It's amazing how fast things change out here. At one point today I threw up my hands and said, "sorry, I think I'm bipolar!" We go from having a fantastic day on stage 12 with lots of laughs, teamwork, and positive energy to downright hell that ended in an emergency room visit for one team member and McDonalds for dinner for the rest (although the food was somewhat welcome).
Stage 13 was a flat day. That could explain why it wasn't much fun. The day started pretty normal, we were riding well as a group, slowly, but getting it done. Everyone is tired, edgy, and half asleep. But we managed to make it halfway without too much issue. Then someone swerves, rams Kym in the side curb, hits my wheel into the curb and locks my rear with Heidi's front wheel. But thanks to our mad-handling skills :) nobody went down and everyone was fine. A little frustrated but physically fine. But that's when all hell started to break loose. Tempers raged, fits were thrown, and a horrific 20km of riding on the French highway had to get done. I put my head down, pulled for as long as my legs could go (thanks to Jennifer for jumping ahead for a couple minutes to give me a break), and then we did our one big climb of the day. It was steep as shit and super hard. The weather was hot but we we had the beautiful Mediterranean Sea as a view so I can't complain too much! At the top, we celebrated getting up such a monster climb but were immediately put back down to negative town by one of our crew lecturing us on something they had no business being concerned with. It's a hard place for everyone in situation like this. Our support crew wants to help so bad, but they aren't out there on the road with us. They aren't part of our conversations, our good times of helping each other, and our bad times of being moody with each other. So it can get really frustrating having someone from the outside yelling at you for something they have no idea what really happened. But you know it's being done because they want to help, so learning how to not get mad has been a challenge but we're getting there.
Anyways, after this beautiful climb, we headed down a super steep descent in town with lots of traffic. Kate and I went off the front, needing a little space from everything after getting yelled at for something ridiculous. But as we're a few kilometers down the road, we realize nobody is around and we should probably stop and wait. Waiting, waiting, waiting... Finally a random car comes over trying to explain something to us in french but we couldn't understand. I saw him make a hand movement and realized someone went down. We raced back to try and find the group and came upon a roundabout with everyone gathered around someone on the ground. Maria is lying in Jennifer's lap, calmly, silently, but awake. Maria had made contact with a car and went down mid-roundabout. The ambulance has been called but standing there we all feel so helpless. What can you do in this situation. Kate checks her bike for damaged. Heidi talks to Maria calmly. We just wait for help and keep calm. Finally, the paramedics show up, we translate as best as we can what happened and where it hurts on her. Then they take her to the hospital.
What do we do now? We have to finish the day and thankfully we were only about 20-40km out of the finish. It was the longest ride of my life. Nobody said a thing, we just put our heads down, road with some British guys, and finally found the finish line. At this point, our car for bikes is at the hospital, our support van needs to get there to bring Maria some clothes and insurance papers, so we wait again. Still pretty silent, still in shock of what just happened. Finally, the bikes have been collected, we're in the van and there is no way to make dinner so what do 5 American girls do? We head to McDonalds for dinner. Ha! It was actually a welcome alternative to our usual pasta dinners. French fries have never tasted sooo good!
Word came through that Maria would be ok, she had a hairline fracture in her tailbone and would try and ride the next day with pain medication. We all were relieved to hear she was ok and glad her spirits were high enough to attempt riding with this injury. We were also very concerned she would be riding while under the influence of prescription mediation. We were worried about her health and safety and we were worried about our fellow teammates health and safety. We're all so tired and shaky as it is, adding this element was going to be a huge risk! But these decision were going to be made the next day and all we could do was get a few hours of sleep and wait for stage 14.