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Marmotte 2011 - The Full Story

Why would anyone in their right mind take on the challenge of the Marmotte?

Well, obviously, they wouldn’t, so I’ll content myself with consideration of why those who appear reasonably sane on first appearance might take it on.

The most obvious answer is as old as time itself – the male mid-life crisis. Whilst bike riding is a better manifestation of the “crisis” than extra-curricular activities with the secretary, it is a crisis all the same, with the added risk of wiping out on the Glandon descent. Although, with the added delights of the infamous Tinky Pinkies in the 2011 line-up, there’s a certain degree of overlap between the two concepts!

In my case, I believe it is fate. In early 2006, my current day duelling partner was a 17 stone, heavy-smoking couch potato and took up cycling to get fit. At the same time, I mangled my back, thus ending my serious rowing exploits at the time. We had some duels off road in late 2006 and such was his decrepit state that I kicked his behind without much bother. To me, though, cycling was only something to do to keep fit until my back got better and I could row properly again. My comeback was well under way as I approached my 40th birthday, and dreams of pot-hunting as a lightweight at the right end of the 40-44 age-group could not be suppressed. As I upped the training load, though, my back gave up the ghost again and even I had to admit that this was the end of the line. (Much to the surprise of Mrs SR, I’ve not even sat on my once-beloved Concept 2 indoor rowing machine since.)

After spending the summer moping around looking for something else to do (I even tried swimming and track-running FFS)  there was chance encounter with duelling partner Tim and his family on a French campsite where we were partaking of our respective annual summer migrations. We had one too many Kir Royales round the barbie, started talking b*llocks about Alpe D’Huez, and the die was pretty much cast. Things were only going to end one way – on the start line for the Marmotte.

There are so many coincidences involved that it has to be fate and no-one can argue with fate. Not even Mrs SlowRower.

Enough philosophy.

The training log records 251 hrs of effort since September. If I’d spent all this cycling steadily at circa 25kmh, then I’d have covered over 6000k, which sounds like a lot. But over 10 months, it equates to 25 hrs per month, or 6 hrs a week, which sounds laughably little in preparation for the Marmotte. Still, since last year, I’d upped my longest ride duration from 5.25hrs to 8.5 hrs and graduated to an imperial from a metric century, so things could have been a lot worse.

Our DSs had generously supported our preparations by means of being “Marmotte Widows” throughout the spring and early summer and by pretending to be interested in the minute details of our training, but such generosity – and one can’t really argue here – did not extend as far as blowing lots of cash and holiday time on the venture. Thus, rather than heading out the weekend before to acclimatise and be pampered in a hotel, we took an overnight ferry on the Wednesday, drove down on the Thursday and camped. As long standing customers of Eurocamp, they did us a good deal.

Tim had secured the services of a work colleague, Huw, to act as support driver on the way there and back, and crucially to be in strategic positions to hand out fresh supplies on race day. Huw is a young lad with no ties and was looking forward to what he thought of as an adventure. Tim clearly hadn’t explained that he wasn’t just a driver and water-carrier, but that he was to be our DS as well. Huw went a bit pale when we explained the full range of duties that our normal DSs perform on holiday, but not as pale as I had gone when entering the ferry cabin to find syringes and medical supplies all over the place. I thought I’d discovered the source of Tim’s improvement this year, but the truth was more mundane – Huw is diabetic.

Our passage from Luxembourg to France on the motorway was also a bit nervy relating to this. We had a portable fridge in the boot – for entirely legitimate food cooling purposes – which, in close proximity to Huw’s needles left Tim and me looking like a pair of amateur Pa Schleck impersonators. Luckily, “Les Rozzers Francais” were nowhere to be seen and we continued unmolested.

The campsite was strange indeed. I’ve stayed there twice before “en famille” and jolly pleasant it is as well. Now, though, it had been taken over by hordes of Marmotteers, most of them Dutch with dodgy ‘taches. As such, it looked like a convention of Euro porn stars. With my natural physique further enhanced by a rigorous training regime, I fitted in well, but Tim just doesn’t have the build and looked distinctly uncomfortable when I wasn’t there to look after him.

Things got really surreal in the evening, as scales, small plastic bags and large tubs of white powder appeared on tables. Obviously, it was the obligatory PSP preparation session, but must have looked to the casual observer as though there was going to be a turf war between the porn stars and a cartel of Columbian drug-dealers. The PSP preparations appeared to be a uniquely English pursuit, though. I can only conclude that the Dutchies were planning to fuel themselves by eating Belgians along the way.

Final preparations
We were up early on the Friday, loaded the bikes onto the car, and set off to reconnoitre the route. We wanted to know where we were going on race day, know where Huw would be stationed with bottles etc. and to try out the descents.

Our Marmotte experience nearly ended after 3 bends of the Glandon, as Tim went “off-piste” narrowly missing the granite upside to the road on one bend and then the fresh-air downside on the next. I was glad he escaped with nothing worse than half a tonne of foliage in his Derailleurs, as trying to explain to his DS that her husband had killed himself practicing for a neutralised descent was not something I would have enjoyed!

