Sunday, August 3, 2014

Day 4 Alpe d'Huez!!

The weather was decent on Day 4.  No sun but not pouring down rain.  All was well except for my horrible eating on Day 3.  Why oh why did I think a cheeseburger and duck confit would be a good eatng plan???  Well the tummy was not happy (SHUTUPTUMMY).  I figured it may be a pull over and barf kind of day and my dreams of a 30minute ascent of Alpe d’Huez was dashed. 
It just looks like any old mountain side right?
We began the descent from La Grave to Bourg d’Oisans (base of alpe) and had my first tunnel experiences on a bike.  Let me just say I do not like tunnels on a bike.  They are narrow, dark and any car that enters the tunnel sounds just like a Mack truck roaring up behind you.  And then it passes you and it is a teeny tiny Fiat.  Oye. 

My legs were NOT happy either (SHUTUPLEGS).  The first little climb felt awful and I figured another long day in the saddle.  But hey, I’m riding my bike (OK, A bike) in France.  Suck it up buttercup – when will you get to do this again?  Despite the pissy tummy and legs, I was still excited to do this iconic climb. 

The group gathered at the base of the climb and got suited up.  Guide Lisa was driving the van today and was getting everyone fired up with music and a generally awesome attitude.  And then it was time to begin. 
What have I gotten myself into??

We are going up there!!!

Laura Lee and Lisa had both warned us that the first 3 switchbacks were the steepest and that is where you usually see the most carnage.  So take it easy.  And, there are not 21 switchbacks.  Most people stop right when they hit the town at the top – there are all sorts of “fake ” finish lines.  But the TDF finish line happens after switchback 0 (thus 22). 

The road immediately turns up and you are climbing.  I had my bike in my lowest gear and it stayed there the remainder of the ascent.  Climbing was a combination of in the saddle and out of the saddle and yes, those first 3 switchbacks were a beotch.  Since my tummy was gross and I knew I wasn’t going to win the ascent, I lowered my heart rate targets and just kept a somewhat “comfortable” pace going up. 

The climb is stunning.  Absolutely gorgeous.  And unlike the other climbs we had done, this one had marker signs for each switchback counting down.  So the first sign was 21 and the grade for that section was like 22%.  Or 10%.  I don’t really remember.  I got in a groove and started counting down signs.  And then I would argue with whoever did the signs when I thought for sure that counted as a switchback yet there was no sign. 

The coolest part of the climb?  Well, there are several.  Starting with seeing the names of your favorite dopers riders painted all over the road.  The next was seeing all of the people out there on their bikes!  I thought I was doing great passing people until I would look over and see that the girl I was passing was 12.  On a mountain bike.  And then there was the 80 year old man on a fixie.  I am not kidding.  I had been passed by an 8 year old boy at some point who must have had a 36 on his rear derailleur the way he was spinning his legs.  He stopped at the first “finish” line he saw.  I smiled as I passed him back and knew that I had just crushed the 8 year old.  HA!!!!  I cruised through the village, hit the right turn at Intersport, nailed the first roundabout and then promptly missed the next roundabout.  I ended up with Daniel (fellow tour member and hilarious Brit) at the golf course.  We were pretty certain that it wasn’t the finish line.  So we turned back and finally got to the finish.  Pretty fucking awesome. 

After taking off the time for the missed turn, the 4 flat tires, the guy that needed CPR and the 9 holes of golf I played, my “official” time came in around 10minutes.  Take that Lance!!!

Lisa was waiting at the top with champagne and a medal!!! My first medal of the year –so excited!
The sun even came out at the top!!!
Dad nailed the climb at age 70 – just 10 minutes slower than what he did 10 years ago.  Nice.  Nicole made it up too.  So proud!!!

The rest of the day?  A very long lunch at the top, some shopping and then time to finish up the ride.  With a bitch of a climb up Col de Sarenne (8-9% average grade over 5k) and then a death defying descent down the back.  Yea, that wasn’t fun.  Skinny road covered with gravel and drops off the side.  My hands hurt after that.  Then one more climb back to La Grave after that and we finally made it back to L’Edelweiss.

What a day!!!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 3 Rain Day

Today was supposed to be Col du Telegraphe and Galibier (highest climb of the tour).  But it continued to pour down rain.  We considered Alpe d'Huez.  But it was 38 degrees 3k from the summit.  So it was decided to wait until the next day for that epic climb regardless of the weather.  The group drove 2 hours from Menthon to Bourg d'Oisans (base of Alpe d'Huez) and decided on a "recovery" day.

Me and the boys
Sounds good to me!!!  But that also meant 2 back to back brutal days (alpe d'huez followed by Telegraphe/Galibier).  It was raining but the six idiots (me included) took off for Telecabine (gondola) to Les Deux Alpes. But when we arrived at telecabine we had only been riding 35 minutes, we were warmed up and it had stopped raining.  We continued on to St. Cristophe (described as a gentle climb followed by a fairly steep climb to St. Cristophe).

I thought we had done the steep climb.  I was ready to turn around and go to lunch.  But Lisa pointed up at the side of the mountain and the road. Wha???  It was literally straight up the effing mountain.  No joke.  The switchbacks were incredibly steep.  I refused to look to the right because it was straight down.  Don't look down don't look down.  Just keep pedaling just keep pedaling.  But this valley was unbelievably gorgeous.  The waterfalls were amaze balls.  The town we came into was just classic Europe.  Flowers everywhere, skinny streets, the church and the gravestones with dates of 1914 and earlier.
Of course, when we decided to stop, Lisa mentioned that we had blown off "recovery" day.  Yeah, that made sense since we had just climbed 3k+ in 30k.  Ouch.
Waterfalls everywhere!

The descent was a bit scary….do not look down!!  But in no time we were on the telecabine to the ski area base of Les Deux Alpes.  I am totally coming back here one day to ski - it looks fabulous.  We stopped into a pub and I was freezing my arse off.  I switched into some dry clothes and slammed a hot chocolate laced with cognac and baileys and whipped cream.  And then had a cheeseburger and fries.  (remember this for Day 4)

Food service does NOT happen quickly in France.  So after what seemed like forever, we finally ate and decided to descend and then ascend to La Grave.  But after the descent, the cheeseburger was wanting to make a second appearance and I opted for the van ride to La Grave.  Not proud but I also didn't want to blow chunks on my bike.

The day ended with a lovely massage with Bruno who is now known as my moto-man.  Yes, after the massage he gave me a couple of pills - which he said were all natural but would help me up Alpe d'Huez in the morning.  I really didn't care what they were - if he had said EPO - whatevs!!  I'm in!!!

Then a lovely team dinner at the hotel where I had duck for the first (and maybe last) time.  (once again, remember this for day 4)  My sis had planned a 70th birthday celebration cake for my dad and everyone had a blast eating cake and wearing silly sunglasses.  Great hotel, great staff, great dinner. (Hotel: L'Edelweiss)
Dad's sunglasses "Older Butwiser"