It's now a tradition that we take a break at Easter (you get a lot of holiday for your money with the bank holidays and all). We generally spend some time with my old Da in Le Busseau (near Poitier) then j(once I have eaten all his food and had enough of his smelly pooches) jog on down to the Pyrenees.
Last year we spent some time in the Barousse Valley ( with some scary B&B owners) and this year we headed across the valley east to Puivert near Foix.
Now Easter is very early this year so we did not really know what to expect of the weather. Martin ( this years B&B owner - not a psycho ) tells us they have had some days of 25 degrees since Xmas!
We arrived on the Sunday night at about 4 o clock and I was encouraged to get a ride in before dinner! Off I set (found a 6 mile climb) at this point the heavens opened up and ended to 19 degree sunshine we had Been having up to now! We had brought the weather with us.
Next day Martin suggested a route that would take in 2 or 3 large climbs and end on the hors category plateau de belle 1700m. Wendy to be following in the car by then, it was a pleasant ride taking in the Pas de Soloumbre 1000 metres (highest Wendy has clmbed so chapeau to her) we then dropped like a stone off of the edge of the mountain into Cabannes and the foot of the Plateau de Beille (I am so glad that I didn't have to climb back up that drop it averaged 15% on the way down).
I then made my way up the Plateau, it's at this point I realised that the 39 @ 25 ratio was going to make this a difficult week, the col had snow from 1000 metres and at the top lots of skiing going on. After crepes and coffee having suitably let myself get nice and cold i decided to ride back to Puivert avoiding the previous said descent like a soap dodger dodging soap!
The next day I was given a 75 mile route that takes in 6 cols, (Wendy had made a French friend by then and they were being more sedate).
The weather started out hot I mean I thought I had way too much clothes on and I was getting tanned, the route was superb after the first col (col de Paradis) I was feeling great but too hot, then the mountains decided to show me a display of its awesome power by trying to drown me, I mean I was so wet I might of well have been swimming, and still 5 cols and 50 miles to go. Then the sun came out and burnt me to a crisp, I was cold to the core yet unbelievably sweating my nads off..... The mist as the rain was burning off of the road was. Ecoming a problem as my Rudy Projects were misted up, I was beginning to feel like a Benny Hill sketch.
I had the. Company of some rather large Raptors, I realise they were eyeing me up as a prospective meal!
Another 10k in the bag it decided to thunder and lightening all the way around me, it rattled up and down the valley in a very frightening manner, I was now completely drenched and turned my iPod up in order not hear the Awful thunder!
I was so far into the ride that there was no escape I had to finish what I started, no cafes no shops...... Just pain and wet, I started to think What would Jens Voight do ..... But let's face it I'm no Jens Voight.
Inevitably the mountains hadn't finished with me I was roasting and shivering again at the same time........ Only to be broken by another complete soaking just before the very las Col of the day the Col de la Portel (I was hoping it was a time portal). By this time I had no feelings below my waist at all which was probably for the best,
So the moral of this story is
* Easter in the Pyrenees is best described as unsettled!
* The Mountains are stronger than you .......
* If you can't decide what to wear ..... Wear it all it's bound to come in handy some time in the ride
* I ain't no Jens Voight
But what of Puivert? Well it's perfect for the cyclist lots of Cols and Valleys, big Cols like
pailheres at 2300 metres (I was so pleased it was closed), massive climbs in Andorra if you have the nerve.
Today I have just done 3 Col Day and again spent 30 miles soaked to the skin! Got chased by some bulls that i spooked! Cant wait to come back next year.
What of the B&B?
Www.petitverger.com Martin was a fantastic host a passionate cyclist, footballer, wine drinker and is known on occasion to combine all three disciplines, the B&B is a traditional French style house with large bright warm rooms and a massive plus for me is there is a bath!
We ate mainly at the B&B as there is. It much open at this time of year, the food was resturaunt standard and plenty of it, Martin dealt admirably with the veggie also.
We 50 euros a night for room and 15 euros for the scran. If you like cycling book this B&B!
Here i am enjoying my March Holiday in Tenerife (Puerto Cruz - in the North of the Island).
The question i ask myself is "Is Tenerife a Cycling Paradise?".
From the minute you arrive in Puerto Cruz your mind is assaulted with road dimensions that seem to make it fold into itself! (I am wondering whether its just Cyclists who can see these dimensions in this way, Cyclists because they are the only ones who will truly understand the magnitude of pain that you would suffer should you have to ride up said dimensions)......
The roads just do not compute.... they make San Francisco look like a feeble cousin.
There is simply just no flat, its either up or its down, none of that inbetween stuff
When you look North towards Mount Teide (one of the biggest volcano in Europe) the houses look like they are clinging to the mountainside and could not possibly still be there in the morning.
The roads are almost vertical and look impossible for the cars to get up, and if you are unfortunate enough to be in a car that attempts these roads you will fill your pants!
Tenerife is a place that a trip up the road to get a loaf of bread can include a climb of "Hardnot Pass" proportions.... i am not exaggerating.
Saturday I have just taken a little 2 hour trip to shake off yesterdays 108k and i climbed 900 metres from sea level, the ICOD EL ALTO (i was disappointed that this was not an mp3 player shaped like a fish).
The Cyclist of Tenerife are great at map reading, the reason for this is that a simple mistake can put you on the wrong side of a 1000 metre 10% climb, you dont want to be doing that too often i can tell you
Mount Teide National Park being the most dominant aspect of the island and will involve a 20 - 25 mile climb from almost any angle, the gradient being anything from 3% - 9%. The road surface on Teide is quite good and the Mountain provides plenty of entertainment along the way, the scenery at the top is just breathtaking and well worth the effort.
The Traffic on the Mountain is quite heavy but in most cases prople are patient and treat cyclists with respect.
There are loops available to do, at the top from route de la Aquamanse you can turn left and complete a 104 KM route to Esperanza and back to Puerto Cruz, this is a killer as if you didnt have enough climbing at Teide there is more to be had on the way to Esperanza, just when your legs are in that Twighlight Zone of having climbed and deserving a descent, you get more climbing back up to 2300 Mtrs.
The best thing about this loop is that you spend a LONG time at the top of the mountain and the views back over Teide past the Observatory are amazing, the bad news is that eventually you will be taking the coast road back to Puerto Cruz, the roads are literally like roller - Coasters and by this time your legs are like mush. The traffic is really bad on the coast road as well ......
I climbed Teide 4 times whilst i was here, the weather was fantastic each day in shorts and short sleeves (with plenty of layers for the descents) 20 - 30 degrees each day, the first day we climbed the mountain there was heavy cloud, we rode through this into absolutely brilliant sunshine at 1300 metres, a great experience, on the way back down visbilty of about 6 feet! Amazing.
The bike hire Guy (Tenerife - training . net) told me that the route to Teide via the TF326 was crazy steep, so red rag to a bull i had to have a go, i recorded 23% at one point ... thankfully not for too long after that it was about 10 - 12 % average... great views!
So is Tenerife a Cycling Paradise? Not quite.... but so close! as with most small islands there is a LOT of concentrated traffic and the busy roads are at the coasts and here it is no different, you have negotiate the traffic in order to get to the nice roads of the great mountain.
The Weather was superb and the people are very friendly indeed.
What would we do differently?
1) We would look for digs inside the Autopista probably around Ortava this would avoid the busy roads and make the mountain more accessable.
2)I would probably take my own bike and not hire (although the bike i hired was more than adequate Planet X Carbon and Wendy was really pleased with Hers.
3) I would take a good camera and tripod!
Would i do it again, deffo.... just for the Sun and the Mountain!
If you are thinking of a trip here are our rough costs!
Half Board and Flight 250.00 each
5 Days Bike Hire (2 Bikes) 200.00
Well its that time of year again, the end of season blues are with us, this feeling hasn't been helped by the sudden cold snap that has taken hold. It seemed to me that we were in short sleeves one minute...... and acting like Southern Softies the next with Long Fingered Gloves, Buffs, Long Bibs, skull caps and the occaisional booty making an unwelcomed appearance!