On our return, the bikes were given their final clean and polish, saddlebags packed, checked, re-checked, re-packed and checked again for good measure. Kit and spare kit was lined up. Reserve spare kit was checked and lined up just in case. Pacing strategies were discussed, water drunk and carbohydrate consumed until finally, we concluded that there was nothing more to be done but to chill out and fantasise about gold medals.

Whilst a gold medal really was the stuff of fantasies for me, Tim was still targeting one, so I expected him to dump me off the start and disappear on the lower slopes of the Glandon. Whether we next met with him showered and changed in the finish area pasta party as I staggered over the line, or with him collapsed by the side of the road as I pedalled past on the Alpe remained to be seen. I feared the former but hope springs eternal, and I’d already written a short victory speech of sorts, to go with the compendium of excuses that I’d long since compiled. No-one can accuse me of being under-prepared.

Sporting success for the Slowrowers – a day early
After tea, I got a call from home. It had been sports day at the Little Rowers’ school, and the news was good – the youngsters had bagged 7 firsts, 2 seconds and a third between them.

This put a spring in my step, but also raised the bar somewhat. With Mrs SR’s recent top 10 finish in the Leeds Half Marathon, I needed a solid finish to achieve anything approaching respectability in comparison.

I love the smell of Ralgex in the morning
Race day - 6am. My alarm clock goes off, but it was a futile gesture, as I’d already been awake for some time. I needed to be up early, as even when my back is “good”, it is stiffer than the cranks on Gregory Bauge’s track bike first thing in the morning and needs a lot of time to loosen up properly. Cue Ralgex and howls of anguish from Huw and Tim, who were down wind of me as I lathered myself up. There’s nothing quite like the smell of Ralgex, particularly in the morning, although Tim and I nearly came to blows when he professed a preference for Sloan’s Liniment.

After breakfast of Oatibix and granola, it was time to make the final “wardrobe” choices. It had been f***king cold at the top of the Glandon and Galibier the day before, and I’d got cold and my hands had got numb. I decided to risk the cold, leave my gloves and rain jacket behind, freeing up more space for food and water in my shirt.

Tim and I were in the last of three start-waves at 750am. The top “seeds” were due to start at 7am, and just after 615am, the first departures from our campsite commenced. This ratcheted up the tension levels further and we really wanted to head for the start, but it was so cold that we decided to shelter in the tent until the last moment. We set off just before 7am, after a bottle of some caffeine infused sports drink called “Extreme”, looking forward to seeing the elite riders setting off.

It’s Showtime!
The elite peloton swept down the main street like a tsunami. It was an incredible sight and sound. To my untutored eye, it looked like a practice for a sprint lead-out and there was even an early breakaway. My tactics were to be somewhat different!

We made our way round the back of Bourg to the start area. We were a long way back in the queue, but well placed for a trip behind the bushes to deal with the diuretic effects of the “Extreme”. Those less well placed just did their stuff in the nearby stream!

There was no obvious start time. The queue started moving faster and faster, and we were soon heading towards the timing mats and the Grand Depart. I started my watch and zeroed my speedo. It takes a couple of seconds to do the latter, and when I looked up, Tim was gone, hidden in a group of burly Belgians who he’d identified as the ideal sorts to follow in his gold medal quest.

I avoided heroics, concentrating on relaxation and a low heart rate. At the eleventh hour, I’d decided to wear the monitor, as I desperately wanted to avoid a “fly and die” on the lower slopes of the Glandon. I don’t think I pedalled at all in the early flat stages, having found some burly Belgians of my own to wheel-suck.

We soon passed our campsite, and were cheered on our way by some hardy Marmotte Widows and Marmotte Orphans. It was tempting to pull over, abandon and spend the day eating croissants, but I’d picked the wrong side of the road on which to ride, and my bike-handling skills were insufficient to cross over given the densely packed nature of the peloton at this stage, so I stuck with it and was swept remorselessly towards my fate.

Glandon Part 1
Finally, ten months after starting training, the road kicked up. This was it. It went well. Then, after two hairpins, the road went flat again and even downhill. Was that it? Surely the Glandon was not that easy. Indeed not. We’d just gone up the lower section of the barrage, famous on Marmotte discussions/blogs as the point at which you first get to see what your climbing legs are like on the day.

Mine felt good. Even so, I was very conservative on the first section of the main part of the Glandon and was overtaken by all and sundry.

Glandon Part 2
A nice quirk of the Glandon is that about half way up, the road drops by around 100m, before regaining altitude by means of a stiff kilometre or two out of the Defile de Maupas. The surprise of this had nearly done for me when I’d first encountered it in 2009, and it clearly took a few by surprise this time. There was much huffing and puffing and grinding of gears, all conduct unbecoming of an English gentleman on tour, so I spun up smoothly on my trusty 34*32.

