Bike 160km (3279m in elevation gain!!!!!!! Including the
du Vars & Col D’Izoard) Col
The epic camp points system is a great way to keep athletes going when they really don’t want to and today I had a dose of this medicine. We set a 50min run from the gite (lodge) and within 5mins my knee was giving me all sorts of grief. In normal circumstances I would have turned around and gone home as I was limping quite badly and had the collapsing feeling every step as per yesterday. But I knew from yesterdays race that I wasn’t making it any worse and I think it’s just bruising that will take a couple of days to heal. So I plugged on knowing that if I pulled the pin I would loose the 20 point camp completion bonus.
Today’s ride was our first real day in the mountains and bugger me it was very very hard. We opened up the ride with a 10km decent down the hill and then traversed the lake edge with a mix of flat and minor climbs. Nobody seemed intent on cracking the whip for the first 40km or so then camp domestic Russ got on the front and started pulling again – it was fair to say I was not enjoying the tempo pace as I had some real doubts on how I was going to handle the mountains and hitting them fatigued was not going to help. I declared I was going to ride easy from the first aid station to the base of the Col du Vars another 30km or so away and this seemed to calm things. We weaved our way up the valley climb at a nice pace and given the main part of the climb was “only” 9km I thought I would be OK and somewhat competitive. At the base I went straight to the front to settle into a pace that I thought I could sustain. Unsurprising the others viewed this as an attack and it was all on. I know for me on these big climbs I really can’t attack and build high lactate, I just need to settle into a pace I can sustain. So most of the group came past me but I was OK with that. The Col du Vars was a persistent climb with the grade being a consistent 8-11% with very little flat to recover. With 3km to the top I settled for my place behind Steven and with Christine a good distance back. Then all of a sudden with ~500m to go a puffing and panting Christine rode up to my wheel. She was on fire but thankfully I had a good amount in reserve and popped her on the line and in the process very nearly caught Steven – c’est la vie.
The next challenge was the Col D’Izoard. With the minimal strength that I had in my legs spent on the first climb I decided just to get to the top and try to enjoy the climb. I know the others think I sandbag but with so little riding under my belt I just don’t have the necessary strength in my legs to keep pounding away. I’m cursing not having more than a 39/27 as just getting to the top was a real struggle. The main part of the climb was ~16km and bloody tough going but it was worth it at the top with some spectacular vista’s – it really it a moonlike scene near the top.
The highlight of the day by far for me was the descent down from the Izoard to Briancon where we will stay for 2 nights. For the first time I had a clear run all the way down with no traffic or fellow cyclists to contend with. It was a brilliant descent with some long safe straights where I got up to a top speed of 73km (it felt a lot faster!).
It was a long day in the saddle today with a ride time of 6hr08mins. That gave me an average speed of 26km/hr – nothing special but anyone who has ever ridden 2 Hor category climbs in one day will know how much of a slog it is.
Tomorrow is Alpe D’Huez (along with over the Col du Lauteret twice). Forecast is hot and steamy again. We’re also going to have a running race up there – I’ll be no match for Clas but I hope my knee is OK to challenge the rest.
Hopefully tomorrow I might have some time to post some pics