It feels that we are rudely rushing the exit of this season and hurrying into Winter mode as soon as we can (with a few Winter topics appearing on the team website as well), whats so great about a Winter Season I ask, cold hands, frosty breaths, grey skys and dark nights and mornings.
Have we forgotten how desperate we were for summer to arrive last Winter? The Temperatures that we have now are much milder than we endured during the February and March 2011.
Well its here now and we better get on with it i suppose, for many Cyclists this time of year is a time where they can behave like normal human beings going out for a drink, late nights and have the occaisional huge fried breakfast after a season of living like a monk, for others its going to be a nervous time watching the scales (thats if you can see them over your now massive gut).
How should we be spending this time? Well here are some tried and tested suggestions:
1) Take a holiday in the Sun.
2) Do that DIY (that you've been promising to do all season).
3) Take a break from the bike, (how long is a personal choice).
4) Review your Season, look at what you planned to achieve and identify why you did or did not achieve them.
5) Design your "Annual Training Plan" (around the answers for point 4), calculate what your weakness's are and your limiters.
6) Plan your winter training camp.
7) Take the opportunity to try another sport, body combat, kick boxing or plain old Gym work.
8) Buy a "Day light Lamp".
9) Watch Pompey play!
10) Get Muddy ... ride your Mountain Bike.
11) Buy a fixie (very popular with the i team at the moment).
12) Stay warm .... lots of great winter gear out there to purchase!
13) Ride with friends of similar ability.
14) Build a positive mental state, banish doubts.... train your mind!
15) Take a marker of your fitness, do some tests, this will be a great way to see if you have improved or are near fitness next year.
16) Plan your next years races.
17) Cyclo cross ... its running with your bike!
18) Get into a good routine.
19) Work on core bike skills.
20) Get rid of any toxic beliefs ... are you holding onto any out-dated not useful thought process's?
21) Be careful not to make any comparrisons during the Winter Season, have faith and plan to peak when YOU want to peak.
22) Get rid of any niggling injuries that you may have been nursing all season.
23) Turbo with friends!
24) Oh and dont forget to take your partner out and spoil them ................................. they probably deserve it
Somebody asked me the other day (whilst quaffing coffee outside Nicos) what the standard of riding is like compared with when i used to ride 25 years ago, im not totally qualified to answer this as 1 Road Race in 25 years does not give me much of a sample to comment on ..... however it did give me some food for thought on a similar question:
Just over a year ago i thawed out from a Walt Disney style state of suspended animation after 25 years off the bike, (apart from putting on 3 stone, losing my hair and a few associated marbles i was as good as new) i decided to get back into the biking sphere
I bought a second hand road bike off of flea bay and joined the i team i looked around and beganto appraise my surroundings......
Something had changed........
1) Where have all the Testers gone? There used to be a really vibrant timetrialing scene with many active participants producing super fast times, it seemed that you could not go out on a weekend without seeing TT event, these were usually run on flat dual carriageway style circuits and partipated by huge gear pushing animals with chainrings the size of a giants plate, the bikes whistling as the strangled air made its way through home drilled out bike parts, Roadies did time trials but it was a hidden dirty secret in the same vain as royal familys hide idiot cousins (we know they are there but not generally acknowledged).
Alf Engers renown tester achieving a 49:24 for a 25 mile TT
Nowadays it seems a lot less high profile and the courses are hillier and seem to be at non-standard distances, its not such a big deal to be spotted riding one, its even encouraged to improve power....
2) Whats all this diversity? Nowadays we have a lot of cross pollenation between disciplines, we have Mountain bike riders, Roadies, Tri-atheletes (not normal people), sportive riders and pleasure (club) riders all being respected amongst the community, seeming to be all part of the "Brethern of Cycling". It used to be that that you chose your discipline and stuck to it never to be mixed again or risk the wrath of your peers (getting caught cycling with a saddlebag, a tester, your Missus or the CTC simply not worth the berating that you would get, have you ever been beaten with a tubaler tyre .... trust me it leaves marks!
All those years ago you had choices of (in order of importance)
d) CTC (shiver running down my spine)
e) Tuggo (someone who rides a bike but is not associated to a club and has no style) Tuggo
f) Waster (everyone thats left behind)
Mountain Biking and Sportives now being such a huge promoter and source of feed for other cycling disciplines nowadays, its unthinkable that we could exist without them.
3) Where did all this science come from? 25 Years ago we had 2 methods of training....
a) Balls out .... this meant going all day as hard as you could for as long as you could , i can remember rides where we rode to Lulworth Cove and back with just a small bottle of water and no coffee stop (in the ice and wind)Eating WAS cheating.
Interval training .... this was where we used to take a sprinting distance, time the the distance and continue to sprint that distance all the while your time was less than the original sprint time (or you couldnt sprint anymore because the VOMIT on your handlebars is preventing you from having a safe grip on your cinelli Giro's) yes this actually used to happen.
c) Racing .... yes racing was training (actually it was most of the training).
Nowadays its all power meters, heart rate monitors periodization and not stressing your body unless you plan to!
The fall of the Eastern bloke contributing to the increase in the science more than anything else i suspect along with the re-emergence of the USAs love of the bike
Even the Drug Cheating has gone all scientific, resulting in Interpol chasing crazed Chemists across Europe, no more Heath Robinson attempts at cheating such as Michel Pollentier squuzing a bag of his Aunties (best)Urine out from under his armpit through a tube wrapped around his torso (daft thing was his actual urine turned in a negative result)
4) Where did all the races go? .... There seemed to be Road Races every week from the gunshot of Perfs Pedal, some of the courses were dangerous and never on closed roads, we had kermess's being run on every seafront and different times of year, track meetings (Kingsbury Cup etc) were available in volume, it was possible to (for an ornery Jo like me) to be able to enter stage races, Southdowns velo 3 day (sorry to swear) GS europa 2 Day, nowadays (im guessing because of the increase in traffic and lack of cooperation from the old bill) we dont seem to have the volume of races today
However we have lots of organised sportives ....
5) Where are the cotter pins? What can i say about the bikes? the technology today is fabulous, bikes weighing in at less than 6 KG, what we used to ride would be todays equivalent of weight training, today we have electronic gear changing etc also.
Clothing, you used to be able to get any colour clothes you wanted (as long as it was black) and we used to have to nail the cleats on, (anybody remember the unwelcome feeling of a nail poking through your sole (and soul) as you begin a 100 mile road race, trust me it was difficult to ignore...... (and forget)
6) Are the riders fitter and faster today?
Its difficult to tell facts will tell us that the top Road Races are getting faster and faster, but is the average rider faster?
It used to be that there were only 1st, 2nd, 3rd cat riders and originally points were only given down to 3rd place, later extended to 6th, points were hard to come by but there were many more races.... nowadays we have the elites to contend with as well and points are available down to 10th place making every position worth sprinting for!
I have noticed that most riders climb pretty well today where this used to be the domain of a few, there are lots of Criterium style races which require great speed and sprinting.... on balance i think riders are faster today .... faster than me anyway.
I guess i get what i deserve for spending 25 years as a waster
I was recently asked by a good pal of mine Gavin (whilst in a state of mild euphoria after finishing the Dragon ride) whether i would be interested in riding the Southdowns way, i of course said yes (as there was a bike involved), but the more i thought about it and realised that it was 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing i feared the worst.
Thhinking to myself, what had i ever done to Gavin, we seem to rub along ok, why does he want to kill me in this fashion..... now i like a good mountain bike ride but the longest ride i have done is 45 miles on the Skyline in the Afan forest, that took all day and it nearly killed me.
So i did what any self respecting bloke would do when faced with something like this, i ignored it and forgot it was ever mentioned, even to the point of double booking myself out for the evening.
