Stage 16, the Queen Stage. We had our eye on this day from the moment we all said yes to this adventure. 4 iconic mountain passes to conquer, 200 kilometers of tarmac to cover, 17,000 vertical feet to ascend. This was it. If we make it through stage 16, we’ll make it to Paris.
And this is where my hero, Heidi Swift shows her amazing strength and inability to give in, no matter what is thrown at her. Stage 16 is hard enough on its own, throw in a nasty chest cold with random coughing fits and it’s a monster. Heidi, our team leader, our captain, has had to bare the brunt of all of the stresses, moods, and responsibilities of the team and it finally wore her down. But despite feeling like crap, she put a determined smile on her face, gave us a Coach ____ speech and set out to slay the monster.
Cruising along on the first HC category climb of the day, we all began to relax a little. This isn’t so bad. We’re totally going to do this, and much faster than we thought! SNAP, CRACK, CRUNCH. Oh shit. I look back as Heidi quickly jumps off her bike and all I see is a rear derailleur in her rear wheel. This is not good.
After assessing the damage we realize this bike is no longer rideable. We don’t have the tools or ability to fix things out on the road. Game over. That was my thought at least, and it was horrific. Thinking that Heidi, the one who put this all together, who got us all involved, would be the one not to finish was devastating. However, she wasn’t ready to give up yet.
We called the support vehicle to come and help and that’s when the idea of borrowing one of our crewmember’s bikes sprung upon us. When they got to us, Kate went to work immediately, swapping stems, changing saddles, getting it fit for Heidi to ride for another 170 kilometers up and over crazy passes. At this point, I’m still in shock and awe of this situation. I freak out if my saddle height is off by a mm or if my bars get knocked a little out of order. Can you imaging completely changing bikes mid ride on a day like this? Unbelievable.
What’s more unbelievable is that Heidi went to work on this new, heavier, foreign bike that was a size (or two) too big and she killed it all of the way up and over each summit. Kate, Kym, and I were riding with her after the accident and she was dropping us like nobody’s business! The determination and drive of this woman is inspiring.
The rest of the day went as we expected it to go from the start. It was a long day. It was hot. The climbs were crazy hard. Our legs somehow kept going. The Tourmalet was just as hard as everyone told me it was going to be. But we made it. 10hrs of ride time later, we made it.
Heidi Swift is unbreakable. Her spirit, her determination, her focus to succeed cannot be swayed. She is going to make it to Paris, right alongside the rest of us, peddling down the Champs L’esile, Champaign in hand.