Without raising my own effort levels, I stopped getting overtaking in bulk and started doing some overtaking of my own. My trusty steed, Stan, was delighted, as his much anticipated carbon breakfast had been significantly delayed.

Just short of the top, Huw accosted me and loaded me up with 2.75 litres of fluid and a goody bag of food, including cheese croissants and chocolate shortbread. I’d eaten so much on the way up that I was in danger of having to sign up for Weightwatchers so wasn’t hungry, but my plan all along has been to save these goodies for the Valley of Death. Tim was apparently 10 minutes ahead, which is what I’d expected.

The official feed station was carnage, looking like a cross between a Crimean War field hospital, London Bridge station and an expensive bike disposal facility. I fought my way through, saddled up and headed downhill.

Glandon Descent
I took it very steadily down the initial hairpins, terrified as I’d been by tales of death, disability and broken bikes from years gone by, not to mention nearly being an eye-witness to a new gory Glandon tale the day before. I soon found myself in the wheel-tracks of a petite lady aboard a smart looking Pinarello. She was, of course, one of the infamous Tinky Pinkies. On subsequent climbs, I came to appreciate the visual charms of the Pinkies in some detail, but at this point, my main interest was that she was taking a very sensible line through the corners to follow and was so small that I could easily see round her to check the upcoming terrain myself.

The Valley of Death
This wasn’t a particularly enjoyable part of the ride, being along a fairly busy main road. I had a few abortive attempts to get into a big group, but eventually I was presented with the sight that everyone wants in the Valley. Whilst a Tinky rear-end is preferable most of the time, in the Valley, you want to be close up to the backside of a huge Dutchman mashing a big gear. Whilst not scenic, it was a highly efficient means of getting to the bottom of the Telegraph, allowing me the opportunity to scoff my croissants to the obvious envy of the cereal bar munching Dutchies around me!

The Telegraph
Some time ago, Bart told me that the low point on his first Marmotte was seeing the “Col du Galibier 34km” sign. I can appreciate this. There’s only 4k of downhill between the T and the G, so I was about to embark on around 3 hours of near continuous climbing.

My legs felt good in the first couple of km, but I was starting to suffer from having consumed too many carb drinks. Without going into too much detail, there were very few takers on the wheel-sucking front!

My stomach got more painful, but I was moving very well by this stage. I am a disciple of the “Velominati” and it was time to invoke this illustrious organisation’s infamous “Rule 5”, which simply states: “Toughen the f*** up”.

This I did, keeping to a sensible heart rate and letting Stan have an early carbon lunch. The climb flew by, until the final km, when I got the first twinges of complaint from my back. Nothing serious at this stage, but it was only going to get worse from here on in, so I was a tad concerned.

The Galibier
All available literature and anecdotal evidence suggests that the first part of the Galibier, to Plan Lachet, is easy. The first km was rather steep, but after this, there was a feed station and 6k of relatively gentle gradients and I was soon approaching the final hairpin before the dreaded final 8k at 8% commenced.

I was really enjoying myself, and Stan was certainly enjoying his late carbon lunch. I was two thirds of the way through the Telegraph/Galibier challenge, and with ~50k of predominantly downhill from the top back to Bourg, I allowed myself to believe for the first time that I was going to finish in decent shape.

Then a familiar figure pulled alongside. It was Bartali and he was not looking well. He, too, had fallen victim to the carbo overload and was suffering badly. I thought his discomfort would pass, so I started talking gibberish to him to take his mind off his ailments and urged him to follow me for a while.

With hindsight, it’s obvious that the last thing you’d want when you’re suffering on the Galibier is me talking b*llocks to you, but Bart had to adopt pretty desperate measures to get me to shut up. He said “You ride your own race – I’m going to be sick!” Which he was, though out of my peripheral vision, I did note that the Parlee escaped any vomit damage!

I pressed on, still moving very well, but I had to stop twice to un-ravel my back. I was not looking forward to Alpe D’Huez with a dodgy back, but I’d been expecting it all winter, and I was sure a bit of “Rule 5” would see me through!

Galibier Descent
I departed the Galibier 7hrs 4mins into my ride. I calculated that if I could get down in under an hour and then climb ADH in 75 minutes I’d get a gold medal! With this in mind, I really went for it on the descent to the Lautaret and the early part of the descent from the Lauteret, but reality soon took hold. There was a stiff headwind, a few flat/uphill stretches and cars impeded my chances of catching the wheel of large-a*sed Dutchies. I was glad to get to the bottom of ADH in 8hrs 21,then  stretched my back out, fuelled up on gels and attended to a call of nature. During this latter activity, an old French lady struck up conversation with me. Very odd indeed, though she did wish me good luck!

Alpe D’Huez Psychology
In general terms, the climb to ADH is rather over-hyped in my view. It is undoubtedly a fearsome climb, but there are plenty of others in France that are (again, in my view) as tough and undoubtedly more scenic. Its reputation stems from the fact it always features at the end of a long stage and thus usually sees the big-hitters giving it some stick instead of riding tempo.

