19 August 2011

Epic Camp France 2011 Day 5- Briancon - Annecy

Epic Camp France 2011 Day 5 - Briancon - Annecy (& observation of Russell Cox)
August 18

While the others had a leisurely tourist run around Briancon prior to breakfast I had some work done on my ailing calves by our massage therapist Anna. Id’ like to get back to some gentle running once I get back home and know the first step is to get them rubbed daily for a week+.
Having struggled with calf problems for the 10 years leading up to 2010 I know how to get them better and thought I was doing OK with my maintenance, but have obviously lapsed.
My 20-month injury-free period prior to last week has given me time to become complacent about the work I need to do to keep running.
We rolled out the door at 9:10am after breakfast and had a nice w/up of around 10km up the Cold d’Lauretet before Steven Lord decided to keep the pace “honest”.  When I heard him say that we still had over 20km to go to the top of the Galibier so I cranked up the iPod in anticipation of the pain to come.
 As Steven, Clas and Zach slowly pulled off into the distance I settled in behind John hoping for another steady tow up a mountain.  And what a mountain it is.
The Galibier certainly deserves respect.  Its a magnificent climb and the views rival the Dolomites for granduer.  
Zach got the KOM and evened up the points between him and Clas, Steven was right there followed by Rob Palmer from Singapore.  That’s right - Singapore!  Not a mountain to be found there but the guy seems very at home here in the Alps.
There were a hell of a lot of cyclists out on the mountain today just like yesterday on the Alp D’Huez. 
The descent down the other side is long.  Very long.
There’s a little blip of a climb out of the town you come to (forget the name) that is near the top of the Telegraphe which was  very fun descent.  We re-grouped at the bottom where Newsom saw he had a puncture on his front wheel - lucky he didn’t go down with that.
From where we stopped at the bottom of the Telegraphe to the top of the Galibier there is a total of 2200m of ascent.  That would be a long day going up.  My arms were sore from the descent!
Then we had a very long, straight run on a pretty busy road to cover the next 50km to lunch.  Russell and Rob P quickly got us through the next 50km gradual descent to lunch into a hot headwind. 
    A little sidebar here............Russell Cox.
Its been really gratifying for me to see Russell’s maturation as an athlete.  This is his 4th Epic Camp (its Steven's 4th also) so I’ve got to see a lot of him over the years, have followed his progress and results at races, and like to think these camps have played a  role in his development as an athlete.
  I’ve called him a “slow learner” in the past and that was a bit harsh because he’s learned this trade well from the beginning.  What is fair to say though is he’s not a speedy developer at this long stuff, but his diligent, patient work over the last 5 years is showing now.   He’s a great example of the tortoise and the hare scenario.  IM racing takes time for most people, some longer than others. He’s learnt to enjoy the process which is absolutely critical if you aren’t a speedy developer.  
  Its been really great to see Russell take the role of setting the tempo at the front on the flat and gradual downhill parts of the ride.  Gordo used to take on that role when he was leading these camps and Russell had spent lot of time on previous camps sitting in, seeing just how strong you need to be to sit at the front hour after hour, day after day when you’re just as tired as everyone else.  To pull very steady for hours at 40-45kph when you know everyone behind you is getting a very easy ride takes a lot of character -  fitness, strength and character that takes a damn long time and a ton of work to gain.
 30 C at lunch and I shouldn’t have eaten so much because the next climb which looked like a little blip on the altitude profile next to the Galibier turned out to be a knarly 8km grunt which was started at 3pm in the heat of the day at over 30C.  That’s the hottest I have been in a very long time - since Kona ’10 I think.  I was melting.
      Lunch in the sun - this desert lizard was a happy camper.
 But the smile soon wore off as it was nearly straight up into the next climb a few minutes after we got going again. 
 Douglas led the way up the climb and although he looked a bit like a drown rat at the top the guy can certainly climb well when he wants to, especially considering the previous 4 days and his age ( 51 ).  This is his 5th Epic Camp and he never ceases to surprise me with a spurt now and then when he's feeling good.
    One more decent climb of 7km and then we finally dropped into Annecy.  What a fabulous spot.  Looks a bit to me like the Lake Como area of Italy.  Big lake, lots of $$$, zillions of holiday-makers along the lake.  We hoped on the bike path for the last 10km around the lake to our accom. due to the roads being bumper-bumper. The whole place is just packed.  We arrived at 5:45.  That's 8.5 hours and 185km after setting out and lunch was our only significant break of over 10 minutes.  
Nice to see Randy at dinner and catch up on his solo day.  He opted for a headstart to take it easier up the first climb but was feeling better today so we never caught up to him.  Long way to go on your own in a strange land.  Without the Garmin GPS going solo would be a hell of a lot harder.
Great dinner tonight. A generous supply of wine and a wonderful, perky receptionist/waitress helped the mood considerably.
 We had a good chuckle early-er to see Clas come down to the lobby _shirtless_ a couple of times to ask this pretty young lady something...........