As the time came nearer i redoubled my efforts to ignoring Gavin up to the point of blocking him from the PMs, alas i got the text a couple of days before "You still up the SDW?"... i of course like any self respecting cyclist being given a challenge i said yes and enquired about the arrangements.
I was to be at his house at 5 ..... and i dont mean PM! (Sparrows Fart) to start at Winchester at 6AM
I left the Marmoteers Curry evening early and hit the scratcher, of course i woke up every half hour like you do when you know you have to get up early
It was raining as We piled the gear in Gavins car, his Dad (a keen and very knowledgable biker looking fitter than me at 75) was to be wing man for the day providing feed stops at 45. 65, 85 miles along the way.
The weather was overcast but at least it had stopped raining.
So we arrived at the start and signed on the nice lady in the British Heart Foundation pulled some fingernails out and did a bit of home made dentistry on me until i finally parted with a whole £35.00 asked whether this guarantees me a transplant when i needed one ......and off we started.
Gavin informed me that we would start off at a steady pace for the first 20 or so miles (he was either lying or we have completely different ideas about what a slow pace is).
The begining of the ride seemed quite familiar to me as we kept popping out here and there on roads that i recognised, Winchester Hill and Buriton, yes there is an off road version of Winchester Hill, and its long and hard, full of tree roots and poison dwarfs and trolls just like the tarmac version, the next familiar place we popped out at South Harting.
Very early on i was suffering very badly whilst Gavin gamboled off up the hills like a spring lamb all playful and skippy I was way off the pace.
My hands were taking a complete beating i could not feel the palms of my hand or the tips of my fingers, my arms were smashed to bits as well, i have forgotten how hard the MTB game is. My hands had a terrible case of pins and needles.
As i write this blog i still have no feeling in the tips of my fingers on my left hand.
We got to the first checkpoint (and feedstop) at 45 miles and i was seriously doubting i was going to make the ride, i was looking forward to a tin of rice pudding that i had packed DOH i forgot the tin opener
Gavin and his Dad were very cheerful and insisted on talking distances, i had deliberatly not looked at my Garmin cos i just didnt wanna know how far it was! They convereted to talking in miles as the kilos were frightening me.
The trick is (Gavin told me) is not to think about how few miles you have done ... he is right you dont move very far in what seems an age.
Everytime i saw a piece of tarmac i eyed it with a jealous greed.
We set off for the next section of the ride, the scenery being beautiful on all sides but the going under tyre very rough .... i lost my INNER ROADIE between 45 miles and 65 miles, i was in a bad way, my head was giving up!
To match my head, my back brake gave up as well, apparantly the pads need replacing every now and then, at first my rear brake decided to rub all the time and then not work at all But managing to have an annying noise that frightened the cattle.
At the 65 mile stop i was seriuosly considering jacking in and sitting in the car for the rest of the trip, i didnt i stuffed my face with spicy sausage rolls and bisciuts topped up the Camelbak and we pressed on, the going got a little easier under tyre with long stretches of grass (or poor mans Tarmac as Gavin called it).
This in turn lifted my spirits along with the Sun coming out and beautiful blue skies and i started to think i could finish this thing
My hands and arms were still hurting like a hell a really nasty spill avoided on a rapid downhill chalky stretch woke me up as well. I was still holding Gavin back, he was first to every gate, he is one hell of a mountain biker on this terrain.
The stretch between Amberly and Eastbourne was fantastic, as i had not been this far before there was something of interest round every corner, little cameos of English Village life, fantastic views across Hove, Brighton and Eastbourne. Some of the most beautiful scenery in the Country to be seen up here Rule 5 was going to have to apply to survive my INNER HARDMAN was going to have to kick in.
After the last stop at 85 miles there was no turning back now, we had been climbing some long, long long Chalk Downs for the last 25 miles and now they were stunning, we could see where we had to go for miles around, simply stunning
Strangely by 15 miles to go i had a second wind and the climbs were coming easily to me now (still not very fast) and i was finally seeing the finish line.
We crested the final hill (yes this was the final hill, Gavin having told me this on several occaisions , he is not to be trusted anymore) we could see all of Eastbourne below us and we knew it was all downhill from here
The final descent was fantastic it was all grass and as smooth as a fairway, amazing, one last ramp and we were there!
100 Miles on a MTB across the Southdowns, i was (and still am completely knackered), it was a great experience and to think we started out at Winchester at 6AM its quite an achievement. Its easily one of the hardest cycling experiences i have ever undertaken, i would imagine that in the wet that large sections of the chalk slopes would be un rideable.
Should you have a go at this? Most definetly you should, however do some training out in the hills to build up your hands, wrists and arms..... dont take this lightly and prepare
Top marks to my specialised Saddle, i didnt feel a thing all day, the Garmin SDW map was very useful on occasion and the Camelbak is a must on a trip like this.
Would i do this again ...... hell sure i would if my good friend Gavin asked
Thanks for waiting Gavin and thanks for asking, it was a good (long) day (one day you will ask someone who get you to Eastbourne in a respectable time)
Round the Campfire
The Atmosphere was great, many old stories being re-hashed and some new ones being created, Dave Shaw regailed us with tails of
"Toast" and "Terror" which some of us took literally (me).
After a really tough training ride up the Col de Ornon (the toughest climb i ever did in 39 Degree heat) i had really doubted
that i would be able to finish the Marmotte at all.
The next day we decided to do the Col de Glandon and back, at the end Andy Rook and myslef decided to do the Alp as well, we
just needed to know whether we could do 2 Mountains in one day!
Felt surprisingly good so i started to look forward to the big ride.
I had decided already that i would literally just be coasting round and my whole aim was just to finish and "NO RED MIST".
The Start - The Run in to Col de Glandon was held at break-neck pace (reminding me of my old Road Racing days) i really enjoyed
it but decided to settle into my own pace at the foot of the Glandon, rubbing shoulders with various I-Teamers as form came and
went for each other on the mountain.
It was for all intents and purposes a Chilly climb up the Glandon, i did not take my Arm warmers off until we were on the road
to the Telegraph.
I felt good on the Glandon so duly eased off (thanks for the advice Dave) in the middle of the Glandon there is a bit of a
descent at breakneck speed around 4 or 5 hairpins, then at the bottom of the climb you are into about 10% climb it was here that
i saw the most accidents as nobody was ready for the climb either in the wroong gear or the wrong frame of mind, 2 or 3 people
just simply falling off the bike or going up the back of someone, this soon settled down and we were on the climb up to the
I was having real problems with my saddle contact point, it started to pain me on the two training rides the days before and i
could not get it sorted, i think it was the sweat and the heat ....... ooouuuchhh. I did not get comfortable all day.
The scenery over the Glandon is spectacular indeed.
At the top of the Glandon there was a huge ruck for the feed-station, i have never seen anything like it, the road was
completely blocked .... time for a bit of cyclo cross over the grass a quick slash (about 200 of us actually) and then off down
the very fast and dodgy Glandon descent.
I did see 2 or 3 ambulances nursing injured cyclists on the way down, however it was well marshalled and having yet more good
advice from Dave i took it easy.
The BIG Descent was absolutely amazing really enjoyed it, i managed to keep my body temperature quite high and joined a nice
little gruppetto all the way the the Col de Telegraph, (this was the least attractive part of the route).
The Col de Telegraph
I like the Col de Telegraph and have never climbed it in such big groups, amazingly always overtaking someone or being
overtaken, the Telegraph offered shelter from the heat on a good third of the climb which was welcome indeed.
At the top there was some water (which i did not need as there was a feed station coming up in Valloire).
There was a huge synchronised Urinating competition going on at the top which i joined in, the Telegraph was getting higher by
the minute, what a stench i was glad to be leaving it behind.
I met Bob and Dave Shaw at the top.
I reached Valloire and was looking for the feed station ..... i was eventually found just outside Valloire, whilst it was still
busy it was nowhere as busy as the Glandon, i barged my way in and stuffed my back pockets and face with big sweets and bananas,
i had scheduled myself a 15 minute stop here so i sat in the shade enjoyed the scenes, read some emails made a couple of calls
.... anything really rather than get on with the next big obstacle .... the Galibier!
