Biking, Travel

Climbs and more climbs

It’s hard to believe that less than a week ago we were in the Savoie, riding up the (in)famous Col de la Croix de Fer and l’Alpe d’Huez. I’ve decided to spare the details of all the bad stuff that happened because in retrospect it doesn’t seem like such a big deal (or maybe my sleep-deprived brain just doesn’t want to think about it anymore).

I can say that riding on that first day was QUITE an experience… Our bus dropped all the riders just outside of St-Jean-de-Maurienne ON the climb (no warm up here!) It was a ridiculous way to start but everyone was antsy to get going, so they did… right passed the turn off for the Col de La Croiz de Fer. I tried to catch the lead group which had gone up about 30 minutes before me (I didn’t know they missed the turn and in fact at that point, *I* didn’t know I had missed the turn). After about 2 hours of climbing the lead group turned and caught me as they were descending: a local had told them that they were not headed to the Croix de Fer, that in fact we were riding the Col de la Toussuire. Evidently there is a way to link the Toussuire to the Croix de Fer but the road had recently crumbled… So back down to our starting point we went. At least the descent was fun!

It was now about 1pm and it was HOT. People were getting hungry and they were quite pissed off at having gone 2 hours in the wrong direction – uphill! It was definitely our “bad call” to not have tested the ability of the riders before hand because this became an EPIC day.

The sign in St-Jean-de-Maurienne said that the next town was a mere 5K away, in the direction of the Croix de Fer. A very long story short: the sag wagon had disappeared with all our water/food (he was waiting at the top… kind of defeats the purpose), riders were walking, the bus was trying to get to us… Turns out the town ended up being 15k up the road. And I mean

self portrait up the road…

Seems pretty obvious.

Personally, I was having a lovely ride (despite being yelled at, cursed, etc). I like to climb! Unfortunately, the stress of trying to find people, vehicles, etc fried my brain and I forgot to eat. By the time I got to the last town before the Croix de Fer I was desperate for something — anything. I met up with a really nice group and we stopped at a little café for some nice cold Cokes. When I asked the owner how far to the top he said “15K”. I almost punched him. Turns out he was joking!

We were 5K to the top and they were pretty damn spectacular! I was SO happy to get to the top and grab… a coke. It was all that was left! Damn! After a quick photo op we hopped back on for the 25K descent into Bourg-d’Oisan which is the base of Alpe d’Huez.

Done! I was STOKED!

When we finally got to Bourg-d’Oisan, we were still hoping to be able to ride l’Alpe d’Huez, or at the very least catch a bus to the top. However, the very strict transportation laws prevented our driver from being able to go anywhere but back to Mégeve (this particular AMAZINGLY talented drive drove a 63-person bus up and over the Col de La Croix de Fer. It’s kind of like driving a bus , well, I have no comparison. Suffice to say he said he’ll never do it again). This transportation restriction led to me sitting in a parking lot (waiting for Ryan), with 30 bikes, for 2.5 hours in the dark. Oh yeah, in my chamois. Gross.

I still can’t believe the bus went up this – the image doesn’t do it justice.

At the end of the day, my heart rate monitor/computer showed that I had ridden for a total of about 6.5 hours, fueled by 4 water bottles, 2 cokes and 1/2 a powerbar. Not exactly ideal. Didn’t bonk though, which I am still trying to understand.

Day 2 led us back to l’Alpe d’Huez on 2 hours of sleep, but that’s a whole other story! Time for me to get some much needed sleep!

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