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Bartali

La Marmotte

Well .... just back from France and my third la Marmotte.  For those that don't know La Marmotte its one of the oldest ... and most difficult cyclosportifs.  175km of riding and a 'mere' 5000m of climbing - starting in Bourg d’Oisans and climbing the Col de Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, and Col du Galibier before returning to Bourg d’Oisans and finishing up the 21 hairpin bend climb to the ski station of L’Alpe d’Huez.



Some of you will know that this was my third Marmotte.  In 2006 I tackled it after a 20 year break from road cycling.  The result ... 11hours and 24 minutes of pain - missing my Silver medal by 16 minutes.  2008 I was back again - though my leg hadn't fully recovered from my RTA - and posted a (disappointing) 11 hours 27 minutes.  Clearly I had unfinished business!!

On Saturday the day started early with breakfast at 5.00am.  Cereal, ham and cheese roll, black coffee.  Anxious and not hungry.  6.00am I roll down the hill from Alpe d'Huez to Bourg d’Oisans with hundreds of other riders for the start.  

7000 riders start in three groups between 7.00 and 8.00 am.  I'm off at 7.30 and ride a steady pace to the foot of the first climb.  A couple fo groups go past, but their pace is too rich for me ... and I know whats about to come!!



The Glandon is beautiful .... but very very long.  Riders go past but seem to come back towards me as the kilometres go by.  A few steep bits but nothing to serious and my game plan is to ride 'tranquillo'.  Only problem is that my climbing gears are making a horrible noise.  I dismount about three times to adjust them, but in my haste I don't seem to get it right and the clickerty click click goes on relentlessly.  Drink ... I forgot to drink, but its not too late as I feel okay and the sun is not at full strength ... yet.

I get to the feeding station at the top but my game plan is to ride straight through.  Perfect - I still have water and having cut the tops of my 4 nutrigrain bars I know I can eat while riding.  The descent, however, is treacherous!  Bleeding bodies and carbon debris strewn across the first km.  For some ... the race is over!!  No such bad luck for me.  I worry about mu brakes rubbing, overheated rims anf blown tubes.  A quick stop and everything is ok so down and down I go.

Nearly at the bottom and out pops my right contact lens.  I have a spare but screw it .... its 30km of flat valley road and then the Telegraphe before the feeding station and I decide to ride 'one eyed' until then.

For the first time I jump on a group of about 40 who take me along the flat - and now very hot - valley road.  There's a big durch guy who looks like he knows what he's doing and I stick to his wheel like 'Cadel'.  Where he goes I go and before I know it I'm at the foot of the Telegraphe.  Quck stop to fill bottles and stick my head under a water pump.  Watch check ... I'm on schedule for 11 hours and the elusive silver medal.

The Telegraph ... and the Galibier



I hate the Telegraphe.  12km of steady grind in the heat of the day.  Argh!  I sin away in the granny cog, but seem to be going backwards.  But crucially I don't stop. Drink pedal drink pedal ... onwards an upwards.  Clickerty click click. The sun is murder and riders are all over the road looking for what ever shade they can find.  Quite a few are walking or flaked out by the roadside.  Drink pedal drink pedal ... clickerty click onwards an upwards.  

I'm at the top.  I could / should stop at the drink station because I'm running on empty, but I know there's more water 5km down the otherside in Valloire.  Down I go and find the support van on the outskirts of the town.  Fresh water, tiny can of coke, nutrigrain half a banana and half an orange.  Still on schedule for 11.00 hours!

Should I replace my lens?  No time ... I hardly notice its missing so off to the Galibier.  

No more clickerty click click ... but the sun is beating down, my legs are heavy.  Oh and I'm starting to feel sick.  Half way up before it kicks up steeply I stop for 4 minutes.  I want to get back on after two, but I watch the second hand sweep by two more minutes.  4 minutes is nothing and I know how hard the last 8km of the Galibier can be.  

Thunder all around but the Galibier is dry and hot.  I hope for rain.  It will help on the climb, but I know it will be dangerous down the other side.  No rain.  Turn turn turn ...up up up ......  Lots are walking, but I think "What would Danilo do?"  Not walk thats for sure.  Time ticks by and its the top.  Grab two pieces of bread ... I can't take any more sweet stuff ... and drop down the other side to the Lauteret.