The Col de Galibier
The last time i was on the Galibier i had sideways snow, this was completely different my Garmin reading 30 degrees, the views
are spectacular and the climb is brutal, i still felt reasonably good and had scheduled a 15 mn rest at 3 km from the top.
The interesting thing about the Galibier is that you can always see where the road is leading and with so many riders it
resembled army ants plodding there way home.
Bob caught me sunbathing near the top, i felt nice an relaxed but with the worst bit of the climb still to go.
I made my way to the top where i bumped into Bob and Mark, it was cold at the top so i donned the arm warmers and the racing
jacket and made my way down the descent.
What a fantastic descent the best descent i have ever done it went on forever with quite a few scary tunnels which are a work-
out for the pupils themselves!
The run to the Alp
I sat on a nice little gruppetto all the way to the Alp, there was a great atmosphere here most of the riders wanting to share
thir thoughts and experiences and congratulate each other on making it to the foot of the Alp.
At the Feed station i had scheduled in a nother 15 minutes rest, i was feeling reasonably good, i stuffed my face with oranges
and topped up on wierd juice and water, by now i was having real problems with my saddle contact point (gooch) it had been
painful since the Glandon but was now making sitting down very painful indeed.
I met Bob and Mark at the bottom of the Alp at the feed-station and decided to make my way up.
The Alp de Huez
I made my way up the Alp and saw Paul Gaters at the bottom, i hit the first bend and disaster struck i punctured, it took the
wind out of my sails completely, i took ages to get the tyre back on and when i did the stupid pump would not give me any
pressure, I saw Andy Rook go by (he shouted sod off! no really he offered help and i told him to sod off).
So i made my way up the Alp on a soft rear, laughing at all the I Team Paintwork on the road and the walls, i passed Bob yet
again and borrowed his pump (bend 14).
I yet again made my way up the Alp, by now my wheels were square my head gave in and my legs had fallen off, it was pathetic
Even at this point i was not sure i was going to finish, but i did... the Marmotte Organisers made the finish in a Tour de
France Stylie which i really enjoyed.
I was Really Emotional at the top and honestly felt like crying.... but i remembered "rule 5" and got on with it.
My prep for the day was quite good Hydration and Food no problem, i think i could have of gone a little faster but really wanted
to concentrate on just completing the course.
My long term prep of riding in the Pyrenees and Spain paid off this year but i remember someone saying that another piece of
good prep is to do 25mile TTs i can see how hard hour and a half efforts would help deal with the climbing efforts.
What i could not prep for is the temperature control, the descents and the mid-day heat is a real killer to me.
Very Very well oprganised, great atmosphere, well stocked but hectic feed stations, lots of medics and security.
Signing on very atmospheric indeed and the safety marshalling was great, in all i think this event sets the standard for
Sportives, not too expensive when you think of the 10 euros back for the chip.
What a great event, great company, great fun.
Would i do it again? deffo i would do it again, maybe be more compettitive now i know the size of the beast, however i have a
yearning for an Italian Sportive, or a Spanish one .... im gonna do both!
Massive thanks to Andy Redding for organising the whole thing huge respect.
Well the time to depart has arrived, i am picking up the Rookster at 1pm and MR Thew at 4ish.
I want to get this straight from the outset, i have been known lately to get a bit competitive in recent Sportives, as far as the Marmotte is concerned i am only concerned with finishing in one bit
There have been some rumblings from certain quarters in the I team of some competitive talk, this is not for me (maybe next year) my sole aim is to finish, if i start to get the red mist i am going to get off the bike and take a rest......
What am i concerned about?
I am worried about the descents, from a safety point of view and from a getting cold point of view, i have climbed several cols this year and have frozen my nuts off on the way down each of them, i tooks half an hour to warm up each time.
As you all know i am a cold morsel, but i dont do well in the heat either, i stop eating .... i can drink but not eat.... so lots of forcing food down my pie hole whenever i fancy it during the week.
The climbs go without saying, what i have learnt about the climbs is not to get anaerobic in the first miles .... once i do that i dont recover for the whole of the climbs
What am i looking forward to?
The days before the Marmotte give a great opportunity to tackle some of the climbs at a leisurly pace, maybe even take a foray into Italy.
Time away with the lads looks to be a real laugh also.
To paint GO ITEAM on as many cols as we can!
What are my targets?
Finish in one piece!
Enjoy the majesty and privilidge and history of the Alps
Enjoy my time with the Team
I have an 8 mile each way commute to work, i travel the length of Portsdown Hill and down the other side to Fareham.
I like (and look forward to my commute) for the following reasons:
* I am full of endorphins when i arrive at work and have a more positve attitude in what is a boring job).
* My brain seems to use the time to tidy away stuff ..... (a bit like a dream) in fact when i drive to work or back i find i am liking a little quiet time (and anyone who knows me wont think thats possible).
* The views are spectacular over Portsmouth and it changes daily let alone with the seasons, i see long grasses so thick with frost they look like they would shatter if you touched them, i have seen just the tops of the Spinaker and the Lipstick Tower poking out of a thick mist, one of the best views in the UK surely?
* I have overtaken cars as they spin off the road in the snow (that now seems a welcome yearly Occourrence).
* I love the ride in inclement weather as this makes you a BADASS (Rule 9) and it leaves fellow workers in AWE.
* On Occasion you will have the pleasure of catching someone who can be one of the following:
1) A Tuggo - a Commuter who has a saddlebag and a smattering of cycling gear (beware the Tuggo they can show you up).
2) A Tester - a Time Trialling Commuter who is really going for it on his Aero bike.
3) A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing ... a First Cat or Elite rider who rides to work on his crappy mountain bike with baggy shorts and saddle bag, these are the worst types they like to put the hurt on you bad!
I dont like my commute for the following reasons:
* Its a ball ache to get changed at work, there is no shower (thank god for Lynx), i used to get changed in the Disabled Toilet which was nice and roomy but had to give this up as the loo seat was so comfortable and welcoming i found i HAD to use toilet each time i visited which adds 5 minutes to my commute time. I now change in the gents toilet which has resulted in various people seeing my a*$e (including my Boss)
* Its difficult to use your commute time in an effective way to complement your personal Training needs (hell if you are on a rest day and you catch a Tuggo who can resist a burn up!)
Our esteemed leader has quoted in the past that riding to work is good but there is no "riding to work world championships" however though i have found out that some people in London area have been arranging "Silly Commuting Races", (see link) what a great idea ..... a full on race on your ride to work!
Cycle to Work Races
Why Cycle to work
There are certain milestones that a Man will reach as he moves through his life, some of these are more welcome than others
* 1st Beer
* First Kiss (usually follows on closely from the first)
* First house
* First child
You know the kind of thing im talking about, however i have noticed that as you get older the milestones are a little more staid and in some case damn unpleasant
* First Beige Trouser and Shirt Combo
* First Chinos
* First Beer Gut
* First bals patch........ all very unpleasant and un welcome.
Well i have recently had another unpleasant first.... first tube of pile cream , i know you are thinking poor thing he has metric miles, but you would be wrong, i do not have nuclear piles, but in fact i have had a Saddle sore the size of a third testicle and research suggested that "Preperation H" happens to be a really good cure for them.
Now whats the best way to get the cream ...
1) Ask my Boss to get it (as he is an old fart and probably has to buy it all the time).
2) Ask GF to get it ... no way thats embarrassing
3) Order online ... cant do that im riding a 100 on Sunday ... no choice but to go to Boots and tough it out.
Best Method for asking for said cream.
1) Tough it out and find an assistant and loud and proud " Show me where the a*$e cream is please young lady?"
2) Sidle up to said shop assistant and ask in a discreet manner.
3) Find the wierd "Make up Girls" and ask them head on where the bum cream is ......
I opted for option 2 and sidled up, but shop assistant had friend hanging around who would not sod off .... go on sod off so i can get my a*$e cream....
