N2A – day 3 – Chorges To Bourg D’Oisans

24 Sep

Here’s the day in summary: CH THRESH 2014 MAP DAY 3

Distance: 112.4 km

Total elevation: 2536 m

Total descent: 2688 m

I had euphemistically called this “Rest Day” in the lead up to the trip – but it wasn’t going to be a soft touch.

We started to climb immediately we emerged from the hotel. Really tough on cold legs, plus the weather looked a bit iffy. My sister Karen had bought me a Dr Seuss cycling top (which, along with my red Oakley’s, earned me a penalty shot at the celebration dinner on day 5) – but it’s “not in the rain” on the back seemed to do the trick and we weren’t rained on all day.

Above the hotel the hillside turned into mountainside as the road winds its way up and up through the farms and fields. It was a 600m climb to the Col de Moissiere at 1,573m.

I started with Will and Jason, but they were in a similar zone which was a little quicker than the pace I was comfortable at, so I climbed the rest on my own, enjoying the chilly but bright morning. I felt reasonably strong toward the top and couldn’t resist accelerating as I felt someone catch me on the last turn – Nick Law, who was probably just being kind by not overtaking me!

When I arrived at the Col, Will and Jason were there and photos taken.

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Pete handed out the warm clothes for the descent and we went down together.   Nick is a notoriously rapid downhill rider and went past us early. Jason, Will and I went as a reasonable pace but allowed ourselves to take in the scenery. The winding mountain road opened up to a wide valley around Ancelle that had a “Shangri-la” feel to it – hidden from civilisation and lost in time – it wouldn’t have surprised me if there was a horse-drawn plough in the fields (though we didn’t see one). It was a beautiful place.

There was another descent down a good road where we could test out our speed (I tried but failed to get over 42mph on this trip – nowhere near my record of 47mph – must need some lube in the hubs!). Drew came past at this point and told me later he’d managed over 50mph (on 25mm tyres)!

Three of the group missed a turning at this point but were picked up by Lee and returned to the path.

Next up was Col de Parquetout – 1,382m, and a feed stop at the top as an incentive to get a move on. Mark and I partnered up for that one. We had started from 800m, so the climb was only a further 500m. Still, the salami and cheese on baguette was very welcome and the view down to the next valley was impressive.

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After making the Col, there was a further 50m vertical metres of climb above the pass, which was without doubt the steepest section of the whole trip – I’m going to guess 20% more or less. One of the Irish boys behind me let out a world class cuss, which I cannot remember precisely and I doubt it would make it through a respectable firewall if I tried to write it down – but I recall testicles and copulation were involved.

The descent was quite hairy – steep and wet, with a worrying amount of (very slippery) green moss on the road under the overhanging trees, so most of us took it easy (Hank, Drew and Lionel didn’t hold back).   When the road opened out a little, we entered a deep chasm with the road literally stuck onto the side of the cliff. I’m not prone to vertigo but it needed effort to focus on the road and not the thousand+ foot drop on the right (also tough when you are riding on that side and can see over the edge on each turn).

Here is a photo of the bottom of that road (the thin ribbon left of the middle), taken from the Alpe D’Huez side the next day…

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The road eventually entered the valley between Alpe D’Huez and Les Deux Alpes (lower right in the above photo) and we joined the main road from Biancon to Grenoble, which ran straight for the next 7km as we pace lined to the night’s hotel, the BelleDonne.

The hotel was a roadside motel and “travel worn”, but the bar was open and the masseurs waiting for us. Mike Boles – a G2MC veteran – lives over the Lauteret pass in Monetier les Bains, and joined us for a beer here with fellow G2MC veterans Mark and Nick.

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Gideon’s after dinner briefing promised a tough next day with Alpe D’Huez to tackle and then a third of the Col de Croiz de Fer before the first break. I felt the onset of an AF episode at dinner, so I went upstairs to take a pill and Will came up soon afterwards to check I was ok.

In the event, I still had AF the next morning but I took my usual beta blocker and it settled down soon after I got up, so I thought I would see how it went after the warm up.

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