Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Scott D

Trophy d'Oisans

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone,

 

Thought I would let you know how the sportives have been going. I did the Wiggle Dragon Ride on june 8th with winter clothes on my folding bike and got completely cooked and dehydrated (who would have thought there could be hot weather in Wales!!). Was better prepared for the Quebrantehuesos in the Pyrenees on june 22nd, taking lots of isotonic drinks (had my own salt tabs with me).

 

Then onto the French alpes, for the beautiful week of cycling that surrounds Bourg and Vaujany called La Trophy d'Oisans.

 

Trophy d’Oisans

 

June 28th La Vaujany (176km)

July 03rd Prix des Rousses (40km tt, Alpe d’Huez and Vaujany climb)

July 06th La Marmotte (176km)

July 07th Grimpee des Alpes (14km tt, Alpe d’Huez)

 

 

I completed La Vaujany a few days ago, and I’m sitting here in Annecy typing this buzzing on coffee and chamois cream while my girlfriend and son are sleeping. Had a rest day yesterday, and a ride round Annecy lake today, and it’s the Prix des Rousses tomorrow.

 

La Vaujany

 

http://www.routeyou....e-la-vaujany.en

 

Profile

http://www.sportcomm...fil/profil2.gif

 

This is one of the less well known sportives, probably because it comes close in the calendar to l’etape and la Marmotte, so is often overlooked by tourists in favour of the more famous rides.

 

I drove to Vaujany the day before to register and get my number and timing chip. I arrived at the village just before 2pm and wandered around in the rain holding my umbrella waiting for registration to start. The weather was miserable, the rain constant, and cloud level was around 800-1000m. Temperature at 1000m was 10 degrees, not counting wind chill. The grinning salesman in the merchandise shop was selling Santini plastic bag jackets for €85 and business was steady. I was not looking forward to the ride tomorrow.

 

A detour before heading back to Annecy brought me to Decathlon for a cheap plastic waterproof (€15) to add an extra layer for tomorrow against the rain. Then I dropped the family in Annecy, had some dinner, and sat around reading the weather reports. All the reports said rain, and I thought about the ride tomorrow, while my girlfriend told me to stay in Annecy. You know that moment when you don’t want to do something but you need to do it? Its not bravery or stupidity, just stubbornness.

 

I arrived at the Ibis cheap hotel in Grenoble at midnight, leaving my family in Annecy for the night to have a decent sleep. The drive to Grenoble was awful, through driving rain, my sat nav taking me on detours due to road works. I got in the sterile hotel room, and laid all my clothes by the bedside, and got my head down for a sleep. At 515am the alarm clock went off, and breakfast was some muesli with UHT milk, a banana, a chunk of cheese, and some energy drink. Then it was an hour’s drive to the hydro-electric barrage of Le Verney (near Vaugany).

 

By the time I got parked and cycled to the start it was 0705, with my start at 0715. My number, 344, meant I was in the third pen near the middle to the back by the time I arrived. There were approximately 2000 entrants in 2013, although a few hundred would have been doing the shorter route. It was not raining, although cloud level was still low.

 

The ride to Sechilienne was undulating, generally downhill, until the first climb at 25km. I concentrated on hanging onto wheels at 50-60kmph, trying to avoid the nutters, keep my average speed up, and saving energy for later. The climb to Col du Grand Seare was 14km long, and I was quickly being passed by loads of riders. I was trying to keep my pulse below 85% MHR to ensure I had something left for later. Picking up water at the summit, eating my own gels and bars, and swiftly down the other side. The road undulated before the first proper feed station. The descents were treacherous, I stuffed sunglasses in my back pocket due to the mist on the lenses, and took the corners carefully. Then the climb Col d’Ornon began. Sunshine had arrived, and temperatures were approaching 17 degrees (yippee.. off with waterproof jacket and rolled down the arm warmers). Again I was passed by lots of riders on the ascent, and soon I was riding by myself. I consoled myself that I was past the half-way point, but without going above 90% MHR (threshold) I was unable to keep up with the climbers. By this time all the fast riders were already up the road: one of the disadvantages of the smaller sportives is the need to be properly fit to keep up with le peleton. With the popular mass participation rides (involving 8k-12k riders), if you get dropped by one bunch there will usually be another along in a minute. So despite la Vaujany being easier due to less climbing than La Marmotte, the need to maintain a high pace to keep up with the smaller bunches or ride around by yourself can make it just as painful.

