Tuesday, 8 July 2014

La Marmotte

The day of reckoning has arrived for Ian!  Spent all year training hard for this event.  Lots of climbing and distance.  The route goes over Col du Glandon, down to St Marie de Cuines on to St Jean de Maurienne, which we've already done so far, but on to Col du Telegraphe, over to the biggest climb of the day, Col du Galibier, all the way down to Bourg d'Oisan, some 25 miles, and the tough climb up the Alpe d'Huez, at potentially the hottest part of the day, with very tired legs, to the finish!  110 miles and 16600' climbing.  Really tough but very stunning scenery and a classic circuit, much beloved by the Dutch and celebrated as a classic event.  Very difficult to enter, in that it gets booked up almost immediately.
Having told a few people he was going to do it, Ian was beginning to doubt he was up to it.  Hoped he might do it in about 9 hours.
I had always wanted to ascend Galibier from Bourg.  Not a particularly difficult task, but a classic route following the Romanche river up past the barrage, through several badly lit tunnels,  on to La Grave, with spectacular views of the Meige Glacier and then zigzagging up to the Col du Lauteret, where the real climbing starts. Although a long 20 miles so far, the gradient is rarely steeper than 8%.  But from Lauteret, you frequently see 10% on the climb up to Col du Galibier, where I started to see more and more cyclists summitting from the Valloire side.  Must be doing the shorter version of the Marmotte.  The speed some of the faster cyclists descended down to Lauteret and eventually on to Bourg was breath-taking and frightening. I was glad of my flashing lights in the tunnels, as cyclists zipped past me with no lights, at twice the speed.  I was doing about 28mph!
I was glad to see the back of them at the reservoir, as I ascended the climb up to Col de Sarenne to transit over to the finish on Alpe d'Huez. Wouldn't be able to follow the riders up the Alpe, so chose this route so at least I could see Ian at the finish.
Climbing up Col de Sarenne after Galibier was quite tough, but I was ready for it, as I'd descended the same road only a few days ago.  The freshly laid gravel made the steep ascent tougher, because getting out of the saddle was difficult with rear wheel spinning in the loose gravel!  Anyway made it to the top and cycled over to the top of the Alpe, to see Ian come in a few hours later, in an impressive 8hrs 26mins.  Amazing and recognised as gold standard.  So proud of him.  The weather had played a part.  Cloudy and pleasant with little wind.  The sun came out later in the afternoon to really punish the poor beggars who were already suffering and coming in much later.  As we descended a few hours later, there were people walking up at the 4th hairpin with 17 more to go!  They looked exhausted and hot!
Ian was really pleased with his performance and was in good shape.  For me, it had been a tough but enjoyable day. 65miles and 10800' ascent.
The following day we set off on the long journey home, breaking it at Guignicourt, just north of Reims.

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