T2MC – day 2

6 Sep

I was a little zoned out over dinner on Day 1, so went to bed early to try to get some rest.   I woke up with the usual slightly queasy feeling – but managed some cereal and coffee.  There was a hot plate to make your own fried eggs and Mark Davison did the “what does this remind you of….” gag with two wobbly eggs….couldn’t help but smile!   

For day 2 – we staggered the start so that the slower riders (including me) had a head start on the faster riders, with the loose objective of meeting together at the first stop of the day.  As it happened, the strategy worked very well.

At 7am in the Alps, the air is quite chilly and my knees tend to take a good half hour to warm up – so I was fully rugged up against the cold when we set off and I stayed wrapped up all day to keep the knees warm.

The day’s route was an interesting variation – forced by necessity but welcome nonetheless.   The first 2 Cols were in fact on the main Turin to Briancon road.  Briancon is at a major, historic alpine cross roads, evdenced by the huge castles on the mountains either side of the town.

We had descended from the Colle Della Finestre to a small town on the main road (I cannot honestly remember the name, sorry).  The road to Briancon passes through 2 ski resorts – Sestriere (a Winter Olympics venue) on the Italian side and Montgenevre on the French side.  The road through each town is a wide road, very different from the wooded tracks we experienced on day 1.  Thankfully, the road was quiet and we made good progress, all arriving within 10 minutes of each other in Montgenevre.

By this stage, the sun was out in a virtually cloudless sky and stayed that way all day – though from here the forecast is for unsettled weather.

Special thanks from me to Alastair Robson, who paced a group of us up both of the first 2 Cols – and continued the favour for me up the Col d’Izoard later.

The descents from both towns on the main road were faaaassssst – broad sweeping bends to swoop around at high speed, with the occasional transit van (or Maserati) doing a casual near miss.  Again, the GoPro footage is spectacular – just need to work out how to upload it.  However, no photos from me up to this point – nothing interesting enough to take a picture of (or at least distract from grinding away to get up the hill).

We passed through Briancon and soon started to ascend the Col d’Izoard.  There are a few photos posted on last year’s blog of the ascent – gave me an excuse not to stop on the way and just plough on.  Alastair did me a real favour by letting me hold his wheel – gave me some focus and allowed me to regulate my effort.  The first stop was just less than a third up the mountain and after that it was one big dig up to the top.

After feeling so strong yesterday, I was a little too blase about this climb at the beginning.   Once going, I found it really tough – particularly the last 3 km – it is an Hors Categorie (beyond classification) climb in the Tour, so guess it should be hard work!  I had to ask Alastair to slow down at one point and he kindly obliged – and I’m not ashamed to admit that we went from side to side up the road to reduce the effective gradient.  But at least I didn’t stop at every km marker like last year.   Alastair and I emerged over a brow with 1km to go and saw the last few very steep switchbacks to the Col. There was (as last year) a photographer waiting on a bend to catch the punters and we both mustered up a “we’re fine, really” expression – despite feeling anything but (http://www.griffephotos.com/AppleMark,en,ipf2140p80n123.html).

Still, I managed to take some pictures at the top, which is more than I could do last year.

Me at Izoard Me at the top of Col d’Izoard

After some refreshments (no fresh coffee this year – Gideon said it was the coffee kit or the first aid kit) we headed down in the bright sunshine.  The view through the first few turns was so stunning, I had to stop and get a picture:

Izoard descent

Almost immediately I started off again, Tim Briggs took a tumble after avoiding a motorbike in one of the switchbacks. Landed on his chest but dusted himself off and we continued down. After stopping at the Fausto Coppi memorial, I passed Hank and Richard and we played cat and mouse down through the next village – we reached 46.9mph – not quite a PB for me but felt very fast.

After the lunch stop, we had to climb another 500m on tired legs, but at least it was towards the Colle d’Agnel – our first climb of day 3.

We compared GoPro footage before dinner and I wrote this blog after dinner – another fantastic alpine feast.  Took a couple of stiff Neurofen before bed time to ward off the achy knees and slept fitfully, knowing there was a very big day ahead. 



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