 

From the Bourg valley there was now a climb up the back of Alpe d’Huez (east side), bringing me out at hairpin 5 from the top (about 6km). On summiting my GPS was reading a temperature of 24 degrees, and the clouds had burned away leaving a clear blue sky. Quickly refilling bottles, grabbing a chunk of brie, a slice of orange, and some jelly babies, then it was back in the saddle for a short climb to the top of Col de Sarenne before a descent down the other side back to Bourg. The road surface was pretty awful and I was holding onto the handlebars as the wheels bounced on the uneven surface. (Some time later when I got off the bike and removed the gloves, I discovered my palms were black from gripping the gloves against the handlebars!) The speedometer passed 70kmph and my fingers were feeling numb from the road vibration. I covered the descent and approach to Vaujany alone, and felt cooked on the final 6km climb up to the village, the temperature ticking over 27 degrees, the gradient averaging 10%, I grovelled to the top using my 34x27. Arriving around 7:45 with a gold medal time, then the complimentary pasta, cola, and energy juice, before a 8km cycle back to the barrage of La Verney to pick up the car and drive back to Annecy.

 

More news tomorrow after Prix des Rousses. Hope you find the reports interesting. Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Complimentary pasta and coke, Billy. Maybe Russian sportives offer free potato-based cuisine. :-P;)

 

Cracking effort, Scott, getting the gold medal standard. Best of luck for the TT tomorrow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So its 0640 in the morning, I'm sitting in the car with all my kit ready to leave Annecy to get to Bourg d'Oisans for the tt. The rain is belting down, so the rain jacket is packed again. It is a mass start at Bourg 0900, at the foot of Alpe d'Huez. So once the TT starts it will be straight into the 16km climb (making a warm-up essential).

 

I reckoned it would take me 1:40 to drive to Bourg from Annecy, leaving me plenty of time to get the bike setup, gels etc. in pockets, and warmed up. I didn't need to register, as I was reusing the same timing chip from the Vaujany. Unfortunately the sat nav in the car insisted that "traffic conditions have changed, new route being calcultated" repeatedly, and I couldn't figure out how to disable it! So I'm taken all along the national roads, and I end up in Bourg parked near the start at 0905. By the time I have a toilet break, get jersey pockets loaded with essentials, and ask the Sports Communication guy standing alone in the tent if I can still compete, its 0915.

 

Some tourists are loitering around with their bikes blagging the free WD-40 he is handing out. They setoff up the Alpe, I run back to my bike and start at 0917. I'm already feeling pissed off that I'm late, and completely soaked to the skin, even through the seams of the waterproof jacket. I've also got that feeling "what the hell am I doing here, in the rain, about to ride over mountains for 2 hours?". My last post mentioned stubborness, but its worth also mentioning stupidity. While I was riding up the alpe, I had plenty of time to contemplate my stupidity. These were my thoughts.

 

Points of stupidity

1. You need to be stupid to ride a TT in the pouring freezing rain, when you've already got 17 minutes against you on the clock, and the result is completely unimportant and doesn't matter anyway.

2. You need to be stupid to be able to fool your brain into participating in such an adventure. And to continue repeating the lie to yourself throughout the whole ride when all common sense dictates you should give-up.

 

So off up the alpe I go with waterproofs on. At the end of hairpin 19 (the hairpin count on alpe d'Huez goes in reverse order, starting from hairpin 21) I reach down to ratchet the cycling shoes tighter; shoes and socks are completely soaked and unpleasantly squidging on every pedalstroke. By hairpin 18 I've passed the last of the tourists. By 17 I catch up with the broom wagon which is immediately followed by an ambulance. I notice a guy riding in front of the broom wagon wearing a yellow jacket. I wonder if he's paid by the organisors to set the steady pace for the backup vehicles? I continue up the Alpe, watching the pulse monitor and riding about 87%. I'm wearing clear lenses on my sunglasses today, but visibility through the rain and the mist is poor (although I reassure myself that I only need to see a few meters ahead when going uphill.

