Monday, 12 July 2010

La Marmotte 2010

During the week leading up to the marmotte i read an article in Cycling Weekly about preparation for the marmotte, and the thing that caught my eye was how you should taper off your training leading up to the event. Sounded good to me, so two gentle coffee stop rides with the lovely Rachelle, perfect. Saturday arrived the weather was clear and a bit chilly, Cereal, pancakes and plenty of strong coffee for breakfast, got kitted up and went off to join over 7000 other sado masochists for a bike ride, The town of Borg d' oisans is divided up into different areas depending on your race number. Being number 1667 iwas directed to the pen somewhere near the start, 07.00 being our start time. Managed to get through about 07.15. Last ones probably got through about 08.30. After the start i moved across to the right for a pre arranged start photo by the lovely Rachelle. The first 7 miles are flat and with plenty of boy racers going flat out it was easy to get swept along at 25 mph with very little effort. After a short up and down by an EDF hydro station the real climbing starts at about 10 miles. The first part of the Glandon 1918 m, is in the trees and at that time of the day still in the shade, a comfortable temperature for climbing. Once you reach the upper reservoir for the EDF station it opens out into the sunshine and stunning scenery. If Eric was writing this he would get a bit carried away at this point, but i'll just say it is pure alpine, the only thing missing is Julie Andrews. A bit more climbing and the Glandons done, still feeling pretty good. First food stop and lots of yummy things to eat. No wonder Steve took so long to do the Marmotte. Now the first squeeky bum time the descent, narrow with lots of sharp turns, plenty of wanabee Cancallars wizzing down, self preservation being my only aim. One chap overcooked a corner and was being attended to by a couple of Colins gallic colleagues, we found out the next day that the bloke was Slovakian and in the process of being carted off to hospital managed to lose his bike, so if anyone knows an ambulance driver , don't let them look after your bike. After the descent came the 15 mile slight drag up the Maurienne valley, managed to get in a fairly big group and did a sticky. The only thing of note that happened was the water stop before the Telegraph was being controlled by a rather small Gendarme, even smaller than me, At every other junction being controlled by marshals, cyclists were given preference over vehicles, well monsoir Gendarme decided it should be the other way round, obviously the cyclists took no notice of him whatsoever, this seemed to make him very agitated, it was funny at the time. Next came the Telegraph 1570 m, smallest climb of the day, but with the temperate rising 85 F. The climb was hot but comfortable. Next came the short descent to Valoire, fairly non technical, as they would say on the telly. Just out of Valoire came the second feed, more yummy food .Leaving the feed station the ascent of the mighty Galibier 2642 m, began, a gentle climb up thr valley at first, then at Plan-Lachat the road turns almost 180 degrees and the serious stuff starts, it also gives you a fantastic view back down the valley from whence you came, a huge snake of cyclists as far as you can see. At about 10k from the top black clouds gathered in the distance, started to rain , that coupled with snow banked several feet high by the side of the road made the remaining climb just about bearable. Quick stop to refill bottles and the descent to the Lauteret, now this is really scarey, one overcooked corner and don't bother calling an ambulance , you'd be listed as missing in action, besides there would'nt be a bike for the crew to look after. From the Lauteret back to Borg d' oisans the are some nice straight downhill bits , even i managed to keep the Cancalarra wanabees in my sights at times. Arrived back at the foot of Alp d' Huez in 7 hours 31, leaving me 1 hour 9 to beat my Marmotte PB, this was a tall order as the best i had climed the Alp'd Huez 1880m was 1 hour from fresh, and i was far from fresh. 104 degrees f. The climb has 21 hairpin bends all numbered in descending order, 2 churches roughly 1/3rd and 2/3rds up, both of which had water stops. started ok , first church came and went, a few more bends and bang , felt very ill very quickly, no chance of a PB now, a couple of more bends and 9 hours looked likely , another bend and i did'nt care what time i did . The road was choked ,people weaving side to side looking for shade, cars going up and down,and the odd showoff cyclist comming down after finishing. The second church finally arrived, made a fairly good controlled fall off from the bike, staggered with wobbly legs to the water table, one bottle over me and another inside, had my last caffine gel and jumped back on the bike. Started slowly, then the gel kicked in and began to feel better, reached turn 4 and out in the open, agentle breeze,lovely. The last three bend passed without incident, end was now in sight, the last 200m's are slightly downhill which makes the finish a bit of an anticlimax, across the mat to be greeted by miss Thornton herself the lovely Rachelle with the most welcome sight of the day my tobacco pouch. Got my certificate 8 hours 52 Brevet D'or. As Colin would say "you've got to be happy with that" and i was. My official race time was listed as 8 hours 13 as the organisers for safety reasons had neutralised the descent of the Glandon. A notice about this was displayed at the check-in on Friday in several different languages, though probably not Slovakian. Mr Snell did 6 hours 9 or 8 hours 46 minus the Glandon descent . I finished 1409th overall , and 150th in the old gits category, 1800 cyclists eithe failed to start, failed to finish or missed the 6pm cut off time at the foot of the Alp' d Huez.

Michael Pumphrey