She wouldent go .... so i blurted it out ..."Ccccan you tell me where the ppp pile cream is please nnn not that i have piles ... i hhave a sore down there (hell that sounded lots better not tacky at all).
I was led by the thirrd testicle to the a*$e cream section (her friend still in tow) where i was given a public grilling on what my problem was and the usage of prep H .... deep joy!
Mission accomplished Pile cream in hand (it comes with a wierd adapter) slap it on .... and its goodbye Eyore the saddle sore
Eddy Merckx's Paper-Round, Eyore the Saddle Sore and the Holy Trinity
Day 1 - getting to the Pyrenees
We had factored in two days to get to the Pyrenees from my Dads, the extra day factored in to be used when i had reached my threshold of Dads War stories or stories of old Girlfriends etc.... the threshold having been reaced within 1 hour of being at my Fathers the plan B was initiated...... Seriously though we had a great time at the old fellas and really enjoyed our time cycling around the Mervant Forest. We left Papas on Sunday morning.
We had booked a B&B for five nights from Monday night and was hoping we would be able to book in a night early. We set off for the Pyrenees along Frances excellent motorway network (paid for by our euro dollars). After 3 hours we decided to pull off of the motorway and take an amble through the Haute Garonne on the D roads. The scenery was magnificent and well worth losing some time for.
We Phoned the B & B and after several efforts we told there was no room at the Inn .... where have i heard that before? ... at least we were in good company. We didnt panic as we always travel with a tent .... the heavens open up like only it can in mountain regions .....we panicked.
As if by magic we passed a sign for Gites de Hotes next on the left, we pulled up a long gravel drive only to see what can be described as a hybrid of "Fawlty Towers" and the "Good life".... as i got out of the car a large Turkey took an instant dislike to me and shook in rage as it walked towards me.... (why do turkeys have the ball sac under the chin? and whats that on its beak? Gross i will never eat turkey again).
The small holding had peacocks, pigs, rabbits. horses and a gaggle of French people also.
An earthy French lady introduced herself as Issobel, i enquired of the availability and price of a room in my best French (ello ello style) only to be given back a sentence that i may as well have been klingon, to which i could only reply ...."Eh" ..... note to self never speak French too much like a frenchman, they think you are French ...... lesson learnt. Room negotiated at 56 Euros we were shown to our cell.
The room was plain clean and rather nice it also had massive Pillows, pillows of gargantuan proportions,Issobel must have of thought i had encepholytus as she produced 2 more huge pillows (or maybe she was factoring in my nose....).
Day 2 - Breakfast with the French, Wheres the Bacon and Eggs?
We wandered down to breakfast and after first trying the toilet door, the kitchen door until we found the dining room door! There was only one table set out and there was a French couple sat there! We were ushered to sit with them (horror).
We sat with the French couple at breakfast, after a while they started buttering and jam on some bread and then dunking it in a "Bowl" of coffee ... what sort of filthy habit was that? .... hang on that tastes good! mmmmm.
Wendy still waiting for the cereals to be brought out ... eventually reaslising that that they werent coming looked down at the table then looked up at my jam and coffee stained mush to realise that i had eaten all the pain! (never get stuck on a desert island with me ... before long you will start looking like walking chicken drumstick)..... i was duly sent into the kitchen to get more pain .... or else it would have of been proper pain!
After breakfast we got dressed in proper clothes (cycling clothes) and consulted the map, we could not check into Colditz until 4pm (a bit odd) so we had planned to bag Wendy her first Col? after consulting the map we picked an easy one out and drove to the start.
Col de Ares 800 mtres high ave 5% 6km long (West Side)
Hardness - Gr
Enjoyable - *****
Eddy Merckx Paper Round? - No
The start of the climb is from a village called Fronsac, the climb is an average of 8%, the road is mostly single track and very forested, it does not afford great views except near the top where you can the tops of pretty villages, it really is a nice little climb and ends at the top with a Pyrenees activity centre.
At the top i waited for Wendy and met a Lady who was the proprieter of another B & B in the region "Multi Sport Pyrenees" she had arranged a timetrial for her guests and was very enthusiastic.
We watched a French Cyclist come up the mountain and duly gave him a cheers as he crossed the line with a sprint, he waited at the top and chatted, he said he was waiting for his girlfriend so we watched with him , 5 minutes a later a very butch (Bearded Girlfriend) struggled to the top, we said i thought you were waiting for a Girl, he said i was! He is a big Girl! to which the big Girl agreed and laughed (who would of thought .... a Frenchman with a sense of humour whatever next? A brave one?).
I rode back down the Col to reach Wendy who was very comfortable on her climb, at the top we got the image of her at her first Col summit. From the top of the Col de Ares you can continue on and make a very pleasant challenging loop back up the East summit of the Col de Mente, but i wanted to make sure Wendy handled the descent ok.
At the bottom we put Wendys bike back in the car and i decided that i was going on to tackle the West side of the Col de Mente...... and Wendy would drive to the top.
Last used in the Tour de France in 2010 stage won by Thomas Voeckler
Col de mente 1395 mtres high ave 9.1 % 10 km long
Hardness - Gr Gr Gr Gr
Enjoyable - ****
Eddy Merckx Paper Round? - Yes
The Col de Mente was 10 KM from the bottom of the Col de Ares through picturesque villages and roads, almost immediatly the heavens opened up and i was drenched through by the time i reached the bottom of the Col.
The weather in the Pyrenees is very localised and at the moment it was localised on my ASS, along with th rain came the cold and it did cross my mind that it could be a very unpleasant 5 days if the rain continued!
The climb itself was on good roads, 2 lane blacktop all the way up with some twisting hairpins all the way, the rain was pouring down the roads in a torrent making the discomfort 100%. There was hardly any traffic which was a bonus!
I passed the Oscana Tribute, this is the spot where Luis Oscana rode into an already prone Eddy merckx and then got hit by Joop Zoetermelk (what a great boast that would be) and had to abandon the tour in Yellow (Merckx refused to wear Yellow the next day in tribute) funny enough this happened on a very wet day also.
I had to make a stop to remove my waterproof (it was still raining but i was hot and was aware that i would not feel the benefit of the jacket on the descent).
The climb itself was quite a test and was forested all the way even up to the summit, the last 3 km the steepness increased.
At the summit i found Wendy drinking tea in the Cafe so she missed my triumphant crossing!, i had my photo took at the sign, donned a hat, armwarmers, buf, cape, sou-wester & clowns costume, drank a cup of coffee and decided to do the descent.........
Wendy followed behind in the support vehicle, it was still pluising down and the roads were greasy so i had to take it relatively easy, i really enjoyed the descent however i was freezing my nuts off (to become something of a theme) my arms and shoulders shaking.........
Overall a very pleasant enjoyable climb which if coupled with the Col de Ares would be a fab route.
Last used in the Tour de France in 2007 stage won by Juan Manuel Garate.
NB: (from Wickepedia)
On stage 14 of the 1971 Tour de France Spanish cyclist Luis Ocaña was in the Maillot Jaune with an overall lead of 7 minutes on Eddy Merckx and they crossed the summit of the Col de Menté together in a storm, with streams of mud running across the road. Merckx, an excellent descender, attacked as he descended dangerously down the mountain road. To stay in contact with Merckx, Ocaña took risks descending. Flying through the corners, Merckx lost control and skidded into a low retaining wall at the side of the road. Ocaña trailing close behind could not avoid the fallen Merckx and fell himself. Merckx was up quickly and sped away. Ocaña struggled to release his cleats from the toe clips and was struck by the pursuing Joop Zoetemelk. Ocaña lay on the ground screaming with pain. Help arrived quickly and Ocaña was rushed by helicopter to the hospital in St. Gaudens. He recovered from his injuries, but his 1971 Tour dreams had come to an end. The following day Merckx refused to wear the yellow jersey in order to pay tribute to Ocaña. There is now a memorial plaque at the scene of the accident on the eastern side of the Col de Menté.
