A mere 34 days after completing the centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia and it's time to get back in the saddle and take on the Tour de France. If ever there was a surreal sentence to write, it's that one, for this is really the stuff of childhood dreams.
Sat in Düsseldorf, and enjoying the calm before the storm, I've been able to reflect back over the past few years and the journey that has lead me to here and the start of the 2017 Tour de France.
This time last year I was heading to France to ride a single stage of the Tour, and whilst I had grand dreams of one day riding the entire race, I never imagined that it would be so soon, let alone as part of a quest to ride all three grand tours in the same year.
Other sports have their iconic arenas and showcase events, cycling has the Tour de France and the Alps and Pyrenees. Take nothing away from the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, but the Tour is the flagship race in the cycling world. It's the race that transcends the sport and is known by those who have no real interest in cycling.
It's for this reason that, on the eve of starting the biggest cycling race in the world, I am filled with a sense of excitement that far surpasses that which I felt before we began the Giro d'Italia last month.
This is the race that, as a young boy, caught my imagination, it's the race I would stay up late at night to catch the then all too brief highlights of, forever wondering what it was like to ride the iconic climbs of the sport.
Over the next three weeks I will get to live out a childhood dream, I get to follow in the footsteps, or should that be tyre tracks, of the sports greatest and most revered names, and to add mine to to the list of those who have conquered one of sports greatest challenges.
I do so stronger and wiser for having ridden the Giro d'Italia, an experience that taught me so much about myself both on and off of the bike. Yet there is still a sense of trepidation and nervousness ahead of the start, a feeling that I welcome as without it I would be worried. It's a feeling I've come to understand as energy ready to be channeled for positive use, to drive me towards my goal.
In many ways I know what to expect of the coming weeks, in others it will be a new experience altogether. In knowing I can prepare for what's to come, the relentlessness of the long days in the saddle, the constant battle of the mind and the often lonely hours with nothing but the thoughts and voices inside of my head for company. It's not just the mountains that I need to overcome, but myself too.
Paris is the aim, but I know all too well from the anticlimactic experience of arriving into Milan at the end of the Giro d'Italia, that the final destination carries little meaning. Rather it's the 3540km between here and the Champs Elyesse that will define this iconic sporting challenge. Each and every one of them will, in years to come, remind me of the summer that I rode the Tour de France.
I will ride all three grand tours to raise money for Cure Leukaemia and the fight against blood cancer. All donations are greatly welcomed. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marcusleach3grandtours