Avocado hand and the Etape du Tour — Suffering through the ride

Post incident avocado

Avocado hand is the latest middle class problem to hit the news. For me this is inextricably linked with the Etape du Tour. So I’m jumping on the avocado hand bandwagon with a cautionary tale for anyone that likes avocados and is training for the Etape du Tour — or any other big bike race.

It seemed like a good idea in January. The Etape du Tour was still six months away. A goal to aim for, something to make me train. I could work at the event (my job is for a bike manufacturer) and then ride it on the Sunday. It was all very good in theory.

And even in practice it started well. I got out on my bike every week, I did more cold wet rides than I would have done otherwise. And then the busy period hit. From late March I was working silly hours and riding somehow got harder to fit in. I spent all my time talking and writing about bikes, and not riding them.

But still, I fitted in a couple of +100km rides, it wouldn’t be a total disaster.

The day before our departure, we packed up the trucks with tents, display stands and bikes ready for the village expo. I finished work late and headed home. Preparing dinner at gone 9pm I decided the best way to destone an avocado would be to cup it in my hand and stab the stone with a sharp knife. You’ve got it… the stone was soft, the knife was sharp. The knife easily went through the stone and into my hand. Screaming, with blood running out, my husband soon realized I hadn’t caught a spider, but needed help and bandaged it and took me to A&E.

At gone midnight I came out with stitches in my hand, a big bandage and strict instructions from the doctors that I should take a few days off work, and definitely don’t go riding bikes.

Little known in 2015, avocado hand is now a recognised condition.

I couldn’t find anyone to replace me for the 8am leave the next day, and now wanted to do the ride more than ever. I knew I would penalize my other colleagues on the event, but what else to do….

Rallying together we got the stand set up and the two days passed by without major problems (thanks to my amazing colleagues doing all the heavy lifting!). I bought some posh new Rapha gloves and compeeds for extra cushioning, and worked out the maximum amount of painkillers I could take and a timetable for when to take them. I couldn’t grip anything, but figured I could just let go with my left hand over bumpy sections. My colleagues stayed up late to add top bar brakes so I could change my hand position during the ride.

Ready to ride

We rode down together from la Toussuire in the morning and separated into our start groups. I felt good. It was exciting to ride in such a big group. The supporters are incredible, with encouragement every step, or pedal stroke, of the way. I bumped into people I knew in the peloton, and got cheered on by a friend’s dad who was there to support him. It was going well.

On bumpy sections I just had to ease off with the bad hand, and I took it slowly on descents. And then the Glandon hit. And it didn’t stop. I realized I’d already ridden further than I ever had in one go, and I still had a long way to go. I refueled at the top, I couldn’t give up.

From then on it was battle mode. Struggling on, counting down the kilometres. Willing myself forward. On the final climb back up to la Toussuire I was convinced my bike computer had broken. It took me three dismounts and spins on the wheel before I realized the problem. I was going too slowly for it to register. But not too slowly to keep inching forward.

All around me bodies lay on the kerb, bikes abandoned next to them. I knew I couldn’t lie down or I wouldn’t get back up.

As the end neared the crowds grew thicker and the shouting grew louder. I found energy, I could push harder, it would soon be over. At the last 200 metres two colleagues were there shouting me on. I got to the end and they grabbed my bike and showed me the way to the food tent.

It’s all over

I’d taken over 10 hours to get round, they’d done it in 6. But I’d done it.

As for the avocado hand, nearly two years on I still have tingles in it. It’s a dangerous world out there, be careful folks.