At the bottom i packed up the bike and we attempted to check into the B & B.
The Velo Pyrenees B & B
We booked into the Velo Pyrenees B & B which is approx 23 miles from Bagneres de Luchon a ski town, Bagneres was the start and the end of some of the most fearsome Cols. The region is called Comminges LOL which i found hilarious!
The Couple that run the B & B were very pleasant the Guy was a top class Mountain biker (who looked too fit for my liking i was hoping he did not invite me on any rides) to my relief i find him carrying an injury at the moment, the Lady was a Tri Athelete therefore insane and incapable of human speech.
The B & B was a perfectly renovated Farmhouse it was immaculate (i was afraid to sit down).... one look around me told me all i need to know .... there was no telly!!!! Disaster we would have to read our books or at worst .... talk to each other.
We planned the next days activities.
route de Luchon - Goat Sheep Ewes and Uncle Albert
Most of the Cols started in or around Luchon, this was a very pleasant 23 mile ride from the B & B down the Barousse Valley, it is twisty turny road that is a typical French Valley road, its seemed to be impossibly downhill both ways?
You ride through a village called "Anus" which always made me chuckle, everytime i used this route i passed a Shepherd who looked like Uncle Albert from Only fools and Horses, he always said hello and nodded his Beret ... yes he had a Beret, he was a clever man who controlled 3 sheepdogs with one whistle and then slept for the rest of the day!
As you got nearer to Luchon the roads became wider and the traffic heavier, indeed it could be quite dangerous at times despite the fact that they have cycle lane.
Day 2 - More Rain Bright Sunshine and the Port de Bales
Port de Bales- 18.75 km , 6.6 % AVE 1800 mtres high - South Side
Hardness - Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr
Enjoyable - ******
Eddy Merckx Paper Round? - YES
It was pluising down again in the morning with a promise of cheering up in the afternoon so we wimped out and decided to explore by car..... Weather picked up and so i was on the road by 1pm determined to bag another Col, my chosen torture was the Port de Bales, it is recognised to be the hardest in the area and seeing as i saw myself as the hardest Englishman in the area i thought i would give it a crack.
Wendy picked a more sensible 36 mile valley ride.
The weather was warm at about 16 Degrees and sunny, let me start by saying from the outset that this is the best ride i have ever done, now thats not to say it was'nt tough cos it was tough very tough indeed (its an Hors catagory climb) , however the climb had everything that you could want from a climb.
Right from the start of the B & B the climbing starts, the beginning of the Port de Bales is almost tucked away as a secret (or is it hidden to protect the innocent).
The climb is quite steep at the begining but for a nice change it was a climb that was almost completely free of traffic, (i encountered just one car in 20 miles), the road was barely wide enough for two cars to pass and the bottom two thirds of the climb follow a river and is very forested and pretty, the smell of the pine and the calls of the Kites enhancing the sense of wellbeing.
There are information boards every km (which is unusual for the Pyrenees they usually only give a 3km to go sign). Initially at the begining of the climb you are glad of the information but as the climb progress's they bring you only bad news with the ave % on each KM rising to 14% at one point..... i found myself looking at the signs but trying not to see the % signs.
I used the slopes of the bottom two thirds to take rests and get some recovery, this was next to impossible on the final slopes.
The first two thirds of the climb are tough but its the final third that ramps up, on the way up you cannot afford to lose concentration as you need to pick your way through the small rockfalls that will puncture your tyres in a blink (or knock you off).
I had a really bad spell with 5 KM to go i was in a right state (the Kites now viewing me as a meal i suspect), i stuffed a "high 5" gel down my neck and ate a "Go Bar", this worked and i had a bit of a spring in my step, as i rounded the corner with 4 km to go the climb opens out into a real TDF scene, a huge valley to the left and nothing to stop you from going over the edge if you are not careful, the views were amazing..... i had a spring in my step for the last click and was even able to put a little sprint in to the top.
The view was amazing as i stuffed more food into my whole and dressed like a yeti to make the descent. The descent was great about 3 km were hairpins on single track but well tarmacked, (just recently tamacked for the tour de france, then it joined two lane blacktop where it was possible to see a mile ahead and therefore descend in the safe knowledge that there is no traffic ahead (i did have to stop for sheep and ewes however which could have of been nasty).
The descent then joins the Col de Peyresourde into Bagneres des Luchons (i was freezing my bollocks off) but managed to overtake 3 or 4 cars on the way, the drivers being very friendly and supportive of my endeavours...... what an amazing descent from an amazing ascent, i would give this climb 10 / 10 on all fronts.... i climbed it in 1 Hour 40..... my total ride being 4 hours.
The Port de Bales was last used in the Tour de France in 2010 when Thomas Voeckler won the stage i cant imagine how the bunch and the caravan managed to squeeze along this magnificent climb.
You gotta get your ass up this climb. How can local cyclists sleep at night knowing this round the corner?
Day 3 - More Rain 3 Hour walk to the Lac d Oo and the Col de Portillion
Col de Portillion - Col de Portaloo - 10km , 6.6 % AVE 1300 mtres high - West side
Hardness - Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr
Enjoyable - *
Eddy Merckx Paper Round? - YES
The rain was back with us again and the pattern was forming as there was a promise of Sunshine in the afternoon, so we decided to go on a 3 hour walk around the Lac d Oo near the odd named village of "Oo" it tickled me that the twatNav found it.
The walk was enjoyable an hour and a half uphill to the lake and an hour and a half back down, however my hearts was still looking at the Cols.
I decided to tackle the Col de Portillion, this is the Col that crosses into Espagne at its summit.
I unpacked the bike in Bagnreres Wendy was going to wait for me at the top, the promised sunshine had materialised and it was hot.
I felt strangely out of sorts approaching the climb and things did not improve as soon as i hit the Col, it starts off at 8% and quickly turns into 13% for a spell, the heat was impossible the sun beating down on my head and also radiating off of the cliffs and road beneath me.
I went anaerobic almost immediatley, WTF i was dying on this mountain with my HR not dipping below 176 the whole climb, on every bend i wanted to stop and rest, i was finding no rest spots at all.... it was bad.
I was finding nowhere to get rests in at all it just wasnt possible, to make matters worse the road was busy as it is a main route to Espagne. I stuck to my guns and did not rest or dab down at all, at the top i got dressed up like a Yeti in order to do the descent through Spain and back into Franca.
I had suffered with the cold and the shakes on all the descents and this one was no different, in fact the valley was in complete shade as the Portollion was throwing a huge shadow over it.
The descent was mad, really fast and clear with large lorries to pace behind, it was a really wierd feeling when i hit the border village of Boost at the bottom, it was a strange place full of markets.
I still felt like crap at the bottom and had not recovered from the climb, i road back into Franca and had visions of riding the Col de mented again however my form was so bad i doubted i was going to make it back to the B & B in one bit.
On reflection i think it was that i only had a very short warm up prior to hitting the ascent.....and then immediatly went anaerobic into the brgain, lesson learnt here.
Day 4 - Super Super Superbagneres and more fecking rain
Superbagneres 1800 metres high, ave 6.3% 18 km Length
Hardness - Gr, Gr, Gr, Gr
Enjoyable - ******
Eddy Merckx Paper Round? - YES
Time 1 HR 30
A look out of the window on day 4 told us that the weather today was going to be a little dull and overcast all day .... but at least it was dry, my plan was to attack the mountainn Superbagneres, this mountain is a one way up and a one way down deal, which is why it doesent get included in the Tour that often. Its a bit of a monster at 1800 mtres. Wendy had chosen a route through the valleys again. We set off on our seperate ways.
I had decided to take a back route into Luchon which added a few more local climbs to my route and a bit of variety, almost immediatly after i set off its started pluising down again and i mean pluising it was stair rods from hell. For a minute i honestly thought about turning back and waiting for it to clear (having experienced the Col de Mente in the pouring rain) but i thought back to RULE 7 and decided to press on.
