In amongst the masses of riders herded into the starting pens like cattle, ready to go on the ‘b’ of the bang and take on the 135km mountainous ride.

L’Étape du Tour was the biggest event I’d ever done. And I didn’t even have my own number. I had to buy it off the internet because the demand was such that entries sold out within a few days.

So I had Gil’s number. Gil is a Portugese rider I never met, we just exchanged messages via social media.

L’Étape is, in fact, an event of numbers.

Thousands of entrants who take on a parcours whose statistics have been poured over, followed immediately afterwards by data analysis of how those statistics were conquered – the classic parameters of total time, average speed, and elevation gain.

Numbers are compared with those of the winner, with those in your age group, and most importantly, with those of your friends. Now and again, it’s nice to know where you stand in the grand scheme of these sporting things.

But I am not a....