Every cyclo tourist has come across fascinating stories during these renowned cyclo’s: some regarding the fantastic ambiance, others on the melting pot of nationalities or over the stunning and challenging courses, including the ascents of 4 legendary cols of the Alps. Conclusion: this Marmotte Alps has everything a cyclo-lover is looking for!
On Saturday, the day before, we've driven up Alpe d'Huez to collect my dosaard. The climb, with its 21 hairpins, looked pretty scary from behind the wheel, I didn't even want to think how it would feel when riding it up on a bike a day later.
The town itself, one of the best-known French ski resorts, looked really beautiful, in all its mountain glory. We were there for a reason though, and haven't spent much time admiring the views - the Marmotte village was what attracted our full attention.
On to Sunday, the event day.
Got to Le Bourg-d'Oisans (or actually as close to it as parking was possible) pretty early - before 7h, to comfortably get ready for my red wave start at 7h50.
Never before have I done a ride with such amount of climbing, and also only one week after a (mountaineous) marathon, so my plan was to take it easy, use all available time (meaning get back to Le Bourg-d'Oisand and start Alpe d'Huez climb before 18h30), keep my HR below 150 bpm as much as possible and try to avoid cramps.
First ~12 kilometers were fairly easy and already really picturesque.
Col du Glandon still felt quiet easy, but long with its 34 km, with the whole area bringing back memories of Scottish Highlands.
Untimed technical descent on the other side (untimed as apparently it was too dangerous with all the tight hairpins, especially the top 4 ones), followed by the another short stretch of "flat" at the bottom (and, oh, and back to traffic).
Then the real work started.
Télégraphe was still pretty ok - not very steep, but the traffic, especially very loud motorbikes overtaking us (and leaving nasty fumes behind) didn't make it any nicer. Not a big problem yet though.
Got to the top of Col du Télégraphe around 13h30, and had a short break for obligatory photos.
We were there during the straw and hay sculpture contest, and seen quite a few fancy (and a bit uncanny) creations in passing - no time to stop and admire the art and take proper pictures though.
Especially that Galibier with its 2,642 metres of altitude was next.
Again, it started fairly easy, below 8% on average, with even more beautiful views.
Then at Plan Lachat, 8 kilometers from the top, the hammer dropped - gradient hit 10+% average, and the proper pain started. Even the views did not help anymore.
Close to the summit grass disappeared, and the moonscape like rock surfaces covered in places with snow took it place. With all the bare rocks, it did not look that much different from Mont Ventoux, done not that long ago. All the mountains around made it still quite distinct though.
Finally got to the top around 16h.
What followed was pure fun - very long, not too technical and quite fast descent back back to Bourg-d'Oisans at 160 km, where the only time cut-off were to be made, before the last challenge of the day, sucker punch summit finnish of Alpe d'Huez.
And Alpe d'Huez was a real killer, with gradient hitting 12% and more, over the 21 counted hairpins, and few extra ones not officially counted in the Alpe d'Huez itself.
It was a really long, slow and painful slog, which killed my lower back, already abused by The Beast few days earlier, when he was doing his best to get into the Émosson lake during our Chamonix Swiss trip.
The climb did take a long time, but finally made it to the top and the finish line.
Overall it was not a fast ride - took almost 12 hours (including all the stops), but I finished the distance, did all the climbing with no walking included, made the time cut-off, avoided cramps and other nasties, and got my medal - everything just one week after running the Mont-Blanc Marathon - so a very happy finisher in the end!
Now on with the proper rest, and plans for next challenges!