One of the great things about having ridden a load of Tour climbs is pretending to know how the peloton feels as the Tour cruises and crawls over the same roads. Stage 19 takes in the Col du Glandon and the Col de la Madeliene, both of which I tackled during The Breakaway. For me the Madeleine was a total and utter nightmare. I suffered like a dog (trapped inside a hot car) the whole way up. The Glandon was that day’s second ascent and, surprisingly, I recovered enough to find it, dare I say, enjoyable.

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Who knows how the pros will be feeling as they roll off one Col and on to the next (sore, I’d expect, what with two and a half weeks of racing and yesterday’s Alpe D double in their legs). Hopefully more like I felt on the Glandon and not as bad as I felt on the Madeleine.

The worst of times upon the Madeleine:

Cooked atop Madeleine

I was battling with every available ounce of willpower but truly going nowhere; even butterflies were overtaking me. Drew, on the other hand, was feeling (at least relatively) great and refusing to hold anything in reserve for the Glandon. He was also refusing to wait for me, cruised off up the climb and was soon a distant blue dot upon my far horizon — surely a revenge of sorts for my dismissive attitude on La Plagne the previous day. I at once hated and admired my friend, jealousy at his strength countered only by wonder. I felt utterly pathetic as he danced delicately on the pedals, pulling the tarmac down and beneath his tyres. The sun that had become my bête noire was his best friend. Sleeves rolled up and smiling, to him the Madeleine was nothing more than an opportunity to top up the tan whilst taking in a bit of a hill. And with each glimpse of his prowess, the circling vultures of negativity closed in.

A couple of particularly steep corners later and I was audibly cursing Drew, spitting my disdain as if his contrasting condition and velocity were all at my expense. He was purposely taunting me, riding me into the ground as revenge for my actions upon the Stelvio, for having ignored his concerns on the Izoard and La Plagne, for having forced him to come on this trip with its evil Folder of Doom. Was he really so stupid, really so spiteful? I would have spat in disgust had my saliva not already dried up and disappeared.

The best of times upon the Glandon:

The air cooled considerably the higher we climbed, an arrestingly fresh mountain atmosphere that proved a stark contrast to the day’s earlier, stifling extremes. Whereas on the Madeleine it had felt like I’d been inhaling hot sand, this new breeze was like an elixir, each intake of breath verging upon a quasi-religious experience. No doubt thanks to that climatic change, the remainder of the energy I had sorely lacked that morning returned, and then some. Drew was either fatigued or had grown accustomed to the idea of my continued existence, no longer expressing the desire to be a bike-length ahead at all times. Just as well too; given half the chance I would have been down in the drops, out the saddle, doing my best Pantani impression. It was inconceivable that the climb on which I had almost thrown my bike into the valley could be part of the same day. My earlier miseries were a lifetime away, part of some distant nightmare or a horror story overheard.