The Hors Catagory Superbagneres is accsessed by turning left when you hit Luchon from here it is clearly signed having said that you cannot miss it, its fecking huge and covered in white stuff. Superbagneres is primarily a Ski resort and therefore the roads were as near perfect surface as you can get.
Over the last couple of days (and before the holiday) i had developed a bad case of Saddle Sores one was now so big now i had named it Eyore the Saddle sore its become like a third testicle, this coupled with the rain and cloud made for an uncomfortable ride ahead.
The road is two lane blacktop all the way, the begining of the climb is about 8 - 9 % and is very forested, the going was good, there are absolutely no signs on the mountain indicating % or distance, it strange how its so inconsistent on these mountains, on this mountain we didnt even have the 3km to go sign, in a way i appreciated this as all you have to do is to concentrate on your breathing and ride whats in front of you.
I had decided that after my terrible day on the Portaloo that i would use the climb to find the "Holy trinity" that is finding the balance between:
Somewhere in this trinity is the answer to climbing the mountain in one piece, i was keeping my heart rate below 170 and above 150 which seems to suit me, i think 160 is my lactate threshold rate. I was managing to do this quite well and felt really good and enjoying the climb, the only distraction was the Snails and Tortoises mocking me as they passed!
Big stretches of 10 % now.
It really is a monster of a mountain just going on and on relentlessly, when you are approx 3-4 km from the top the mountain opens up before you (if it was'nt raining you would be able to see peaks all around) the mountain feels like a real Tour climb now and the views and atmosphere were stunning indeed.
There is now Snow at the side of roads, now you turn your head and you get your first glimpse of the Famous Hotel and it looks so close you could touch it, but the mountain has'nt finished with you yet the hairpins getting tighter and steeper you have approx 2 km of this fabulous climb left to go!
Its out of the saddle and dig deep now for the summit, it was still pouring with rain so i was not able to marvel at the views, i was able to marvel at the amount of snow still about though.
Me and Eyore had made it to the top!
Now to dress up warm and get busy on the descent, although i have enjoyed the descents i have really suffered with the cold the shakes and the wobbles which is bad news in the wet! The descent was awsome as all the others were also, i did notice however that the wooden barriers had been designed with just enough gap underneath to allow a sliding cyclist and his bike to slip through (handy that). As with all these climbs it feels like you are getting more descent than you earned on the climb they also seem to take forever to consume.
At the bottom in Luchon i was so cold i needed to warm up fast so i headed for a Crepe Joint that had patio heaters on the go, i order 2 Euros of Coffee and consumed 20 Euros of propane, the original plan was to tackle the Peyresourde as well ....but that was before the rain and the hypothermia, i decided to have a look at some bike porn in the local bike shop and head back for home...... (chicken).
Great Tour climb last used in 1989 when Robert Millar won the stage.
Day 5 - Col de Peyresourde (West side) and Girfriend Abuse
Col de Peyresourde 1569 metres high, ave 6.1% 15 km Length
Hardness - Gr, Gr,
Enjoyable - *****
Eddy Merckx Paper Round? - YES
Our last day in the Pyrenees, we wanted to bag Wendy another Col and were told that the West side of the Peyresourde was a nice gentle climb and as it starts at about 300 mtres its easily do-able, Yeah Right like anything about this climb is easy, have a confession at this point!
I had paid very little attention to the gearing on Wendys bike (when i say little i mean none), sure i made sure the bike was mechanically roadworthy, new tyres etc but had not looked at Wendys gearing, for some reason i was looking at Wendys Campag chainset only to realise that She is not running with a compact it is a straight 52 / 42 with a 22 at the back! She was struggling at the bottom so we swapped back wheels and the going got a little easier for her (and a little harder for me).
The climb is two lane black top all the way with a good surface and a little traffic, from the west - side you are looking at snow capped peaks ahead the whole way which is a great thing for lifting the spirits, the weather was fine, the climb is a steady 6 % most of the way and you are climbing with the drop to your right.
Wendy had had enough and decided to turn around we were well over halfway. The road gets a little steeper before the summit and upgrades to about 8 % on the final 3 km.
Once at the summit i dressed like a polar bear once more to take on the descent, however i was not expecting to be quite so cold due to the better heat in the air.
The descent was the fastest yet with a lot fewer hairpins (what hairpins there were were at the bottom).
This climb was Last used in 2010 Tour de France stage 16 won by Pierrick Fédrigo (FRA).
Eddy Merckx Paper-round
What is Eddy Merckx's Paper round - its a way of grading a climbs severity and the ability of the great one to "Put the Hurt on", in other words "The climb was so hard it must have of been on Eddy Merckx's paper-round..... this is a measuring technique which i developed with the Yeti in the Alps, it leads on to such games as design Eddy Merckx's paper - round, (put together your worst climbs and get Eddy to deliver).
What have i learned to help me get my sad old sac up the cols? - Summary
All in all i had one bad climb, this was the Col de Portaloo, the preperation of a 3 hour walk was not ideal, but i think more to the point i did not control my effort more at the bottom and went anaerobic immediatley, i did not recover from this all day (literally all day) so i think key for the Marmotte is to ensure i control my breathing at the bottom of the climbs and preferably all the way.
It is possible to climb severe climbs without expending too much energy, i may have been travelling slowly but i knew i was going to make it.
Gels were useful in times of crisis, i usually choose "Go" gels but this time used "High 5" gels with caffiene, this did really seem to work for me and gave me enough lift to summit..... although i will use them sparingly as i dont take caffiene and this could result in me requiring more liquids.
Compared to my recent trip to Spain there were a lot less cyclists on the road in the Pyrenees, i think Spain is having a bit of a renaiscance in cycling probably due to the Contador effect.
Can you imagine what a local clubs club - run would look like?
The B & B that we chose was very nice and the location was perfect, however the owners participation / interaction with us was limited, we met other Owners that were much more interactive with the guests and arranged trips out timetrials etc, there were no other guests either at the B & B which limited the interaction.
The Wi - Fi in the B & B was shut down at 9PM which was annoying (for no apparant reason) and we did not get a change of towels once the whole 5 days, normally not a problem but when you are riding twice a day the towels get a bit of a workout.
Normally you would have a telly with a selection of DVDs which are nice to sit and watch and relax in the evening, this B & B had no telly and we were not encouraged to sit in the lounge area, the owners went to bed at 09:00 PM. The Owners gave the impression that we were supporting them "living the Dream" than they were wanting us to have a "Dream Stay".
Overall we were really lucky with the weather considering we were in a mountainous region, yes we had rain but even then except for the descents it was never very cold and the spells of sunshine that we had were fabulous.
I would love to visit this area again and when i do i will be much more confident of stringing some of the climbs together and be confident that the distances were do-able, i would also spend more time on the Spanish side as there is a lot more single track forested climbs and a lot of unknown gems.
Really sad to be leaving the Pyrenees but its just aurevoir!
Ive been meaning to get this debacle on record for sometime, im not sure if its a cathartic attempt to purge my soul or an attempt to establish myself amongst the i teams hardmen or not.
In any case here is my confession and a chance for you to rate me accordingly.
Late September 2010
I had been back cycling on my Road Bike (or doing a poor impression of) since July and had joined a jolly bunch of fellows in the I Team since July also.... so naturally i decided that i was now a bit of racer and could take almost anything in my stride .... and decided that i would like to ride the marmotte along with 24 equally foolhardy spirits.
I had 5 days holiday spare so planned a trip to recce the trivial lumps in the road that i would have to tackle during aforesaid "Club Run", so it was decided that myself and my gigantic Scotts friend would take 5 days in the Alps with the aim of doing the Col De telegraph, Col de Galibier and the Alp de Huez.