What can’t be overlooked, though, is that the first 3k is over 10%, and for tiring Weekend Warriors, that is always going to be a challenge. I’d gone as far as re-gearing my bike especially for this section, and when engaged in hard turbo sessions, in the really painful bits, I’d visualised myself giving it some “Rule 5” up the first 3k.

So, overhyped or not, this climb had dominated my thinking and planning throughout the winter.

Alpe D’Huez
The road kicked up. My legs protested, as they always do on a climb after a long descent and a rest, but soon settled down. Legs, lungs and heart rate were fine(ish) and the 100th of kilometres on my speedo kept ticking down. It was hot, though, but I was (and will forever remain) eternally grateful that by ADH standards it was nothing more than pleasantly warm.

I was still overtaking plenty of riders, but my back had started giving me serious grief. I just can’t grind on climbs for very long, and even on the 34*32, I was having to grind through the steep first 3k.

I stopped for the first of four lengthy sessions to loosen the blasted thing off. It was very frustrating. There were riders walking, riders slumped over their bars and riders simply stopping to sit on the barriers and it must have looked to all the world like I just couldn’t hack it either. I wanted to put a sign on my backside saying “My back has gone into spasm and I just can’t pedal. My legs and lungs are fine.”

I didn’t do this, as I didn’t have a pen and instead, just plodded miserably upwards. My heart rate was in the low 140s. I couldn’t pedal hard enough to get it any higher, whereas on the Galibier, it had been steady in the high 150s. To make matters worse, I spilt a gel over my white top (a bargain E10 from Decathlon!) and thus added inability to feed myself to inability to ascend ADH without stopping.

I never doubted I’d finished, though, as once past the first 3k, the climb is not that steep (although there’s a nasty bit with around 3k to go) and the final 2k is around 5.5%.

Once onto the shallower gradients at the top, my back loosened off, and I put on a good show for the photographers, went under the Weekend Warrior finish, and even went onto the big ring! I checked my watch: 9:51. Yee har!! It’s no more than 5 minutes from the Warrior finish to the centre of town, so a sub 10 hour ride was in the bag.

The Finish
I think I might have shed a tear at this point, though it might just have been a reaction to the sweat and suncream gently dripping down my face! Either way, I recalled “Rule 5”, which although not explicitly outlawing crying, kind of suggests it would be inappropriate. I “toughened up” immediately, spotted the finish barrier and cruised down the gentle slope to cycling immortality or at least the closest I’m likely to get to it!

Tim was at the finish with his videophone, with the result that my speed-wobble and near crash as I did my victory wave over the line are recorded for all eternity. Oops! Tim had recorded a gold medal time for the over 40s, which was unfortunate as he’s currently 39! I’m sure he’ll get his reward next year, though.

The Aftermath
Finding somewhere to dismount was a challenge, but I eventually did so, queued up for my certificate (9 hrs 55 minutes was my official time, including the Glandon descent), bought my silver medal and realised that now I’d cooled down, I could barely walk, such was the state of my back. I managed to enter the team car unaided, but it was a close run thing!

We’d had extravagant plans for partying on the campsite, but after a massive feeding frenzy and a modest quantity of alcohol, we could take no more and retired to bed. Reluctantly, I removed my medal. Not because it would be sad to sleep wearing it, but because it was so heavy that I was concerned I’d strangle myself!

I needn’t have worried, as my back was so sore and my indigestion (barbie added to earlier carb overload is not a good idea) so bad that I didn’t really sleep much. When I did finally drift off, I woke up with a nasty head cold, and have felt pretty crap ever since!

I was relieved to re-establish communications with Bart the next day. I can’t emphasise just how bad he looked in our brief encounter, and his recovery from this phase was most impressive indeed.

Overall, the whole Marmotte experience was fantastic, and I would recommend it to anyone, though it is not something to be undertaken lightly. I will certainly miss the regular exchanges of training banter with Tim and Bartali. Whether the DS will miss my regular absences on weekend rides is another matter, though!

On a number-crunching note, I can’t help but get excited about predicting my times at the bottom of ADH and the finish to within 5 minutes, based on my training performances. I think I’m more pleased with that than the cycling itself!

A great read, SR!  I'm exhausted just from reading it so God knows how you felt!  However, your enthusiasm shines through and it's made me more determined to get my arse in gear and do it at some point - I'm approaching 40 myself...  Shocked
Slapshot 3

Brilliant read SR Brilliant!!

We need a picture of that medal obviously beside the star of the day...( I mean Stan of course  Wink )

Great job SR! Same for Bart too! Smile



SR you are very kind to point out my suffering and were very kind on the big day in attempting to cheer me up!

I couldn't hope to provide a write up with the elan of SR's ... but a few reflections of my own.