 

By hairpin 16 I'm passing some back-markers, and it continues in this fashion all the way to the top. There is an intersection on the alpe where the riders who have already summitted come back down the opposite side of the road and peel off on a road to the right, and I observe them do this as I continue climbing to the top. Some of these guys don't even have gillets on! Bare legs and arms, tearing down the descent, heading off to the finish in the village of Vaujany. I see a few of them have elected not to continue after summitting, and instead of taking the turn to continue, they return the way they went up, back to the carpark at Bourg. I tell myself I'll return to the car when I get to that point.. switch on the heater full-blast and warm myself up.

 

I summit in 1:06, which is good enough on a day like this. The descent is awful as expected, and the riders I pass are completely drenched and miserable. I get to the junction, which involves about 4 minutes descending, and I am so cold my teeth are chattering, and I can feel the wind whistling against my chest. I continue to rely on stupidity however, and force myself to take the road to Vaujany. There are riders standing by the roadside looking hypothermic without waterproof jackets, leaning on their bikes wondering what to do. I keep going, descending all the way to Bourg and make my way towards Vaujany. Its during the descent that I realise that by descending faster, the rain stings and warms me up. This thought cheers me up immensely as I pass the barrage of Le Verney and make my way to the final climb up to the village of Vaujany.

 

The rain has eased off a little, and I find myself back in my familar 34x27, trying to raise my pulse up above 80%. The climb goes on for too long as before, and I arrive in the village to hear music playing over the tannoy and the announcer tells people to go to the cafe down the hill for a hot drink. I get my time from the Sport Communication timing van, and its 2:36:45 including the late start, which is still good enough for gold status.

 

I go downstairs for the hot drink, and notice my reflection in the mirror over the bar: I wasn't wearing a helmet. I was in such a hurry to setoff at the start I only put my cycling cap on. I was lucky not to be disqualified.

 

Thanks for reading. Next La Marmotte on saturday. Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Davie. Thanks for the support. No riding today, got through a few bottles of Lidl's best rose last night and chilled out. Also got all the ingredients for that Savoyarde favourite tartiflette for saturday after the ride (its like potato gratin with loads of cheese, onion and fatty bacon on top, drizzled in sweet cream). Yum!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Really enjoying your posts Scott and your FB photos. I think you capture that the madness that can be the mark of the keen cyclist really well. Anyway, I have to disagree on a small point. For someone as clever you it needs an even cleverer part of the brain to fool you into riding in such poor conditions. Thus, one might say that your participation is a testimony to your intelligence...or something! By the way, keep an eye out for Mark Whitehead who is also taking part in the same events around Bourg. Don't know if he is as 'clever' as you to have ridden them all yet, but I know that the Marmotte is a big goal, so i expect him to start it regardless.

 

Chapeau Scott!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Darryl, thanks for your kind words. I'm trying not to get too philosophical in the posts, as I'm not sure that sort of thing ages well on a fun noticeboard! But if I can get serious for a moment, I think its important to find your own truth and value in what you do. Too much of modern life is conducted in a superficial way through social media, and I would like to encourage anyone reading this thinking about doing the big sportives or tours to "give it a go". The photos you post will be trivial to others, but the experience will live for ever inside you, might easily change you, and will definitely make you reflect fondly when you think back. There is no failure if you do your best. Best wishes to all cyclists.

 

Would be great to see Mark Whitehead again. I hope he is well. Cheers, Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Couldn't agree more Scott. Btw, I'm reading Charly Wegelius' book Domestique. Check it out for a different view of pro cycling..."Forget the glamour, welcome to the shitty, true life ups and downs of a tour cyclist..."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Darryl, I got that ebook from the Amazon store last night - Wegelius is hilarious. I could have stayed up all night reading it (if it wasn't for an early start in the morning).

