Day 3 – Monetier les Bains to Jauziers

8 Sep

The less experienced riders – myself included – woke up anxious and slightly nauseous.  The ride the day before had been SO challenging, another day like that seemed a nightmare.

It was a chilly morning in the mountains, so after stretching exercises…

…we all rugged up to pedal the 15km down the valley to Briancon, where the climb to Col d’Izoard starts.  The road is a main road, so we formed a long pace line and pedalled quite hard to warm up and get to the strart of the climb.  The fast descent into the town was exciting – the drop in elevation in a single town is incredible, particularly for those of us who live in Bermuda.  Gideon had set up in a car park so we could take the warm clothes off and the climb started immediately right out of the car park.

The initial climb was suprisingly gentle – 5 – 6% – a real relief given the terrain previous day, although the first sign was 19k to the summit – the longest climb so far.  We pedalled out of the town into a river valley, in the shadows – which was cold but perfect riding conditions.  The road was quiet – unlike the Telegraphe and Galibier, where the many big (generally German) touring bikes take the racing line through each corner.

The road climbed steeply – 8-9% – up into the pine forests.  I settled into my rythym of a stop every 1k, which put me well behind the pack.  Lionel Poggio – without doubt the strongest rider of the group – came back down the pass to 3k and rode with me all the way – encouraging me and, very wisely, suggesting I pedal slower so I don’t “go into the red”.  Sure enough, we made the last 3k without stopping.  The view from the top was spectacular:

  

Gideon was ready with the snacks and hot coffee (I didn’t have any, for fear of upsetting my already precarious body chemistry).

The descent from the Col was absolutely amazing.  After the first 20 or so hairy turns, the curves were sweeping an enjoyable.  The descent of the day before was surpassed – 30k all downhill, through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever experienced….

As the descent moved into a river valley, the wind – surprisingly and mercifully absent from the Cols – became a hard headwind.  I’ve never worked harder pedalling downhill!

Lunch was at a hotel with a garden complete with ducks, fishpond – and deckchairs!  After some spag bol, the group lobbied hard for a delayed start, giving us an hour post-lunch to let lunch go down.  We met and greeted some of the Tokio riders doing a similar (but even more challenging) route to us.  Thankfully they had an even later start so only their strongest riders overtook us in the afternoon!

Next up was the Col de Var, which sits above a skiing village.  The road up through the village of Var is actually the steepest part of the climb.  By this stage, I was REALLY suffering and needing at least 5 mins break at each km.  Jeff, the team doctor, was regularly giving me the option to get back in the van, but I felt that with regular breaks I could take it slow and make it up.

Counting down the km to the top (and the flies, millions of them), I gathered my energy and made the Col – to be fair, it flattened out at the top but I had completely had it by then anyway.

The descent was another fantastic experience, although lower down I had to pedal even harder downhill through the wind.  Again, I was with Chik as we finished in Jauziers – beers already lined up and Mark Davison on the slab outside having a massage.

I confess that by now I was feeling quite ill.  I lasted through dinner’s main course (turkey lumps – in a good way – and potatoes au gratin) but had to bail before desert and get to bed.  I really wasn’t feeling right and just wanted to get to sleep early to see if it made any difference….

…it didn’t.

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2 Responses to “Day 3 – Monetier les Bains to Jauziers”

  1. Gordy Benson September 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Keep going big fella, if I can get up McGalls Hill you can get up the Alps. G

  2. John Milsom September 9, 2012 at 4:43 am #

    It’s funny how the little things start to make a difference, like the road surface, which on the izzoard was really pleasant but on the Galibier seemed to be against us all the way! Another great day!

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