This was my fifth Marmotte so unlike SR I pretty much new what was to come.  That said, the weather was a bit of a worry as the previous day it had been very cold when out of the sun and the morning of the race was freezing - especially if you had to ride down the Alpe to the start as I had to.

The Glandon was taken tranquillo and I stopped to take on fuel and water at the top - this was the first time I've done that, but with a neutralised descent it seemed rude not to.  As my 'Mule Bar' order had not arrived on time I was riding with 'Powerbars'.  I'd never tasted them before, but it was all I could find in Alp d'Huez - perhaps not surprising as they were a sponsor.

As the Glandon descent was neautralised I took that very tranquillo too.  Some didn't - there were three ambulance cases to be seen and one was a very bad one.  Why oh why do people push it on a neutralised part of the ride  Rolling Eyes

The 'valley of death' was a breeze thanks to some nice chaps from Boarder Wheelers - thanks boys!  Did a little bit of work jumping from group to group as those on the front started to tire and at one stage was playing gregario for a cast of hundreds.  That didn't last long though and I arrived at the foot of the Telegraphe - my nemisis - in good shape.  More fuel had been taken on board and for once in my life I was drinking!!

The Telegraphe proved to be 'easy' - well almost!  The first 11km were very smooth and I was certainly holding my own and passing more than were passing me .... until the last 1km.  For those that haven't ridden the Telegraphe, the last km is easy ... especially as you have the excitement of reaching the top.  However, for me it was a nightmare.  I suddenly felt sick - proper sick - and had to slow right down for fear of making an exhibition of myself.  Crossed the pass in a state and dropped into Valloire for proper food.  Proper food means anything but those damm Powerbars!

The climb out of Valloire anto the lower part of the Galibier was a real struggle.  Legs and lungs were ok, but I couldn't lay any power down for fear of puking.  About 3km shy of Plan Lachat I got passed by Stan and SR.  I had to accelerate for a couple of seconds to pull alongside and that made me feel worse.  SR was a true gentleman and tried to encourage me to ride with him to the summit where more 'proper' food would be waiting (thanks SR); but that wasn't going to happen.  I 'sent' SR on his way and promptly stopped to chuck up ... but not on my Parlee of course!  Then on it was a slow slow slow grind past Plan Lachat and up towards the summit.  With about 4-5km to go I passed someone.  A big heavy guy, but at leased I passed him.  A few minutes later I passed another, and then another.  Almost as quick as it had hit me at the top of the Telegraph it left me near the top of the Galibier.  I'd probably lost about 25-30 minutes to SR on that climb, but at least I was now free to ride properly again.  I pushed quite hard over the last 3km and worked like a Saxon dog all the way to the foot of the Alp.  

Miraculously I had left myself about 2 hours to get up Alp d'Huez in a 'silver' medal time!!  By this stage I was tired, but not shot to pieces, so it was just a case of tapping it out 'tranquillo'.  Perhaps I could and should have pushed harder but I've witnessed too many people failing in the final stages of the Marmotte to risk any heroics.  1h40m later, and with a final big ring push over the line, it was all over.  Silver ... and only 4 minutes slower than my previous trouble free ride in 2009.

So ... how do I feel?  Disappointed to be slower than 2009, but given my disastrous 'Galibier' and pootle down the Glandon (rather than hammering it two years ago), I'm surprised I got so close!!  Oh well!

Will I do it again?  Well I always said 5 was enough, but who knows ....

Coda: I lost my right contact lens on the Glandon descent and my left lens on the Lauteret descent.  Riding through long bendy unlit tunnels with -5 in both eyes is not to be recommended, but if that's what you have to do to save time ...

gerry12ie wrote:

Oh boy ... some one sketched me on the Galibier!!

Gents, well done! I take my hat off to you both. Good read. SR like I keep saying - you're wasted on stats! You must go into publishing. Loved it all. Showed Mrs G and she was laughing out loud with me. That DS Huw and your finish captured like that on video! Bart - no idea how you continued to ride post puking and with no contact lenses. I would have called Mrs G to come to take me home.

Seriously chapeau to you both.

SR, you write well, I kept reading straight through.  It is a good story.  If I had a connection, I would ring somebody who runs a mag and have them publish it.  I think you caught a bit of the drama of a sportive, especially the Marmotte, probably the hardest one in France.  I had a thought that your story, more or less, with variations was being lived out five thousand times.  A lot of stories.  I feel privileged to read yours.  Merci.

And thanks for your bit too Bartali.  The two stories together were a wonderful Tour de France gift.

I think I said this before, but I think my hubby has to do this!  Obviously on a PBP year, it isn't a possibility, however one that I shall look into as a future goal (for him, not me).

Fontfroide wrote:
 I think you caught a bit of the drama of a sportive, especially the Marmotte, probably the hardest one in France.  I had a thought that your story, more or less, with variations was being lived out five thousand times.  A lot of stories.  I feel privileged to read yours.  Merci.

Spot on  thumleft

Fontfroide I keep saying this too - you are a true Gentleman. Good words mate.