Now i'm struck by something strange.  I'm a crap descender and I'm half blind .... and I'm passing people.  In fact I'm flying!  Down through the bends and on to the Lauteret for the 30km decent(ish) to the foot of the Alpe.  I'm still flying.  I catch a group and sit on.  Too slow ... round I go through the tunnels.  I'm passing cars like a hot knife through butter and don't give a damn about the speed ....

(To be continued .....)
Ralphnorman

Chapeau!! Cool I really enjoyed reading that Bart! and well done! I know the difficulty of riding with one eye. I look forward to reading the next part Very Happy
berck

Great job Bart! I'll be doing the Death Ride again this year which is about the closest thing we have here in California (~200km and ~4600m of climbing). Mine is coming up this weekend.
SlowRower

Bart,

If you weren't obviously safely home to be writing this up I'd be rather nervous reading about your half blind descending exploits.

There's a lot to be said for half-blind descending, though. One of my ex-MTB cronies wore glasses and descended best in the rain when she misted up and went solely by feel and peripheral vision!

I'm looking forward to a pedal stroke by pedal stroke account of the final ascent!
Bartali

Part II

The decent has gone really well.  I feel fit and strong as I ride into the feed station at the bottom of Alpe d'Huez.



A quick look at my watch and its good news.  I really could do this if only I can hold it all together for the last 14 km.  I grab a cup of water and two pieces of bread and chew away.  My mouth is very dry so it takes some doing.  I check my pockets and throw away some surplus food.  Mind games really - it can't weigh very much.  I check my watch again and I've lost 10 minutes so back on the bike for the final assult of the Alpe.

Round the corner and up we go.  **** this is steep!
This is the fifth time I've climbed the Alpe and it is screwing with my mind.  It's 1.5km to the first of 21 hairpin bends and my legs have deserted me.  Surely my brakes are rubbing on my back wheel, but a quick look under my arm dispels that thought.  Still its hard work and the sun is beating down on the road .. and me.  It's about know that I realise I've made a bit of a mistake.  10+ minutes at the feeding station and this numbskull forgot to fill his bidons.  To late to do anything now and I know that there is water to be had (coke if i'm lucky) at the first village after 3.5 km.  Nothing for it but to grind away.  God its hot.

I reach the first hairpin (number 21 dedicated to Coppi and LA) and there are riders lining the low wall in the shade.  This is going to be a long long climb for some.  Onwards and upwards I go - no point stopping when I'm so close.  Hairpin 20 takes a while - another long one, but hairpin 19 comes quickly. (Sastre's name missing from the plaque, but I only noticed the next day).  The sun is murder.  Carnage all around - so many are walking now, or sat under whatever stage can be found.

I reach the village and the bad news is there's no coke.  But good news is that there's plenty of water.  I fill one bidon and press on.  Why not both?  Because I know there will be ice cold water cascading down the side of the road in a bend or two and that second bidon will make a nice makeshift 'shower'!

I keep riding counting down the bends ... counting down the km markers .... and counting down the minutes.  Tick tock tick tock.

The ice water is heaven sent.  Three or foe bidons straight over my head and I feel great.  Off we go and my legs are spinning properly .... for about 200m.  Suddenlty it is hot again.  So so hot.

Through the village of Huez and on to the last stretch.  There's no doubt that more riders have been passing me than I've been passing myself.  Not counting the walkers and sitters that is.  But I'm heartened by the fact that I'm being passed by people who've already passed me at least twice.  That must mean they are going in fits and starts whilst I'm pretty much grinding away at a steady pace.  I hear some Brit comment on the unfeasability of carbon saddles for rides like this.  I ride past, lift myself from my saddle and tap it with my nail.  They must have heard the plasticy sound of nail on carbon because they both laughed aloud.

5km to go.  Perhaps I should dig hard and drive to the top?  Yeah right.  Remember this is my third Marmotte and I've known too may people who've collapsed in the last two km.  So ... steady as she goes.  Well perhaps not so steady because my legs are a bit more fluid.  Hey .. this aint so bad.  I'm entering the last km to the village (last 2km to the finish) and everything is feeling very smooth.  Up the last ramp and I'm feeling a bit like a real rider.  The village and the early finishers have turned out en masse and everyone is cheering and clapping.  Some french lady calls out champignon ... is she really calling me a mushroom?  No, Im a champion ... we are all champions!!  Under the weekend warrior finish line under the tunnel and past the 1km to go kite.  I feel like crying - I'm all choked up.  Now I give it everything .......