 

I am wasted at the moment, so no long report. It was 29 degrees today (according to my garmin). Even the top of Galibier showed a temperature of 25. I got through 6 gels, 3 bars, 250g brie, handfuls of jelly babies and dried apricots, and a small sandwich during the ride today. On top of that was some energy powder in the bottles, and some hi5 electrolyte tabs. Managed a gold time with 8:01 (one piss less and I could have been a 7 hour hero). Got a 6am rise to drive to the tt tomorrow in Bourg. Not looking forward to 2 hours driving there and back just to ride up a hill, but I suppose I better finish things off. Til tomorrow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Last time I rode La Marmotte was 2006. I remember the cold morning start, the blistering heat on the climbs, the delays at the top of Col du Glandon (it was a ritual that every year riders would attempt to kill themselves on the descent, resulting in the air ambulance being called). I ended up with a time over 10 hours including stoppages. I wouldn't say I'm fitter now. Just more stubborn, and more knowledgable about the nutrition I need to take to survive on the bike all day.

 

The temperature for the 2013 La Marmotte was 15C at 0730. This was a sign that a hot day was to follow, and looking around the start line only the leanest riders were noticeably shivering. The last time I rode la Marmotte I started with leg warmers, arm warmers, gillet and outer jacket. I remember still feeling cold at 0700 as I waited in the pen for my group to start. The temperature was a mixed blessing. It was good to have a mild morning's start, and not have to worry about overshoes or leg warmers. But for the slower riders (taking 11 hours+) it would mean being cooked at the hottest part of the day on the Galibier, while the final ascent of Alpe d'Huez would be from the airless valley of Bourg, sometime after 5pm, and could take 2 hours before they got to the top. The trick was to cover as much distance as possible before the day became seriously hot.

 

My number was 8801, meaning I started in the last pen at 0750. There was a party atmosphere at the launch, and we started as Van Halen "Jump" was playing over the loudspeaker. I worked my way towards the front of my group, and stuck with them as we climbed up to Allemont, past the cheering locals who had come out to greet us. I drifted back climbing at my own pace up Col du Glandon, where in recent years they switch the timer off to discourage heroics on the descent, before switching it on again some 15-20km later. This is a positive change as it encourages riders to have a leisurely lunch followed by an gentle descent. It does soften the event somewhat (no more frantic rush to stuff as much camembert or madeleines in your mouth as you can, loading the pockets up with bananas and dried figs before launching yourself down the mountain, blindly following the line of some other nutter assuming he knows what he's doing). The old way encourage risk taking in pursuit of fast times, and the people with higher start numbers were always the ones to suffer; the effects of multiple crashes created significant delays for those coming afterwards. Despite this change in procedure, cyclists still crash on the descent under the new system, and I passed a guy on the way down lying on the ground about 10km along with an ambulance parked beside him.

 

I won't go on about every section and every climb as it doesn't make for interesting reading. What is interesting are the groups from different clubs who ride together. The belgian marathon riders with camelbaks who ride past you on the climbs chatting away. The guys from London Dynamo (a big club, I've seen them at all the sportives I've done this year) are always kitted out in their distinctive colours, riding together. And of course the play of suffering and the starring actors. The guy on the steepest part near the top of the Galibier, who could not believe how hard it was, and got off to check the tyre pressure on his Zipp wheels. The guys you see on every climb pushing their bikes. The people lying in the shade on the hairpins of alpe d'huez. All these things are familiar, like aspects of your own subconscious that could take shape in your own reality given a chance. The people washing their faces and dipping their caps in the streams that fall from the alp onto the roadside. The temptation to get off and lie down, just for a minute. On every climb when the suffering was high, I found myself checking that I really was in the wee ring, and I really was in the correct cog. Checking my heart rate. Changing up a gear, considering the stress on my body, considering my heart rate. Playing games on the hairpins. Changing up 2 gears and dancing in the pedals, counting the pedalstrokes, sitting down again, changing down 1 gear considering the pain until my heart rate climbs too high, changing down again. Checking my heart rate. Passing riders. Being passed. Feeling the salt of sweat dripping in my eyes. I remember Graeme Obree saying "there's no history.. no future.. there is only the black line". To burn away the past and start again.