Reading your blog too. Very nice.
Slapshot 3

I've only just read Bartali's bit and it does add a massive amount to SR's "Fairly trouble free" run through, Bart gives us the other side of it.

So impressed with the pair of you, chapeau

FF and G - You are far too kind about my inane ramblings, but thanks all the same!

Ullrichfan - Get your a*se in gear and go for it. Even if the Tinky Pinkies don't go back, you won't regret it!

SS - So true. I will forever be in awe at the way Bart "toughed" it out and came back so strongly. We might have to rename him "Rule 5". Smile

Preparing to start crying at the top of ADH.


oh jesus, you did that on a hybrid!?!?! insane!

Boogerd_Fan wrote:
oh jesus, you did that on a hybrid!?!?! insane!

Of course I'm insane. No-one who starts the Marmotte is anything else. Bike choice just affects the degree of insanity. Smile

My bike weighs in just under 10kg, which is around 2k heavier than most bikes on display, which means my power to weight ratio is around 2% lower than it would be on typical Marmotte bike. Over 7 hours of climbing, you can work out how much time I lost. It's surprisingly little. Personal weight loss, training and a thoroughly planned and tested drinking/eating plan are a much better return on your investment.

Besides, when you cruise past someone who's on a Dogma 60.1 in full Sky kit and they see the hybrid, the look on their face is truly priceless. Smile

There's also the disk brakes, which give a huge margin for safety on the descents (handy on the Glandon) or the scope to safely out-brake and overtake normal bikes (cracking fun on the Galibier!)

If I'd missed a gold medal by 5 minutes on he hybrid, I'd be telling a different story, no doubt!

SlowRower wrote:

Besides, when you cruise past someone who's on a Dogma 60.1 in full Sky kit and they see the hybrid, the look on their face is truly priceless. Smile

I bet Very Happy

Indeed the looks on their faces would be worth a Watson photo.

Such a great account and very well done!

berck wrote:
SlowRower wrote:

Besides, when you cruise past someone who's on a Dogma 60.1 in full Sky kit and they see the hybrid, the look on their face is truly priceless. Smile

I bet Very Happy

Exclamation  Exclamation  Very Happy

SR - I thought you might also have chosen the handlebars to assist with the position for your back  but I might be wrong here... You seem a little  straighter than say Bart?

SR - you mention the those lovely Trinkie Ladies. Mrs G has come across them. Or more to the point mates of hers have. On a sportif in Italy. Mrs G used to be a member of London Dynamo when we lived in London and she had mates in another cycling club near Twickenham who take part in an annual trip to do La Pinarello.

Mrs G has provided me with an extract posted on a club forum of a friend's friend that did this. Can't just give you a link to it as access is denied so I've cut and paste it for you. BTW the "Jason and Lisa" in this post are not Mr and Mrs G! Though the mentioned "Lisa" is Mrs G's mate.

La Pinarello Cycling Marathon 2010 - 18th July 2010


La Pinarello Cycling Marathon. Finally, I made it over to Italy, wearing my TCC colours rather than G.S. Henley. My participation from last year was long overdue!


... At 3 am on Sunday morning, 3.5 hours before the start time, the mother of all electrical thunder storms sounded like the equivalent of a sky-filling, angry, gnashing, snarling, mechanical car wash, approaching in filmic suspense-building slow motion. The continental window shutters on my hotel window being smacked against the walls by the storm winds completed the horror scene script. In my half-awake state, I thought "My, those Americans are quite loud in getting their bikes out of the garage". Then it dawned on me. I had woken up to the dreaded 'Rain' - not just a small shower either - a full bodied tempest with lightning and torrential rain.

I got out of bed and met up with the others from TCC who I was doing this event with. Barbara, Gail, Ray, Denise, Zoe, Lisa, Jason and I left our Castelcucco abodes at 5.15 am and drove to Treviso dodging the fallen trees and wondering what on earth we were doing even venturing out. En route we got a call from John who was staying at Asolo to say there was no way he was riding in a thunderstorm so he was out. He had flown all the way from Canada to take part in this but was now out!

So we arrived and noted several people seemed to be preparing for the start but we all skulked in the car park listening to the rain getting harder and harder. We knew these decents were risky in the rain so none of us were keen. BUT, high praise is awarded to Barbara who countered that we wouldn't stop for rain in the UK and pointed out that there is a bit of blue sky in the distance. Phew.

So we decided to give it a go and when we got to the start, we found 'thankfully' that the organisers had sensibly delayed the start so they could safety check the course, cancelled the 'grandfondo' (the long route) with the dreaded 'Via Capra' (the Goat) climb up the Mte Grappe and changed the 'medio' route to remove a dangerous descent off the Montello. Everyone was to now ride the mediofondo. For the statisticians, the modest 'medio' route included 1350 metres of climb and 132km of distance. The cancelled 205km 'Lungo' version was due to have 3250 m of altitude gain, the infamous Monte Grappa, (which appeared in the Giro this year) a goat-like scramble of 1730 metres by itself.

