That time I rode the Col du Tourmalet

Of the many (and I mean MANY) ill-considered things I've "yeah, sure, why not"-ed in my life, my attempt to ride the Col du Tourmalet in 40+ degrees (sans food) stands out in my mind as one of my more boneheaded bike-related escapades.

I was still in my first year of riding when I decided that riding European beast mountains was a splendid and not ridiculous idea. I had no clue what cleats were or how to use them, and I didn't know how to change a tube or remove a pedal. Regardless of my shortcomings as a bike mechanic and lack of ability as a cyclist, I made my way to France, in search of "up".

The Tourmalet is one of the great ups. I was 5km from the summit when I bonked. And 850m from the mountain village where all the sugary crêpes were screaming my name. I crept on but had to stop on the side of the road in the sweltering heat only 500m from those flat morsels of sugary goodness, when the startling realisation that I would not be able to buy any crepes set in... I had not brought my wallet along with me.

Essential to the plot of a tragedy, this was the moment - the abrupt peripeteia - that plummeted me into irrational despair.

I just stood there, awkwardly teetering over my top tube, staring at this town (that was basically within arms reach) that my mind kept telling me I could no longer get to. I dismounted my bike to rummage through my old faithful $8 saddle bag for a minty or a Fantale. I was getting desperate and the tears of exhaustion were dribbling down my face. Then the sweetest sound I could have hoped to hear in that moment rang into my ears - THE CHINKING OF POO CHANGE!! COINS! EURO COINS! I hurried back onto my bike as quickly as my awkward, unskilled, and untrained body would let me and raced a passing snail to my sweet, sweet French crêperie where Euro poo change gets you far.

Two servings or sugared-up crêpes and a can of coke later I was headed for the summit. My much fuller and happier moronic self cruised my way to the summit, completely forgetting the hell I'd just put myself through moments before. And the rudderless ship lived to sail another day.