FINISHED!!

The clock on the line say's 10 hours and 50 something minutes.  

RELIEF.  

That's 'silver' by a handfull of minutes.  

TEARS

Actually, that clock is for the 7.00am starters.  So I've smashed the 'silver' time by nearly 35 minutes and knocked nearly an hour off last years time!!

I can now eat and sleep knowing that I will never have to go through this ever again.

THE END

There is a postscript for those who have got this far. Sunday is another day and the first thing I do as I wearly rise from my bed is .........


......check out the time needed for a gold!
headwind

chapeau bartali!
cyclingtv

that's fantastic bartali.. wow..
berck

Great job! A few comments below...

Bartali wrote:

This is the fifth time I've climbed the Alpe and it is screwing with my mind.  It's 1.5km to the first of 21 hairpin bends and my legs have deserted me.  Surely my brakes are rubbing on my back wheel, but a quick look under my arm dispels that thought.


I've had that happen to me many times! Wink

Bartali wrote:

I reach the village and the bad news is there's no coke.


Did you look for Boonen? I've heard he knows how to find it. Wink
redster73

Great stuff Bart and top effort...
Mrs John Murphy

berck wrote:


Bartali wrote:

I reach the village and the bad news is there's no coke.


Did you look for Boonen? I've heard he knows how to find it. Wink


*rim shot* as opposed to a rim job.

Good stuff Bartali. So what's next?
Hommedesbois

Excellent Bart, a fine achievement!

Rubbing back brake is a Campag feature, I have it as well..

Do you use a heart-rate monitor? They play with ones mind too.
SlowRower

Great stuff, Bart.

I think I'll give the warmup ride a miss and just start up the climb to ADH. Smile

So what is the gold standard? You should be thankful there's no-one accusing you of doping with such an improvement at your age! Smile
Bartali

Thanks everyone.  Gold standard is 9.15(ish) which might be beyond me ... unless I find a friendly 'doctor'!  Someone told me the record is held by a certain Kasakh about to return to the peloton!!

I didn't ride AdH on Sunday as I was knacked but the sunday race was won in about 43 minutes!!!  That's your target SR Wink

In the best traditions of JustCycling, here's the photo's ...





Slapshot 3

Awesome report mate, well done.
Mrs John Murphy

They were warning about the 'men in black' maybe Anne Gripper was hiding behind one of those rocks waiting to spring out on you.

And black shoes white socks...
Bartali

'Man in black', coke on AdH ... I need to get myself a new Doctor!  Bloke who won it looked like Rasmussen and was called Dekker ... now that is suspicious!

White socks?  Its the EuroCyclist rule number one!! Wink
SlowRower

That top photo is great - you up front with a large bunch wallowing in your wake!
headwind

berck wrote:
Great job! A few comments below...

Bartali wrote:

This is the fifth time I've climbed the Alpe and it is screwing with my mind.  It's 1.5km to the first of 21 hairpin bends and my legs have deserted me.  Surely my brakes are rubbing on my back wheel, but a quick look under my arm dispels that thought.


I've had that happen to me many times! Wink



funny thing that eh....?  i dont think its my brakes...but that im getting a flat! i guess that means its getting hard!
CapeRoadie

Chapeau Bartali!  I guess the knee is feeling okay.  Great read.  GOLD!
Ralphnorman

Thats put a smile on my face, let alone yours Bart! Very Happy  Cool Epic stuff!!
MAILLOT JAUNE

Congratulations on your achievement!

Chapeau Bartali
Spoo

Round the corner and up we go.  **** this is steep!

Surely my brakes are rubbing on my back wheel, but a quick look under my arm dispels that thought.  

Still its hard work and the sun is beating down on the road .. and me.

Nothing for it but to grind away.  God its hot.

feel like crying - I'm all choked up.
------
I had many of these same thoughts last weekend.......unfortunately I was only on a hill near Stokenchurch Sad

Chapeau Bartali, very inspirational.

Also can i take this message to congratulate you on a truly inspirational shoe and sock combination. Very Euro!

Although given the baking conditions I'd have thought you may have taken Mr Sastres advice and gone for a whole white truly euro ensemble

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