Stage 14 – Versailles – Paris 52km
I woke up to the sound of rain – unbelievable!! After endless days of incredible heat trust France to turn on the rain on the last day. However, the dreary weather could not dampen the joy I was feeling about riding into Paris. I had been thinking about today for 2 weeks and I was in awe of girls that have ridden this tour several times over.
We drove about 2 hours to Versailles and with a magnificent backdrop of the royal palace, we eat our lunch and posed for photos for our sponsors. A number of tourists also wanted autographs and photos so it was fun to enjoy the feeling of being a celebrity. I didn’t bother to warm up at all and laughed at someone who asked if I had wine in my bidon to drink for the final stage.
We cruised along for the first 30km and it was agreed amongst all riders not to officially start racing until we arrived at the Champs-Elyseés circuit. I sat up the front to spin the legs over and felt surprisingly good. We were to ride 4 laps of a 7km circuit so I wanted to feel ready to go hard for 28km. The overall leader, Joane Somaribba proudly wore the yellow jersey and providing she safely finished the stage she would win the tour. Many riders were still hungry to experience the glory of a stage win, and so when we arrived at the Champs-Elyseés, the attacks started.
Our team plan was to keep it together for Mette who was sprinting well, but she was sitting too far back in the peloton when the decisive break was made and couldn’t get across to it. With consistently solid riding throughout the whole tour, Katrina Groves made it into the break of 9 riders and soon had over a 1 minute lead on the main field.
Meredith, Trine and I worked hard on the front, along with a few Nuernberg riders and stopped anyone getting across to the break. The break included top sprinters Anita Valen (Bik Powerplate) and Petra Rosner (Nuernberg). Margaret Hemsley (Nuernberg) did an awesome lead out for Rosner while Katrina sat glued to Rosner’s wheel. In the final few metres 2 riders edged past Groves with SATS taking another 4th place result.
I helped position Mette in the closing 1km and she took the field sprint in convincing fashion for 10th place. And finally it was all over. Gone were the endless mountains we had to crawl over and the stifling 40C weather. All that was left were deep suntan lines and memories of a ‘really tough tour’.
Bob and I spent the next 4 days sitting in cafés in the Latin Quarter of Paris, sampling bottles of Bordeaux wines and eating delicious French food. This was certainly a more leisurely experience than grovelling up the Alps and a thoroughly enjoyable way of recovering.
And to anyone that is contemplating riding the ‘tour’ it is obviously one of the toughest tours in the world but the experience will make you a stronger and tougher person. For many riders, just to finish the tour is an accomplishment in itself and this was certainly my goal. I never thought I would race the tour in my second season of fulltime racing and so I was happy and relieved to ride into Paris.