poise and calmness as Larry Warbasse.
The point I’m trying to make is that I would recommend a bike-packing trip to anyone, of any ability or experience, a million times over; you will not regret it. The whole week reaffirmed all the things I believed in and gave me the mental energy to pursue them. You don’t need to ride 50 hours in eight days, with Larry’s high-altitude metre intervals, but you do need to ride. Any distance, time or speed.
However, saying all this I couldn’t help but notice a sinking feeling in my stomach as I rolled back into Nice. I was on a definite high from the whole trip and enjoying the satisfaction of what myself and Larry accomplished. Yet, at the same time, I was returning to reality and the total unknown that currently brings.
I’ve never really felt that I ever fell out of love with cycling. This trip wasn’t about trying to rekindle any lost passion for my sport. I think it was more a distraction from the fact that my survival within the professional ranks is so very fragile at this point; I still have no team for 2019 and the search continues.
My dream to race and compete at the highest level in this sport is strong, yet the reality is that may not be possible anymore. It’s back to the stress and uncertainty of genuinely not knowing where my life will lead next.
This is almost reflected in this blog, which was written over the space of a few days. Some sentences seem positive and others negative; that is just how my mentality is right now.
But then I realise me and Larry descended the Col de Sarenne in near darkness, with no hotel and no plan and we ended up okay. Maybe I just need to go forward, embracing uncertainty in the spirit of the #NoGoTour in everything I do? Booking hotels whilst getting half-wheeled, eating baguettes on supermarket floors as happy as can be and sleeping on hostel dormitory floors.
To be honest, I really don’t know… What I do know is we had one hell of a week. Cycling has given me innumerable adventures and good times and I don’t want them to end just yet.
I’d like to say one massive thank you to everyone who supported us along our #NoGoTour. The amount of offers for places to stay that we received was incredibly heart-warming and I wish we could have taken more people up on this.
The number of messages we received on social media was also mind blowing and it genuinely felt like we were riding along with you all. Then we had people on the roadside cheering us on towards the end of the week, which we couldn’t really believe, and blew us away. A bad situation for me and Larry became a week of fun and adventure, made all the more special by everyone who shared it with us.
Larry and Conor’s Great Adventure blogs