Friday, June 22, 2018

30 June, 2013: Galibier and Alpe d'Huez

Previous:  28 June

Following my truncated stage on the 28th, I'd decided to cool my heels in Briançon.   After checking out the fort up on the hill, I spent the afternoon with my feet up, and it was glorious.

Day 20, and my first off the bike!
One of the highlights of the day was watching Jack Bauer in his debut Tour de France.  [Ed:  earlier today, the Orica-Scott team was announced for 2018, and Jack will be lining up for his 5th start in 6 years.  No doubt he'll do his job admirably.]

The next morning, I was suited up and ready for breakfast just after 7:15am.  There wasn't unlimited food, but I did manage to score some extra bread, and enough for a takeaway roll.

I went down for my bike just after 8, and had a brief chat to a nice Italian dude who was in a group that did the Telegraphe and Galibier the day before.  He said he’d once ridden Perth to Adelaide, 4500km, through some pretty inhospitable country, I'd say!!

It was a chilly start so wore my coat for quite a while.  I was glad I hadn't stuck to the original plan of tackling this after Col d'Agnel and the Col d'Izoard.  I wouldn't have made it before nightfall, and would have missed the stunning views.

The start of the mellow 26km climb up to the Col du Lautaret

The highlight of the road for me was an avalanche shelter that had been built on a left turn in the road.  The main route cut the corner slightly, but behind it was a tunnel partially built in the hill.

I guessed that in the depths of winter, they didn't bother clearing the main road any more, and instead routed everyone through the tunnel.

At the Col du Lautaret was the turnoff to the mighty Galibier - the road steepened, but it was still a very manageable gradient.  For a brief moment, I thought someone had anticipated my arrival!

"SiFTER" would have been a real hoot!

There was a cool tunnel passing beneath the Col, and despite the traffic signs, I decided to do a full loop!  Naughty!!!! 

Looking back down the valley towards Briançon 

The monument to Henri Desgrange, the first Director of the Tour de France

Just too inviting for this cyclist!

On the way up to the Col, was a photographer who appeared to be there just to photograph cyclists.  I was wearing my coat, but simply couldn't resist stopping to take it off.  I wondered if he got that often!

Laughing on acocunt of the wardrobe adjustment!

A motorcyclist takes photos of me at summit, and then I dropped down other side after digging out my helmet light.

Some beautiful road, which I hope one day to ride.  From the Galibier, looking down towards the Telegraphe
Ironically, in my rush to follow a vehicle on the green light, I failed to turn my own light on, but was close enough behind that it didn't matter.  The café at the end of the tunnel was closed, so I dropped down to the main road for a latte.

The followed a long descent down a valley.  I was happier in the regular tunnels with my helmet light on - the Italian ones a couple of days earlier really hadn't been fun.  Initially, I was wearing my coat, fluoro vest, beanie and overtrou, but eventually they got too much and I had to strip off.

At the bottom end of the Lac du Chambom, they were doing maintenance on the dam. As a result, the lake level was very low, but there was a very impressive drop down-stream.

At the dam, I found I'd ridden into the middle of a cyclosport event, and I was careful not to cause any mischief (but did enjoy being towed along at various times).  

I arrived at my hotel at Le Bourg d'Oisans at around lunchtime.  The reception was closed, so I had a roll and a banana, stashed my touring gear under the deck, and rolled out with only a tube and pump on the bike, with a patch kit and my jacket in a jersey pocket. 

I was shocked the way the bike accelerated away from the hotel like a rocket!  The handling was slightly different too, but I didn't notice it at all after the first minute.  I felt actually really excited to  be at the base of the famed Alpe d'Huez climb on a bare bike!  It didn't matter one iota that I'd already ridden 85km, and had been over the Galibier!

For me, and my relatively recent foray into the world of watching pro-cycling on late-night TV, this was the iconic climb of the modern Tour de France, and I was excited to be here.  

I started my timer at the kilometre-zero chrono post.  This was obviously a climb that people liked to give a nudge!  I had 14km to ride, and wondered how close I could get to an hour?  

My intent was to not stop at all, but had to once the view opened up.  

Not long after my first and only stop, I saw “Kester” written on road.  I've ridden in Roadworks colours pretty much as long as I've ridden, and to see the (fairly obscure) name of the first-born son of my dear friend Oli written on the road, was definitely not something I could ignore!

Oli's son #1

Oli was very prominent in my mind from that point on.  I was starting to tire, and actually swore in frustration when I saw “Harry” and simply had to stop again.  

Oli's son #2
I didn't write it down, but I'm certain I was hoping not to see "Bodhi" written anywhere!  I would have stopped, of course...

I'd been looking forward to the photographer I knew I'd find at further up the road.  Michael Flyger's photo is proudly hung on Oli's workshop wall.  When I spied the camera, another quick stop ensured my jersey was done up just so.

As I rode, I was chewing my way through others like me, but also entrants in the race I'd leeched off earlier.  Some didn't take too kindly to being passed!

The route was a little bit confusing through the village, so I just followed all the graffiti on the road!  Near the very end of the TT course, the gradient eased right off and I really smashed it on the flatter terrain, crossing the chrono finish line just under 59m30.  I was pretty chuffed to dip under the hour, even despite the stops, and the time puts me just inside the top 1000 in strava's 18,000-rider strong database.

I txted Oli to tell him about the ascent, just as I’ve done after so many races. 

After catching my breath, I rolled back down to the village for a coke and a coffee.  In hindsight should have got some food too, but was too excited after my TT effort – isn't it funny how we focus on round numbers!  

A few months earlier, I'd have had no choice but to ride down the way I'd come.  But, Stage 18 was coming up here, twice, and the organisers had recently had the gravel descent off the Col de Sarenne sealed.  It would have been rude not to go and check it out!

My legs were obviously depleted, and I was a bit light headed as I made my way up what seemed like a pretty soft Cat.2 ascent of the Col de Sarenne.  It was still early in the day, and I had more than enough time for this impromptu loop. 

I was very surprised at the roughness of first half of descent, and found it quite hard to imagine the nerve it must take to race down a road like this.  

The road ended at the same dam I'd crossed earlier, and after an éclair and slice of flan in town, I was checking into my hotel – luckily my gear had been safe in its hidey-hole under the deck.  My room had a “full board” which included a 4pm pasta meal!  Not only that, but I was able to watch the final 30km of an exciting Stage 2 on Corsica. 

Dinner and diary!

Before dinner, I chatted to Ashley from Belgium for ages.  He was on his way to Provence to attempt to ride up Mt Ventoux six times in 24 hours!  His challenge included two climbs from each of Bedoin, Sault and Malaucene.  My hat was off to him, that's for sure.  It was a busy night, socially, and I spoke with a couple of Scots for a while, before heading off to my room to recharge.

139km ridden, 3150m climbed, 7h45 elapsed.  One Cat.2 , and two HC climbs - two beauties at that!  21 days since I left Paris, and I have 3,495km on the clock. 

Next:  1 July

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! I'm very glad we were in your thoughts, but sorry to slow you down! I loved getting your text - I was very proud of your ascent of l'Alpe!