T2MC – day 1

4 Sep

Here is was then, the real deal – no going back.

I woke before the alarm and got up for the 6am breakfast.  Looking out the window, Pete was loading up the bags already. The first thing I noticed was that I had an appetite to eat breakfast, which was totally missing last year – good sign. I also took a pre-emptive energy gel and two nuclear strength ibuprofen.

We assembled outside – nervous banter and unnecessary fiddling with the bikes (except Andrew “Chuffy” Hunter, who’s gears had been mangled overnight – no one owned up to that!). We also took the obligatory team photo:

Doesn't that kit look great - thanks Ruth and Tim (and our sponsors of course)

Doesn’t that kit look great – thanks Ruth and Tim (and our sponsors of course)

Today’s route started with a 30 mile flat-ish traverse to the village of Susa, from where the day’s fun and frolics were to start.  In part, the early start was to get clear of Turin before the traffic started in earnest, as our route out was a main road.  The riders gave me the honour of leading out the peleton (which I was delighted to do – mainly because I could control the pace!).  After about 5k a head wind whipped up and I was happy when Hank Vivier offered to take over.  Not the best road because of the lorries and cars – but at least it was a flat warm up for the first hour and a half or so.

A left turn off the road and the first stop of the day.  I knew from the Garmin that the climbing started immediately after the break – this really was it. We had stayed together for the first section, so everyone refuelled (I took another gel)….

...bottom of Colla Della Finestre

…bottom of Colla Della Finestre

….and then set off more or less together.  Less, actually – as Mark Allitt and I tried to sneak a head start but we were soon overtaken.

Our climb, the Colle Della Finestre is one of the greatest bottom to top climbs in the Alps.  The Col sits at 2,176m and the climb starts at around 400m – that’s over 1,700 vertical meters.

The first shock is the gradient of the initial section through the village of Susa – at least 15% in places (bearing in mind the scale of 5-6% reasonably manageable, 7-8% painful over a long distance, 9-10% painful over a short distance and over 10% – oh mother why am I doing this?).  After that, the road settled into something between 9 and 12% – proving the Italian Alpine climbs are generally steeper than the French ones.

After 11k, the road just ends (time for another refuel and comfort break – Hank got VERY comfortable) and is replaced by a dirt track.  For another 8k, the dirt track (complete with rocks and ruts) winds upwards through the trees until the end of the tree line. It carries on from there through the scrub to the Col.

If you say it quickly, it doesn’t sound too bad does it?  But it was brutal.  Here’s a shot of well known (brilliant) Bermuda artist, Jonah Jones, making up the last couple of turns to the Col.  It gives you sense of just how steep, narrow and generally knarly the track is.


Jason Piney paced me from the beginning of the track but, after a breath stop by a mountain farm, he had too much beans for me, so I settled into a slower rhythm.  He did shout encouragement (or was that obscenities?) from above, which spurred me on.  I was sorely tempted to stop but I’m glad I didn’t – I soon emerged into the last couple of turns, which were really rough going and in sight of the Col.  I made it to the Col about half way down the field, which was a great result after the disappointments of last year.  As I watched the other riders as pin pricks coming up the mountain, I couldn’t help thinking “thank goodness I’m not back down there”.  Some casualties – Chik came off twice on the ruts and has a bloody leg to show for it, and Mark Allitt had bad cramps that hampered his usual style.  The sweeper van came into use but I will spare the blushes of those who succumbed.

A very relieved, tired but happy chap at the top:


And for those who were sorely tempted to come but didn’t (or couldn’t – Ruth Costello, Tim Everest, Dennis Fagundo and John Milsom), here’s something of what you missed:

The team viewing from the top

Despite the sun, it started to get chilly at the top, so after waiting for most of the riders, the main group donned the softshell jacket from the team kit (Castelli – great gear) and we started a fast descent down the other side.  I caught a very narrow escape on the GoPro as a cow wandered across the road (I’ll put that on YouTube in due course) and a very fast descent by our amateur standards – I hit 40 mph – sweeping through the (blind) corners.

This year, we adopted a different approach of doing most of the cycling before lunch, so we could relax over lunch and have a longer recovery before dinner. We had a fantastic venue for lunch, in a village in the valley below the Col:

Lunch stop viewed from the well

After lunch a short (but hard – thanks Olli and Jason) ride up to the hotel, I am writing this with a beer next to me.  Knees a little achy but otherwise ok – mind you, I haven’t tried to stand up for an hour!

Kudos to Lionel and some of the hard core cyclists – they did another 30k afterwards. Er…not me.

More fun tomorrow.



5 Responses to “T2MC – day 1”

  1. Jo Stanton September 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Brilliant! Thanks for the update and great photos. Good luck for the next 4 days.

  2. Simon Piney September 4, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Great work Charlie, both on the blog and the bike. Please keep going on both. Sounds a little steeper than the “lighthouse” climb you guys told me was the toughest hill on Bermuda! Simon Piney

  3. Simon Moore September 4, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    That’s one mudda of a brutal climb, well done!

  4. Tim Goodyer September 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    Wonderful Day 1 report Charles, keep up the good work

  5. Richard B September 5, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Congrats Charlie good work, great photos, wish i was there (again)!

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