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The Lindsay Crawford diary

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Lindsay Crawford

Sixty-five year old former airline pilot Lindsay Crawford is in action again, looking for another win at L'Etape du Tour. The Northern California rider, who has been having fun riding his bike for over fifty years, is one of the few Americans to ever win their category in L'Etape du Tour.

Cyclingnews will be with Lindsay as he prepares, participates and gives post-mortems on this years L'Etape du Tour. The 14th edition of one of the worlds biggest cycling events covers 191.1km from Gap to finish atop L'Alpe d'Huez, via the Col d'Izoard and Col du Lautaret.

A Painful Memory

All set for l'Etape.
Photo ©: Lindsay Crawford
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About one month before l'Etape, I was involved in a crash (another rider hit me from behind at high speed on a training ride on the Sierras) and broke my right ulna right near the socket. I ride for a few days in pain and on June 26, x-rays showed a significant break that was operated on the next day by a sports doc who understands nutty athletes that will do anything to stay in competition. He put in a stainless steel plate with titanium screws to hold it together. 72 hours later, they took the cast off and gave me a brace that immobilized the right elbow but still allowed me to ride. I remained optomistic about l'Etape. My base training was good and I was on the turbo trainer after the surgery, but I lost a lot of condition..

On Monday, July 10th, I left my hotel in l'Alpe d'Huez at 210am to drive to the start in Gap. It was amazing that morning to see the huge starting lineup , at least 2.5km long as the sun rose in Gap. I had a front row start position; it was great and there was no one ahead of me on the road back to l'Alpe d'Huez, at least at the start. I know that Abraham Olano was signed up, as was retired French F1 driver Alain Prost, who rides every year.

Racing in San Fransico
Photo ©: Lindsay Crawford
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We started at 7am sharp and facing directly into the sun, so it was hard to see. In the first kilometre there was a crash. For the first 60km or so, there were no climbs and it was flat and fast with a headwind, with temperatures that reached about 30 degrees in the afternoon. For me, unlike previous years, I was just slowly losing ground. My elbow was hurting and I couldn't really mix it up. With my brace, I couldn't afford to crash, so I was apprehensive. I managed to stay with the main field for the first 70km, but as the first climb up Izoard started, I couldn't hold the pace.

With 15km to the summit of the Izoard, I was in the second big group and still losing ground. On the bumpy descent it painful for my arm, as I was breaking with my right hand. It made me slow down on the descent to Briancon. Once we got to the bottom in Briancon, there was a nasty surprise waiting, as they took us halfway up the steep climb to La Citadelle to get out of town.

Combined brake/gear levers
Photo ©: Lindsay Crawford
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On the middle climb of the day, the Col du Lauteret, I did a lot better. It's a long easy climb with a 4-5 percent grade and I got a nice rhythm and ended up passing quite a few people. For a change, there was no headwind up the Lauteret and I didn't have any trouble on the long, wide-open non technical descent. I caught a small group at the base of the Col du Lauteret and we picked up a few more riders on the flat, straight 20km road to Bourg d'Oisons, where l'Alpe d'Huez starts. But as soon as we hit the base of l'Alpe d'Huez, I could just creep up to the top, because my arm was hurting so much.

Racing at Laguna Seca
Photo ©: Lindsay Crawford
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Eventually I finished 35th out of 641 in the 60+ group. Before I've never been worse than sixth and ended up about 1200th overall. In previous L'Etapes, I've never finished worse than 300th overall. But to put into perspective, four hours after I finished, had showered and eaten a meal, I was still watching people come in to l'Alpe d'Huez. What an event! The morning after l'Etape I rode back to Gap via the Col d'Ornon; just 110km on my bike to pick up my car. I've got a few more climbs that I'm looking to do before I return to California, most notably the dirt road climb Colle della Finestre from last year's Giro d'Italia. When I'm back in the US, I'll file a complete report on my L'Etape de Tour with pictures and hope to be back again for the 2007 edition.

Thanks for reading,