Thursday, August 13, 2009

For some years now I've been wondering what it would be like to ride up those mountains in the Tour de France. I have my beloved Richmond Park, with its enormous Broomfield Hill, Star & Garter Hill and a couple of other small bumps that suffice to sprint up on a fixed gear bike. And I have the Surrey Hills, Box Hill, Leith Hill, Ranmore etc.......and ridden in the right order you can squeeze a kilometer or two of total ascent out of them. But its not the real thing. So I started to plan for a trip to some proper bumps. After various options I came up with a plan to drive to the Alps with all of my family. I can't imagine what on earth I was thinking of! I made the small illustration below to try and make it clear to them just how long a drive it would it turns out it was a thorough success, apart from one dodgy hotel, some questionable map reading, a finger and a car door, various foreign food issues and trying to entertain my family, ride up a mountain, hike up a mountain and cook a meal/play scrabble/play pingpong all in one dayMonday 3rd August 2009:-
Up in the clouds after an epic climb from the base of Vaujanay. My spirits are just as high too!

Drove over this Col (mistakenly!!) on the way to our chalet yesterday, it was scorching hot with clear blues skies and we could see for miles. Today was not quite the same! Back at La Villete (just up from Vaujanay) it was still quite clement, but I could see the mountain tops in the clouds as I climbed. I also noticed other cyclists dropping off and heading back down! The last few miles were in thick cloud with very poor visibility......but I wasn't going to let that stop me! The desccent was equally thrilling, wet roads, freezing hands, shivering all the way, down, down and down. Thankfully a couple of shortish up hills allowed me to get my blood circulating again. I've never had a descent like it before. Sped up a fair bit at the base as the roads were dry....but I was still very cold. Vaujanay changed that - a 4 mile steep climb up to my chalet!! I didn't make the mistake of doing this again at the end of a hard ride, and arranged all my rides so I could drive up the blighter. It really was tough (tougher than Alp d'Huez, but more of that later).

Stats: 38.85 miles, 03:36 hours, 2609m elevation GAIN

Tuesday 4th August 2009:-
My daughters 14th birthday, so made it a family day - we drove along the ....valley to Venosc and took a scary cable car ride up to l' Duex Alpes ski resort for a splendid crepes lunch in the sun, watching the crazy MTBers descending from on high.
In the evening I rode up Col du Sabot, which basically entailed simply turning left out of my chalet and climbing steeply on very narrow lanes for 5 or so miles!
(photos with mobile phone)
The sun was starting to set as I reached the pass. Looking northwards I could see the road I climbed up yesterday to Croix de Fer, & Mont Blanc in the far distance, looking southward (2nd pic taken on descent) I could see the Vaujanay Valley. Views were spectacular. Descent was too, especially as the road was quite gritty, with cattle grids and pretty white cattle. A short ride, but an epic climb.

Stats: 10.36 miles, 01:09 hours, 1111m elevation GAIN

Wednesday 5th August 2009:-
This is the day I did what I came here to do. Ride the Alp. And ride it I did, nice and early, over taking a shaved-legged-euro-cyclist on turn 19 and never seeing him again! It wasn't 'arf as 'ard as it looked, in fact I was starting to think this riding uphill a long way was a bit of a breeze! Heres a pic of my trusty hire bike, care of Rocky Sports in Alp d'Huez. Its a Specialized Allez Sport with a triple chainset - NOTE: I never once used the granny gear on the whole trip. Not content with reaching the official finish line, I kept on climbing for another 3.5miles (340m up) to Lac Besson. The air was particularly fresh, the sky exceedingly blue and all was deathly quiet. So I didn't stop for a cafe grand creme, but headed straight back down. The desccent was alot easier and quicker. One brief stop to ride back up a little way whilst an official photographer took a few clicks of me (pics to follow).

Stats: 8.41miles
(11.91miles to Lac Besson),
01:06:08 hours,
1155m elevation GAIN (note Col d'Sabot was similar gain, but shorter ride, so much steeper!)
(Total descent from Lac Besson 1409m in 00:39 minutes, 12.01 miles)

This map depicts the total ride length to Lac Besson

_____________________________________________________________________________________________ Thursday 6th August 2009:- Another worrisome ride, that with hindsight was almost a piece of cake. Though I did drive up it a little further than I intended too! This was mainly due to it being a main 'A' road, with several quite nasty tunnels with blind turns in them. So as I had no lights & was already on the wrong side of the road I thought prudence was the best course of action. So I innocently parked up in Le Grave, quite early at about 7:30am and set off upwards. It was a little chilly, but I rode with the sun rising behind me so soon warmed up. Still had to negotiate a couple of those tunnels, one was 700m long! Then before I knew it I was at Col du Lautaret. No going back now, I set off towards the Galibier. Winding up a few times, passing the monument to Henry Desgrange and again, at the top before I knew it. This had been the 'easy' way up apparently, and I must admit the other way down towards the Telegraph looked pretty interesting. It'll keep for another ride. I rolled leisurely downwards, looking forward to a warm car ride. Alas at La Grave a busy market had set itself up around my car, blocking me in! So I had to while away a couple of hours (more like 3 I think) until the market stalls closed up and allowed me out. The irony was that the stall blocking me in was a French basket stall. My wife would have happily spent an hour or two in my place.

Friday 7th August 2009
2 rides today. An early 6am ride from our chalet, down through Vaujanay then up, up, up to the Table of Orientation. Another wonderfully hard climb on narrow gravelly lanes through thick trees. Well worth it for the view at the top though. And then later on we all drove down to Bourg and I set off on my final ride of the holiday, a 'gentle' climb up the col du Ornon. Just so happens that the weekly time trial up this Col was that very morning! I passed a total of 15 riders on the ascent, which I found relatively easy after most of the others, and the effort earlier on in the day. At the top I was also welcome by a finish line crowd, cheering and applauding me for my sprint to the line! Marvellous sunshine and scenery, probably my most rapid descent and I was very soon back in Bourg having coffee with my family. In the ride guide this ride took 1:20 for an average rider, I did the loop in a satisfactory 1:09ish. Thats OK thanks.