As 9am arrived, the sun had come out to play and off we went. Hurray! I have to say everyone was riding very cautiously and slowly. Most riders decided to treat this more as a jolly outing rather than a full-on race given the grandfondo was now cancelled. As the roads were now drying and trees and debris were removed, normal riding paces resumed and each TCC member took off to ride at their own pace. I enjoyed the climbs albeit as we were all set off together there was a bit of congestion issue going up and so no-one could really go at speed. Boo hoo. The first food-stop was heaving too - well, everyone was at the start line for 6.45am, so they were quite a few hungry cyclists by the time they got there! The flats were brilliant too. Huge "trains" to pull you along. The Italians are great. Such skill and smoothness. I have, though, realised that I am a better climber than a "Rouleur" as it is easy to get sucked into faster groups and end up tired when the climb starts. I seemed to get "spat out" in some of the very fast all-male trains but if there was a mixed train, the pace was much better. Getting sucked into the all-male faster trains meant by the time I did get to the final climbs, it would take a little while to regain my rhythm and find my climbing legs.

I spoke to quite a few people whilst out and about on those climbs (yes, I could go harder, but I decided to just enjoy it). I met some cyclists from Greece (go "Podilatres") and kept on being chatted up by the Pinarello boys - who were all too keen to help - so I quickly whizzed off.   I think they were a little bit surprised at how fast I can go if I put the power down. I also met some ex-international faces and guests and the 'Tinky Lady' Pinarello Cyclng Team. Their kit is very questionable... a little too flash for my liking. They seem to be surrounded by their own personal bodyguards!

I made it back to Treviso in a time of 4 hours and 31 mins and as the TCC team arrived it was good to see that we were were all in good spirits - catching up over some food in the pasta/beer tent. Apparently John had joined in en route and had a fun ride and also Denis had been spotted but had taken a tumble on the first descent and had road rash to prove it - ouch! Lisa got a broken spoke so her 8th attempt at La Pinarello was ended by being brought back in the broom wagon. Poor thing. All in all, a fun day despite the dubious start! Of the 2254 people who completed (many decided not to turn up given the rain and also others who were present decided to leave once the grandfondo was cancelled) 191 of them were ladies. Zoe was a fabulous 23rd out of the 191 ladies with her time of 3:59:50.30 (The fastest woman at Well done everyone!

The next day, a few of us decided to go for a short-ish ride out into the mountains. The sun was out in full force and the scenary was stunning. On Tuesday, we decided to climb Monte Grappa via one of the nine routes available. All of them are difficult, challenging, and for experienced climbers and descenders only. The red route from Romano is well-traveled and there are a number of bars and restaurants along the way. The blue road from Caupo (a frazione i.e.section, of the comune of Seren del Grappa) on the north side of the mountain, on the other hand, is lonely, atmospheric, and more beautiful. This is the route we went up.

The grey route was paved only within recent years. The yellow route, from Possagno to Bocca di Forca, has been rated the third hardest climb in Italy, with an average gradient of 11.44%. This route too, has garnered its fair share of attention: even the Giro d'Italia commentators have discussed it during stage broadcasts. The purple road from Valle San Liberale to La Vedetta/Salto della Capra, reopened after being cleared of a landslide, is also extremely difficult. It has attracted the attention of climb connoisseurs. This route was the one chosen by the organizers for the grandfondo. It is a monster that is even harder than the one that was tackled by the riders in the Giro d'Italia! Even experienced, expert local riders advise against descending on these roads. They are not only steep, but narrow, with tight, tricky hairpins - very technical and demanding. In addition, the foliage overhead creates shadows which can hide holes and rough pavement, leading to some rude surprises.

We climbed Mte Grappa via the blue route from Caupo, as Jason was aiming to do all nine routes and make sure he got stamps for each one. He only had this one and the hardest route to do (with some 20% climbs!) - which he was going to attempt on Thursday. So, Lisa, Jason and I started climbing (immediately we found ourselves on a major climb. It feels relentless and never ending, but the scenery makes it worthwhile!). I think I did it in about 2.5 hours. Just a leisurely/comfortable pace - not going mad. A well deserved cafe and cake was savoured at the top! Even though it was hot going up, once we reached the top it was very cloudy so I could not get a full view of the scenary below. Eventually there was a small break in the cloud cover and we could see tantalising glimpses of the sunny valley below. I loved the climb. I even (suprisingly!) loved the decent! I would definitely do it again. Maybe go back one year and do all nine routes...


I would also push harder too. I want to do the long route (when it is offered!). I think I don't currently ride outside of my "comfort zone" which is not how my rowing mind works! If I am still going up hills and speaking to lots of people, that is not a good sign...  Fun and social though.