We had a fairly trouble free trip down to the Alps apart from my pal James deciding to take issue with P & O ferries over the price of the all day breakfasts, he was complaining with the confidence that only a man of over 6 ft 8 can muster, eventually settling down to " Eat his Scran" and decide to order another breakfast as a chaser (again with the gusto that only a 6 ft 8 man can), it was a real treat to watch him get served again by the very same man that he nearly came to blows with over the price of the first one! the look n that guys face was a picture.
As soon as we go off the ferry James "set phasers to stun" and proppelled the rocket powered Audi roughly south at seemingly twice the speed of light, refusing to give any ground and never more than a rizla from anything that deemed to be in HIS lane.
I spent the majority of the drive hiding behind the dashboard in the same manner as i hid behind the sofa when being confronted by the Daleks, James was either unaware of my discomfort or was enjoying the spectacle of me quivering.
The only time did i surface from my hide was when James pulled up at the Peage and shouted "Toll Jimmy" , i could swear i heard a sucker sound popping from my sphincter as i leant forward to stick my card in the toll machine.
These toll stops being blessed relief from the fear, fear wasnt my only problem as i had been dying for a pee since Calais and James deemed that there would be "only one P & P stop" on the way.
We eventually made it to our B & B in two pieces (3 if you could the small part of me that died in the A3).
The B & B was called the Bourg Ousains B & B and run by some very nice (and very Northern) english cycling enthusiasts.
James decided he was going to be a tool and not sign any paper or give his address or passport details for some reason....... known only to him.
We told the couple of our plans to ride the Telegraph and Galibier the next day and they decided to have a domestic about it, one saying that the forecast was not good and the other saying it would be fine, embarressed we left them to it and prepared for the next day, how bad could it be when it was 70 - 80 degrees outside.
We woke up the next day and were midly surprised that the couple had survived the night and that indeed there was breakfast was ready! James ate with vengance indeed not realising that there was another couple staying who were expected at breakfast also DOH!
The said new couple arrived at breakfast and after being resupplied with breakfast (which James also finished off just to help them out), the new couple (not that me and James were a couple) were ultra runners .... and the Guy was also and Ultra talker ...our ears were bleeding, this man could talk for England & Brazil combined, it was no surprise to us when he informed us that his nickname was "Gobby" it really was, he was small wirey and bird like .... entirely fitting with a man who runs 100 KM for fun and nobody chasing him with a gun, the Wife was also a world class Ultra runner with the flattest feet on record, you could here here running from 4 miles away. I have to say they cut a funny pair but were top people!
They were telling us that they were going to ride the Galibier (They had already run the Alpe de huez that morning).
After eating the B & B out of house and home we prepared for the ride, we were well prepared with Arm Warmers, Rain capes, plenty of food and spares.... we were again warned that today it would rain, but the rest of the weeks forecast was worse so we pressed on.
I resumed my place below th Dashboard on the starship A3 and we made a leisurely drive to St Mauriene where we planned to leave the car and ascend the Telegraph.
We decided to have a couple of cups of coffee in a cafe near the car park it immediatley hit the spot ... and the spot it hit was my heart the caffiene kicking in and doing some strange stuff to my heart monitor, not the best start to the day knowing im allergic to caffiene......
The weather was nice about 70 degrees and pleasant, as we started the ascent the weather began to go bad ever so slightly but still dry and pleasant.
Once my heart had decided to play ball i enjoyed the climb of the Telegraph and was feeling quite chuffed with myself, i waited at the top for the "Big Yin" and managed to get some pictures of him looking stylish which he was pleased with, we descended roughly together and looked forward to the Galibier.
As soon as we hit the Galibier we encountered light spitting rain, it really was quite refreshing at this point and helped with the climb, the Galibier just goes on and on but still really enjoyed the climb, finding that the 34 * 25 was just about right until the final 2 kM (final 2 KM of a climb, did i just type that) we saw nobody the whole climb, i had lost James at the bottom of the mountain, in the last 2 km the weather took a turn for the worse in fact it was bleeding freezing and the rain had turned to sleet!
At the top it was absolutely freezing with a biting wind and the sleet in turn had turned to snow! ... fecking sideways snow at that, i waited 10 minutes for james and realised that i was shaking even though i had the rain jacket on and the arm warmers.
A French motorcyclist walked up to me and said its minus 7 and the snow is coming ... "get off the Mountain", taking this little hint and realising that i was now shaking even more i made my way down the mountain, i had decend very carefully as the snow was now blinding me and my shakes were now violent and uncontrollable.
I met James making his way up at about 3KM to go, i took shelter behind a rock and told him "we gotta get off the Mountain, its snowing" after a quick "No Sh@t sherlock" he told me i "looked a Sh@t state" and i should get warm, "Are you coming down with me?" .... " I came here to climb this mountain" ... i wasnt going back up as he was right i was a sh@t state and the shakes had taken on a life of thier own... i told him i would be in the first cafe on the way down, i would leave my bike outside "You wont be able to miss it" ......
I watched him yomp off into the distance wandering if i would ever see him again ... but at the same time not really caring anymore..... The snow was now laying (on the road) and he disappeared far to quickly for my liking, i knew we had made the rookie error of splitting up, but at approximately 1.2 feet taller than me i wasnt going to argue with the yeti.
I made my way down the mountain (i was descending like old people make love ... carefully) i was now so cold that i had to pull my brakes hard on in order to get some friction for my legs but it was no good, i was in the advance stages of hypothermia i was sure......
Eventually one lifetime later i was in Valloire .....B@lls all the cafes were closed, i rode round twice WTF!
The only place open was supermarket and a laundrette.... and i was dying, and i had to wait for the yeti or face his wrath!
What to do ... gotta get warm .... i slung the bike on the roundabout pointing to the shop... James would see this .... gotta get warm, gotta get warm....
Into the shop i go, i buy a "made for life carrier bag", 5 tokens for the launderette 3 Gallons of Yop and all the Mars Bars ....and a pen.... i had a plan.
Into the Laundrette i go, i make two leg holes in the bag strip my wet cold clothes off including shoes and overshoes......and step into my home made shorts .... in go all the clothes into the tumble drier ......
I stabbed the pen in the door of the other drier and stuffed the remainder of the coins into the other dryer to warm the room up..... it saved my life, i was now doing star jumps in the window looking out for the Yeti! I looked like a weedy repugnant version of Nick kamen in the levis ad!
An hour passed and my clothes were dry but still no sign of james, i began to fear the worst ...... the light was going and i still had the other side of the telegraph to climb to get back to the car (a car i would not be able to get into)..... i decided i had to make my move back it was still snowing and the light was going.
I bid adieu to my makeshift boxers!
I took a last long look around Valloire and could not see james, i felt surprisngly well and made my way back actually enjoying the ascent but dreading the descent into St Marienne.
The descent was as bad as i imagined there is a surpring amount of traffic on the Telegraph and my shakes were back.
I eventually made it back the the cafe where my dream of seeing James there waiting for me was shattered, i sat in the Cafe and ordered 42 cups of coffee..... i wanted to cry but my body couldnt afford to let me...... how the hell was i going to get back to the B & B two mountains away? where was James? will the French ever win another tour?
As i sat down and wept inside a rather drunk french lady called me honey, or was selling honey ... or was offering me some honey ..... i didnt entirely knock her back as i was still short of somewhere to stay that night.....
I was at the pit of despair when all of a sudden a giant wobbling Yeti approached me shaking from head to toe (and crying), i was releived on two fronts the Fronts
1) The French lady deciding he was a better prospect
2) The Yeti had the keys to the car.
Gobby had seen the weather closing in and had decided to have a look at the Galibier by car, he saw me hairing uncontrollably down the Telegraph on my own and put two and two together.... he went to look for James, he drove up Galibier but the had to turn round as the road was now closed , on the way back down into Valloire he saw the Yeti checking into a Hotel "in a hell of a state", (he took some persuading not to continue checking in by all accounts).... Gobby and Flat feet administered some flask tea into him and they chucked his bike in the back of the car........
Gobby saved the day .......lovely bloke .... google Gobby for a picture
Thats my tale of woe and its up to you to decide hardman or stupid man?