Wow, back home again. What a ride it was. There is so many stories to tell – and yet, I still feel so tired, and I don’t know where to begin.
But lets start with the beginning. Me and Kenneth flew to Geneva thursday morning. We were both in a good mood and confident before the big challenge. But when the car went up Alpe d’Huez I think we both realised what exactly we were up against. This mountain is steep – VERY steep.
Friday was a very long day of doing absolutely nothing. Well, apart from a 3.5 k climb to the top to register, which proved what we’ve learned yesterday. It is still VERY steep. And hot as well, which we sooner realised would make the event even more extreme.
Finally it is Saturday, the day we’ve been waiting, and preparing for, for so long.
Breakfast at 5.30, and we leave the hotel at 06:15 to make our way down Alpe d’Huez for the start in Bourg d’Oisans at 07:00. It is early, but for a Dane, who probably had 3-4 rides this year in short sleeves, I’m happy to get as many kilometres as possible out of the way before the sun starts burning for real.
The first 10k is on a flat section taking us to the foot of Col du Glandon. the average speed on this section was 47 k/hour – this race is for real! The climb is 25 k, and even though it doesn’t look that bad on the profile, it’s enough to feel the pain for the first time today (ok, maybe I should have worked that out – this is afterall a HC cat. climb). But I get to the top without too many problems before the descent, which I knew would be quite tricky. On the way down I get overtaken, by a few riders I remember passing on the way up, but nevermind…no need to risk a crash this early.
I manage to find a good group by the end of the descent for the flat section leading us to the next climb, Col du Telegraph. Telegraph is a shorter climb, but it’s a mean bastard, and I’m getting nervous as I feel the first cramps in my legs. There is really not much of a descent from this climb. It goes pretty much directly to the next one; Col du Galibier.
Now, I m really feeling the pain. I have cramps in my stomach as well, and the legs are only getting worse. It’s a 25 k climb, and you can see all the way to the top, which doesn’t help at all. The heat is starting to get to me as well, but hey, at least I know there will be snow on the top (not sure, that is a good thing though…).
Up until now, I ve been very focused on my computer studying the time and calculating whether I’m behind or ahead of schedule. I’m now slowly starting to realise, that there is a risk, that i might not get through this. The pain is indescribable. It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting in the saddle or standing – it hurts! I’m only switching position to move the cramp from one muscle to another.
The last 1 k up the Galibier just seems to go on forever, but I somehow manage to get myself over it. At the top our man Warrick is waiting with food and drinks. He is asking what I want, but I can’t even speak and he just starts filling my pockets and changing my bottles.
Now, all there is left, apart from the descent, is the 50 k ride to Alpe d’Huez and of course climbing it.
As I’m heading down Galibier I’m starting to feel better. I know that if I get to finish in less than 8.5 hours I will have earned myself a gold diploma (Brevet d’Or), so if I can keep the momentum going on the flat bits that should leave me enough time for the last climb. I start chasing a group in the horizon and I reach them after 10k, and I stay with them all the way to the beginning of Alpe d’Huez.
I’m not in a good shape at this stage, but I have a feeling that the crowd and the adrenaline will get me up the iconic Alpe. And the adrenaline did get me up….about 50 metres and then BANG the bike s moving as slow as it’s possible without falling over.
I knew this was gonna be tough, but I ve never felt pain like this before and this is much worse than expected. It is 38 degrees now and I’m completely dehydrated.
About 3-4 k up the climb, I get off the bike and starts to throw up. This is no good. I m sitting down by the side of the road, in the sun with absolutely nothing left to shoot with. I wonder what my next move should be. Well, there is really not that many options, so I get back on the bike and make my way upwards. I stop another 2 times to cool down under some of the waterfalls, which helps a bit, but at this point I’m not super confident that I’ll make it to the top.
But I did make it to the top and I cross the finish line 8 hours 28 minutes and 35 seconds after I started this morning. Plenty of margin to get within the gold medal time limit
That’s it – I’ve done it! It’s a very special feeling standing in the finish area, but even tough I’ve stopped riding, the cramps are still there. I manage to grab a plate of food and spot a few guys from our group.
This was by far the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced. But, despite al the pain, it was such a cool experience and I’m so happy I’ve done it.
After the race I promised myself never to do it again, but I’m actually already looking forward to La Marmotte 2011!
I’m ranked 1.038th (of 7.000). hardly enough to earn me a pro contract, but enough to make me feel super proud!
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