 

La Marmotte is special, and is probably the hardest of the sportives I've done this year. It is spectacular in terms of the challenge it presents you in the heart of classic tour territory, and the questions it encourages you to ask yourself. Should I save myself on the Glandon and go hard on the Telegraph? I feel the pain and I feel doubt, but am I really at my limit, or do I have more to give? That feeling that you are cracking, and the curiosity to find out if you are really cracking, or perhaps its just another shade of suffering. And sometimes that feeling that you really have cracked, and how best to survive until the next time you feel like you are cracking.

 

In the physical effort there are lucid moments. Like the moment of deja vu I had climbing Col du Glandon; recognition of the long climb at the start winding up the col. The awareness I had at that instant of my breathing, the slight tightness of my cycling helmet, the rotation of the pedals, the pressure of my hands on the bar tape, the glorious soft light of a beautiful early morning opening delicately over the valley, the sense of shared experience with thousands of other cyclists each pursuing their own goals and journeys, and the knowledge that this was the start of the real challenge, and I would have many hours of challenging riding ahead before I arrived at alpe d'Huez.

 

Last post will be on La Grimpée de l'Alpe. Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Richard, thanks for asking. Hope everyone has found the posts entertaining.

 

 

Grimpee des Alpes (14km tt, Alpe d’Huez)

 

I had a 2 hour drive to Bourg. As I took the road to Gap/ Briancon, the mountains began to creep closer. The slow approach created a sense of anticipation, and I looked forward to today's event. I'd never attempted the mass-start climb of alpe d'Huez before, and I was glad I had dragged myself out of bed to complete this week of cycling.

 

Participating in multiple events across the week had turned this journey into an adventure I never really expected.It was as if I could only process so much experience in a short period, and by extending the adventure over a week I had the opportunity to really explore the mountains, the region, my own limitations, and the pleasure of cycling.

 

All the riders lined up in the carpark beside the roundabout at the bottom of alpe d'huez, and waited for the 0900 start. Then we were off, and heading en-masse for the alpe, taking up the whole road even though traffic was still flowing. On the first climb it was mayhem, with uninformed tourists in cars, campervans and motorbikes attempting to ascend and descend the mountain while a mass of cyclists covered the road, weaved in and out of traffic, and frantically pedalled up to the first hairpin. Cars were tooting their horns, people were slipping their chains and stopping in the middle of the road, and everyone was getting overexcited and going into the red.

 

After a few hairpins the riders stretched into a long line going up the alpe. I noticed a Dooleys Cycles and Glasgow Road Club jersey on the way up, and people from all parts of the world. For me it was a case of finding the right pace until the village sign, and then digging deep for the ascent to the tunnel, before switching into the big ring for the sprint up the final climb through the barrier-lined promenade to the finish.

 

When I loaded my rides into Strava later and crunched the numbers, I discovered the ride with the highest stress score was La Vaujanay, followed by La Marmotte and el Quebrantahuesos. My data for the timed tt of alpe d'Huez showed an average power output of 250w (not very high when I compare with my data from Sa Calobra earlier in the year) and a gold time of 1:06. (The winner by a significant margin got a time of 43 minutes, and 84 riders were under the hour). The ride data was interesting as it illustrated my weakening body, and no doubt a few more days of these rides would have killed my immune system and left me completely wasted. The numbers were also teasers offering the possibility for self-improvement (I'm curious to return to alpe d'Huez fresh and get under an hour, a feeling that every cyclist must have). But the data was essentially boring. The personal journey was more interesting, and in the previous posts I've tried to convey a sense of the contradiction of wanting the suffering to end, and also delighting in the moment of being alive.

 

I stood near the finish with the crowds of other cyclists for some time drinking in the atmosphere, but at last I descended the alpe, returning to my car in the carpark at Bourg, packed my bike away, and took a last look at alpe d'Huez and some final photos. As I was about to leave two Americans were riding excitedly past the carpark, heading towards the climb and their own personal adventure. "This is where it all begins" one said to the other.

 

And that seems a good point for this story to end.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×