Thursday 7 July 2011

La Marmotte and Grimpee de l'Alpe

I pitched up last weekend along with 4 teammates to enjoy La Marmotte, the famous Alpine Cyclosportive that takes in four mountain climbs (Glandon, Telegraphe, Galibier and Alpe d'Huez).  I had never riden in the Alps and this ride seemed more worth the trip than the Alpine Etape which takes in Galibier and Alpe d'Huez (I plan on doing the St Fleur/Issoire one instead now we have a choice!)
The day we arrived (Thursday) I clumsely put the rear derailleur on crooked when rebuilding my bike (rather easily done especially wiht a multitool with too short an allen key).  Do learn from my mistake and exercise extreme care to screw your rear derailleur on straight.  When I got to a slope (never far away in Alpe d'Huez) and selected the largest sprocket, my rear mech flew into my rear wheel causing a mangled wreckage of derailleur, chain and wheel spokes.  Fortunately there was time on Friday for a jouney down the mountain to Bourg d'Oisans to find a new rear hanger and derailleur and then to the amazingly helpful Mavic van in Alpe d'Huez who replaced three spokes, trued the wheel and then fit a new chain all for the price of the chain only.
With all this kerfuffle I only had time for a short ride on Friday evening when I checked the bike out by taking a scenic route to Reculas
The next day it was time for The Marmotte, a little over 100 miles and around 5,000 metres of climbing - my hardest day on the bike since I did the Gran Fondo Sportful two years ago.  I was very unsure of my staying power, which has not been tested a lot recently, and also my standard chainring (39/53 for the technically minded) was a definite departure from my triple (30/42/53) which I have used on all previous mountain adventures, though I did take the precaution of a 29 rear sprocket..  I set off at a steady pace nailing my heartrate at 130 bpm and not worrying about the time.  The strategy worked as, apart from some annoying right foot pain, I had a fairly comfortable ride.  Also I need not have worried about the gearing; all 4 passes averaged under 10% and did not exceed around 14% at any one point so the gearing was fine; although I would on occasion have rather spun a lower gear than grind on. Lots of British riders there, including familiar faces from London Dynamo and Kingston Wheelers and I was even recognised half way up the Galibier as 'the cycling lawyer'.

Snow on the Galibier.  Photo from

My certificate shows my times (minus the neutralised descent off the Glandon - an attempt to reduce accidents).  The "Brevet d'Or" cannot be right and conflicts with the "Brevet d'Argent" on the certificate handed to me at the finish.  I would never expect to get a Gold on a route that includes mountain descents as I lack the nerve to hurtle off a mountain at 50 mph.

Fancy a race?
The following day I went back to Bourg for the Grimpee.  This is described in many places as time trial up Alpe d'Huez but it is not.  Thankfully it is a mass start roadrace up Alpe d'Huez which is much more fun.  Full race speed with a multi vehicle escort from the roundabout to the foot of the slope then inevitably the bunch split into a thousand pieces as we hit the slope.  People turned out on a Sunday morning to cheer us on and this time the certificate I got at the finsih was a 'Brevert d'Or' with my time of 1h:04.  I may just have to return and do a sub-hour.
The Grimpee de l'Alpe, the morning after the day before.

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