Day 2 – Chamousset to Monetier les Bains (part II)

8 Sep

To be honest, I don’t feel in any better shape tonight to write the catch up blog from Galibier yesterday – but here goes….

I wrote that last night, then bashed out 400 words of fine prose, only for it to go “phut” in the tinterweb, so the following will likely be more brief as I have 2 further catch up blogs to write tonight.

In retrospect the 70km “transit” to get to the bottom of Col de Telegraphe was a little ambitious (at the pace the peleton set), although the scenery was fantastic along the valley.  There was a nasty but short climb leading up to a coffee stop before we started on the Col.  Matt Claridge administered some TLC on his beloved, with assistance from Pete the mechanic:

Along the valley a little  further and the climb began.  There are markers every kilometer up the mountain, with distance to go until the Col and average gradient for the following kilometer.  You may think these are a curse (in which case, you don’t look) or a blessing (like me, looking for each one to count down the distance until the top).  For mere mortals like me, any gradient of 5-6% is quite manageable, 7-8% is a quite tough over any distance, 8-9% is really hard work and anything over 10% is horrible.  More comparators later.

The road up Col de Telegraphe winds up through the pine forest – the smell of the pine resin and the sounds of the crickets telling you that you are not far from wilderness.  The air is warm and humid but gets fresher as you ascend through the seemingly endless switchbacks.  The group quickly split up according to ability, which left me near the back – I would have been at the back had Richard Bruton not dropped his chain at the bottom and Chikashi (“Chik”) Miyamoto decided – very wisely – to take a break after every kilometer.  We all received a clap from the group as we ascended the Col and obligatory photos were taken:

That’s me in the light blue towards the left, with Mike Boles doing an impression of how steep it was.

 The top of the Col is still within the tree line but the air is brisk and you cannot stay around long without feeling cold.  Lunch was the next stop in the ski village of Valloir, and we descended through a sweeping road into the village.  Lunch was a rather-too-hearty lasagna and (thanks to Richard O’Connell) a carafe of red wine – neither improved the afternoon performance.  Before set off, I felt the need for a snooze in the sunshine:

Onwards to the beast – Col de Galibier.  The road out of Valloir was long, straight and initially too steep for any form of comfortable progress.  Richard O’Connell kindly tried to pace me but I had to wave him away with thanks – I needed to find my own pace.  Thankfully, there was a level stretch that allowed me to regain my composure before the road started ascending again:

I was quickly in my lowest gear – a little worrying given the slope  was only 6% or so, and there was much worse to come.  The heat was also rising and it was a godsend when I came across Chik in the shade of a tree at the roadside – by the 12k sign.  I decided at that moment that his was a winning strategy.  Galibier effectively starts 9k before the summit – the 10k leading up to that is just a gentle beginning.  Just before 9k out, the road rounds a left hand bend, after which you can see the road meet the end of the valley, cross a bridge and ascend back sharply up the other side of the valley.  This is a photo looking back the other way (I’d just come up the lower road by the restaurant, then up the hill to where the photo was taken):

The photo in my part 1 blog for day 2 looks down over the first few switchbacks.  I was taking it 1k at a time – and frankly finding it tough going.  From 6k to 3k out it is really hard going at 8%+ around the contours of the land.  The last 3k is brutal – not least because you can see the top with such steep roads leading up to it.  At this point – a word for Jeff (the Docter) and Pete (the mechanic) in the trailing support van – they did a supe job, staying with me and Chik the whole way, until a handover to Claude (the lead driver) at 2k from the top, so they could take the bags to the hotel.  Around then, Mike’s wife Gwen came down from the pass to chivvy me on – thanks Ettie and Loren for the poster on the back of the car – really cheered me up!

The ascent to the Col was very hard – at 1k, there is a tunnel through the mountain and it is very tempting to take it:

…… however, the route was up and over (the road to the Col ends just to the left of the left sign in the above picture) – a 10%+ climb, and on very tired legs is really testing.

After a quick photo at the top….

….change into warm clothes and it was down the other side into Monetier les Bains – it’s quite an amazing descent – 15k of tight switchbacks and sweeping turns.  It’s the longest time so far that I have been downhill on a bike.  The beers were lined up at Bar l’Alpin by the team.  After one of those, a quick trip to the hotel to change and down to the thermal spa for a hot bath and a massage.  The outdoor hot tub in view of the ski piste is top notch!

The fatigue really set in for me over dinner – I was pooped – I could hardly cut the cote de boeuf (no disrespect) and didn’t really feel part of the banter.  The rest of the group enjoyed the local hooch (called?).  I left early and decided to get some sleep to prepare for the next day – also very challenging.  Still, it was good to get the 8th highest Col in Europe and a Tour de France favourite under the belt.


One Response to “Day 2 – Chamousset to Monetier les Bains (part II)”

  1. R1 September 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    Congratulations to all the bikers. It’s nice to follow your trip on this blog. The local hootch you had might be Génépi ? Forbiden by the International Cycling Union. Have fun and good luck for the last step.
    Erwan (Mike’s brother in law)

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