Jason - 3:54:11.10
Denis - 3:54:36.00
Ray - 3:58:18.40
Zoe - 3:59:50.30
Gail - 4:27:57.20
Martha - 4:31:36.20
Denise - 4:42:29.10
Barbara - 5:18:07.10
Lisa - DNF = Mechanical


Guiness wrote:
SR - I thought you might also have chosen the handlebars to assist with the position for your back  but I might be wrong here... You seem a little  straighter than say Bart?

I got the bike at the start of 2010. I wanted something that could manage road riding/hill climbing and not be as rankly stupid as my mtb was and also off-roading with the kids.

Stan is good for both. He's basically a road bike with flat bars and disk brakes. He's not ideal for both disciplines, but as I want both covered on holidays, a compromise was required, as the bike rack struggles with 4 bikes as it is!

I never thought of drop-bars, as I did some turbo sessions late 2009 on my old road bike and had to pedal sitting up for 10 minutes until I could actually bend over far enough to hold the bars. Sad

The Marmotte idea came after I'd bought Stan, and I was reluctant to stump up for a "proper" bike as I never really thought I'd make it to the start line. This time last year, my longest ride was 5 hours, and I'd spent the last hour of that in back-induced agony. I didn't think I'd be able to manage the required training, to be honest.

I must confess that I have my eye on a variety of carbon-framed sportive specific steeds for my letter to Santa...Smile

SlowRower wrote:

The Marmotte idea came after I'd bought Stan, and I was reluctant to stump up for a "proper" bike as I never really thought I'd make it to the start line. This time last year, my longest ride was 5 hours, and I'd spent the last hour of that in back-induced agony. I didn't think I'd be able to manage the required training, to be honest.

Good on ya mate. This is one hell of a story! Well done!

SlowRower wrote:

I must confess that I have my eye on a variety of carbon-framed sportive specific steeds for my letter to Santa...Smile

As Santa. I hope he is nice to you this year. I put in my request for the Dogma but I think Mrs G had a word with Mrs Santa as there was no sign of it under the tree last Xmas. Maybe I was a naughty boy. Must behave. Embarassed

G - You don't want a Dogma. They are slow, if my mental credit and debit ledgers of overtakings involving Stan and Dogmas are anything to go by. Smile

Wiliers and Colnagos on the other hand...Smile

SlowRower wrote:

Wiliers and Colnagos on the other hand...Smile

Got my son an ex demo Wilier. He loves it. Good choice. Which one have you got your eyes on?

One like this .....?


SlowRower wrote:

Wiliers and Colnagos on the other hand...Smile


Somebody mention Colnagos.  Anyone else ride one on the forum, maybe we can bond over PMs.

From all I have heard, I would buy a used Colnago B-40, if I listened well.  But I don't need another bike.

FF - Yup ... fixed wheel Colnago in Saronni WC colours.  2000km on it this year to date.

I stumbled across this when browsing - isn't it gorgeous?

Colnago, Cinelli, Campagnolo Super Record (record f/mech?), Vittoria tubs, concor saddle ... it doesn't get much more classic 80s bike porn than this!!
Slapshot 3


Fontfroide wrote:

From all I have heard, I would buy a used Colnago B-40, if I listened well.  But I don't need another bike.

Conventional wisdom dictates that you do need another bike.  Buy the bike Smile

Spott on Gerry  Smile Smile

SS - As I remember it Bianchi frames were in relative decline by the 80's?  Not a lot of Kudos attached to what had become a fairly mass produced frame??  Now if you could lay your hands on a late forties early fifties frame frame ... that would be worth its weight in gold!!

Colnago, De Rosa and Pinarello were the flashy frames in my part of the world in the eighties ... which is why I had a Battaglin I guess!!

gerry12ie wrote:
I stumbled across this when browsing - isn't it gorgeous?

It is lovely!

Ooooooohhhhhh!!!!!!!!! That's just the type of bike I've been looking for, except for the gold handlebar tap and Colnago logo. I just want a modern version of this. It's bare metal - not painted silver, right? What's it made of and how can I get my hands on something similar?????

I've been considering the Canondale Cyclo-cross CAADX 105. It's had good reviews as an all-rounder bike and from the pics it looks like bare metal, or laquered bare metal. Seroiusly considering it. Must try and get round to my LDBS (Local Dutch Bike Shop) to have a chat with them.

Ooooooohhhhhh!!!!!!!!! That's just the type of bike I've been looking for, except for the gold handlebar tap and Colnago logo. I just want a modern version of this. It's bare metal - not painted silver, right? What's it made of and how can I get my hands on something similar?????.

chromed loveliness. increasingly difficult to find. most chrome-plating of that era will have flaked off in an expensive way. nothing wrong with the yellow benotto tape. nobody really bothers with coloured outer cable much anymore, more's the pity.

OMG! Chromed, you say???? Sheesh! I've got an 11 year old Mini Rover with Chrome bits and bobs and they are definitely struggling, but, fortunately not peeling yet.......

New meaning to those infamous Tinky Pinkies...?! Forum Index -> Around the World
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