I can't sleep.
Theoretically, I should be exhausted, but I've been laying in bed thinking for the past hour. It's going to happen tomorrow. We're going to ride to Paris. We're going to be done.
Yesterday we completed the final long stage: a 230 kilometer rolling grinder on busy highways. 8,000 feet of elevation at the end of the day: another classic flat stage. We'd been dreading it and putting it behind us was a huge relief. Today we spun our legs out on the 55 kilometer TT course, stopping for coffee and kebabs along the way. We told jokes and navigated off of the turn-by-turn directions that Kristen had put in Sharpie pen on her left forearm. After the mountains and the wind and the heat of the past week, it felt almost civil. Downright leisurely.
Tonight at dinner some of the girls and I discussed all of the people who'd told us that we couldn't or wouldn't make it. There were a lot. Some were well-intentioned and some were not. And for all those who had the guts to actually say it to our faces, there were even more who implied it or hinted at it.
Tomorrow, barring unforeseen incidents (and we've learned well that these can happen at any time), they'll all be wrong.
We didn't do this ride specifically to prove anyone wrong, but certainly those doubting voices were in the back of our minds during hard stages and dark moments. Often the doubting voices were my own. There was no way to know if this was possible other than to give it a try. By the time we hit Stage Four all of us were in uncharted territory: we'd never done 4 back-to-back rides so long and hard… and we still had to do four more before the rest day. Would the legs keep going? Would the mind stay in it?
Now we can say, "Of course." but we never really felt that way. In some sense I think that all of us were waiting for that moment when something gave out: a knee or a major muscle. Maria hit the deck and reminded us how fast it can happen. Then she bounced back and reminded us how fast that can happen too.
I got sick the day before the queen stage and thought hard about how people told me that if I got sick, I was done for. I purposefully decided not to write about it here until I'd made it through. I went into stage 16 with a deep, raspy cough that came from my chest, swollen glands and a sore throat. I'd hardly slept the night before for all the coughing. Then I lost my bike to the freak accident with road debris. By the time I got to the top of the Tourmalet on the borrowed bicycle, I had lost my voice completely. I kept going - there were two more category one climbs that day. Then I rode the climbs of Stage 17 in only slightly better condition. It was not fun, but it was not impossible - and the support of teammates got me through it.
Along the way during this journey we started to realize that the human imagination can sometimes become anemic, depleted by the constant stress of life and worn down by daily worries. We don't give ourselves enough credit, create boundaries where none actually exist. We write things off too quickly. Dismiss possibilities too easily. We lose some of our fight.
We start listening to the people who say it can't be done, whatever it is. They're convincing. The doubting voice inside of us: it's convincing too.
This thing we did with bikes over here - it means a lot of different things to different people and it will end up meaning different things to each of the six of us as well. Right now in this moment I hold it as a reminder to be careful which voices I listen to, who I choose to hear and give my energy.
To those of you who believed in us from the beginning: tomorrow we ride for you.
Paris is calling and we can almost taste the champagne.