Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mega Avalanche Race 2007. Ouch.

Wow, Whoooo, Whoopee, Whoa and Ouch.

5 words that sum up hurtling down hills near Alpe D'Huez from a non "downhill" guy.

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We spent an ace week in Allemont camping at the "Grande Calme". Met loads of nice peeps, French, Dutch, German, and even some Brits.

The riding was mad. I'm used to sore legs and lungs, not sore hands from braking.

I met and rode with some guys who were well out of my league. Good to learn loads of new technique, that is for the brief while I could stay with them boys. I crashed a few times, maybe 8/10 for effort, thankfully pads and the full face helmet saved most of the blood letting. Sadly Neil we met on evening one had broke his collar bone by afternoon two. There were plenty of other casualties too over the week. Glad to have paid for helicopter insurance, even if on this occasion I did not need it.

The qualifing race was good, I took it easy not aiming for a high place, just aiming to get to the end.

Race day, and a start of 8:30 onwards meant a leisurely start compared to the fast boys. The glacier was slushy and rutted at the top. Nothing for it, than to pick a line and to lob oneself down the hill. Avoiding the other (over) enthusiastic riders being the key.

Proper rocky stuff follows then, singletrack, grassy stuff, wet stuff, etc etc zzzzzz.

Hurtling down a grassy slope, tarmac in view, a small "hazard" sign shows. I've ridden this before, but can't remember what might be the hazard, then, crash. I'd scrubbed a bit of speed, though not enough to stop for the 2 foot deep ditch, and yet not enough speed left to jump it. Straight over the bars, landing on my shoulder (armour) and soon after full face helmet.
The crowd goes Oooh.

Up, check, unharmed, and I'm off again.

Raced as hard as I could to the bottom.

8th out of 30 odd in the Mega Infinty for the over 40s

Monday, July 23, 2007

Alpe D'Huez Fixed.

I like lots of cyclists have always fancied my chances against this legendary climb.

Unfortunately the only bikes I have on this trip are the Scandal and my beefed up Commencal for the Mega at the end of the week.

The lowest gear I could find in my box was equivalent to a roadie 39:23.

Would it be low enough, or would I be reduced to walking ?

Ann and the kids left me at the bottom of the hill by the roundabout. Within minutes the gradient kicked upwards. No warming up on this ride 14.5 km to the top, with an average gradient of 8ish%, and 21 hairpin bends, and this is the first of them.

I see my first target as I approach the second bend,a roadie who is having a steady ride up the hill. I by contrast am on the edge of my game unable to sit down, just stomping on the pedals, can't go slower, can't go faster.

I pass him, and shortly after, am myself passed by a roadie in somewhat more of a hurry. I try to tag on, and almost immediately go into oxygen debt.

I realise that trying to race people up this hill is going to result in disaster, so I settle into a rhythm, and vow to save any 'racing' for the last couple of bends.

Ann and the kids were going to cheer and take pics, and heading towards bend 10, I could hear the kids ringing the cow bells they have for use at races and the like.

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Go daddy go, or something like it they shouted as I headed by. Ace to have the encouragement.

There were a couple of sections that lulled me into thinking that the worst was over, but of course there was always a little extra raise in gradient to show me that it was not so.

With 4 bends to go I looked at my watch, and though realising I was going to be outside Pantani's record, I might just get in under twice his time.

Head down, I dug deep.

1hour 14 minutes 58 seconds.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tour Mont Blanc Day 3.

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Eating breakfast on the way up to the Col de Bonhomme. Hard graft pushing for the most part.

From the summit, really technical riding for the first section, thereafter easier, though loads of walkers (today being Saturday).

Good to bump into an old friend on the way down, Al Powell, who was doing the 2 day "Tour de Beaufortain" running race.

Once at the bottom more road. The climb up to Bionassay, and on to the Col de Voza being particualrly steep and tiring.

Anti climax on the final descent, as the VTT diversion was loose gravel and nowhere near as fun as the other descent.

A short day today, only 7 hours in the saddle.

Total of 175Km over the three days, moving time 22'52", giving a staggering average speed of 7.7kph.

Summary, a great route, which I walked anti-clockwise some 20 years ago. There's plenty of road, though don't underestimate the distance or the climbs, it's a tough ride, though with fantadtic scenery.

I'll be back.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tour Mont Blanc Day 2.

A more leisurely start to day 2. Away for 8 after a good nights rest.
Up towards Ferret and a sign for TMB shortly followed by a sign for la Peula.
It was steep from the start, but there were lots of walkers to chat with to numb the pain. Progress was painfully slow, including a sketchy 50 degree traverse across a shale slope. The people who I'd chatted with were now a long way up the hill in front. Any trace of a path had gone. Carrying the bike was now the only option. Up I headed for another 10 mins before stopping. This was like Simon Fell with shrubs. Retreat, the only option.
It seems in retrospect that though signed as TMB this was a variant. Not to worry, only 3 hours wasted.
Some time later I did get to la Peula. A coke and a tart apricot tart, my reward.
From there twas mostly rideable up to the Grand Col Ferret. Followed by another good descent, though mind the drainage ditches. A new country, and new driving habits, welcome to Italy.
Fast road down to Entreves, and then the climb commences into Val Veni, and on towards the Col de la Seigne.
Sore arse still, making it's self painfully apparent by now. Stunning views firstly of the Brenva glacier, and then towards the Col.
Late afternoon storms, are popular round these parts, and as I approached the Elisabetta Refuge, one started to rip.
I sprinted for shelter and avoided the worst of it. Behold though what is this a luxurious bivvy spot, that was left swept clean by another. After 10 1/2 hours on the go, I was tempted.
10 mins later the storm, what storm?

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Sunshine, long shadows, and loads of Marmots. Pushing hard now towards the Col, and puffing a bit with the altitude.
Col de la Seigne 2516 metres attained at 19:27. Destination the restaurant at les Chapieux 13ish km away with 1800 of descent.
Having narrowly missed a Marmot at 53 kph on the descent, I was seated for dinner at 20:05.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tour Mont Blanc Day1.

Departed Chamonix at 4:55am. Followed the road mainly to le Tour, and had no problem seeing with my single Dinotte light.
From le Tour to the Col de Balme, is proper up. Weighed down by my so called lightweight camping gear I pushed more than I rode.

The Col de Balme
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The descent to le Peuty was ace, singletrack heaven.
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More road, over the Forclaz then 70kph descent towards Martigny.
Great? Maybe, but the next climb up to Champex really hurt. Or I should say my arse hurt. It seems a combination of wearing a 5kg rucksack and these shorts result in pain. Shame as nowt else hurts.
After a banana and ice cream pancake, onwards to la Fouly. A mix of more great singletrack and road. After 65k and 3000m of up, i've had enough for one day. Grand Col Ferret 1st thing tomorrow, 750m up.
At least I won't have to sit on my sore bum for a while longer.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

TwentyFour12. Mud continued.

As seems to becoming the norm for these races it was again muddy. However for a change this race was gloopy from the off. Really depressing with lots of walking at first. It did improve over the next few hours, it nearly became fun? Glad to finish the 12 not long after midnight with my fastest lap, and just before some proper rain. 10 laps and 15th place. Well done to Dave who finished just behind me in his first 12.