28 June 2006

Epic France — Day 3

Col du Tourmalet, Luz Ardiden, Col du Soulor.

There are 3 big climbs on the route today. The Luz Ardiden is actually an optional extra for the camp. If some one decides to skip it they will still be credited for doing the full ride on the plan. Its an out and back to a ski station just off of our loop so it will be pretty easy to skip if the Tourmalet does some serious damage. We had a KOM and lunch at the top of the Tourmalet today.

More later. John has told me to put what I’ve got on the memory stick and he’ll get it off to Brian our web dude to get this up. Since its already lunchtime at day 4 I figure its time to get something up on the site! Needless to say we’ve had no access to internet until now.



Day 3 continued

The Tourmalet is a very prestigious, well-known climb and there were a lot of people out riding it today. We also saw lots of vans with bike racks and some tour company logo on the sides. The number of really old dudes (over 60) out riding the climb was very impressive. Will we be out riding the toughest climbs in Europe when we’re over 60? I don’t f…n think so!!! I was joking with Mike Montgomery today that we’ll be well and truly retired to the golf courses of the world by then. Cuz these mountains are damn hard. To average 10km/hour for the climb is pretty studly for the average cyclist so that’s 2 hours of hard slog for most people who ride it.

Gordo got the KOM on the Tourmalet today just in front of Mike Montgomery. They had John Newsom for company for a while today but his lack of prep certainly showed as he hit the wall with about 4km to go. I passed him just before the top and he said he was completely shattered and he looked it! At a 8-10% incline if you’re shattered there’s just no place to re-group.

I rode up most of the mountain with Ed McDevitt who now lives in Boulder. I’ve been working with Ed for about 2+ years now and he’s traded a life as a successful 50-60 hour/week hedge fund trader working and living in NYC for a life in Boulder being a tri-bum! Needless to say he’s having a pretty good time. He told me today he knows every single inch of the trails and roads in Central Park.

At the top of the mountain Ian had the van there for us and we had lunch. It was a bit rushed as the weather stated to look ominous and at with a 5,000ft. descent to start with we didn’t muck about. We took some photos at the summit and there were a ton of Llamas and sheep running around along with a few hundred tourists. It’s a hell of a sight sitting on top of that mountain so it was nice that we could enjoy it for a few minutes. Then we had a hell of a great time blazing down that sucker. I find it difficult to comprehend how more professional cyclists don’t die descending these mountains. First they have to go to their limit to get to the top and then plummet straight down the other side trying to hang onto the best descenders in the world. Although the roads for the most part are excellent on the highest peaks there is a bit of dodgy roads like most ski areas. The animals that hang out on the Tourmalet obviously have a favorite side to. The side we descended was covered in their droppings.

After the Tourmalet we hit Luz Ardiden right away. That climb is 13km at between 7-10% incline. Not a lot of traffic in summer up to the ski areas that are dead end roads. What a gorgeous valley that ski area sits in. Near the top today we had a hell of a storm roll in and blast the crap out of us. Most people elected to bundle up and head down right away but I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back down in that weather as it was probably less than 10 degrees C at the top. Even though I had a wind vest, my best jacket, nylon mittens and a warm hat it was just too damn cold for me. When doing a major descent like that you get so cold you start to shake and shimmy, its difficult to squeeze the brakes, and can lose control of your bike. Plus its tough to see anything with your glasses covered in rain. So I checked every door to find one that was open and managed to sneak inside. There was one of those nice coin-operated espresso machines in there too and it was turned on! So Jeff Shilt (Dr. J) from Winston-Salem, NC and Jonathan Kelly from Pittsburgh, PA joined me in there to wait out the storm.I could have stayed in there for hours as the coffee was decent and it was warm. It cleared a bit so we headed down but then it returned about 10 minutes into the descent and we f…..n froze. We caught up to Ed on the way down who had a huge cut in the side-wall of his tire and was too frozen to do much about it. Luckily Ian found him in the van to give him a new wheel. My little trio found a casino to hang out in to warm up in with another coffee heading home. When we left there Jeff kindly pulled us the next 20km to the bottom of the next mountain. There was still the 3,500 ft. climb back up to the Col du Soulor to do and it was a pretty slow, just survive it sort of climb.

Some people still needed to do their run for the day so I extended the 7pm deadline that we’ve been using for every one to be done with their training. So some people who didn’t run at 6am this mourning headed out to slog around the mountain in the mist. What a damn long day.

Mike Peters kept going past our accom. to the top of the Col du Abisque again to get to 200km for the day to get an extra 2 points to stay in the hunt for the camp yellow jersey. To tack on that extra 20km today was huge. Michael did our Aussie Epic so has a good idea what he can tolerate in terms of fatigue. But its still early days yet!

We’re still shrouded in the clouds up here on the mountain top. Hopefully we’ll get a few more views tomorrow.