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Archive for July, 2011

TeamTBB Tour de France

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

So its that time of year again. Tour de France time. No, not that Tour. Yeah, yeah. Well done, Cadel.

But TeamTBB holds its own Tour every year. The focus of this Tour is the Alpe D’Huez Triathlon, no mean feat in its own right, but even more so in the middle of a week of riding… but more about that later.

Day 1 dawned cold. Very cold! The clouds and rain from the day before lifted… just enough to show the fresh snowfall on the mountains around Leysin, before closing in again for much of the day. Thankfully it did not rain too much, but the cold was pretty extreme. We cruised up the valley to Martigney, before climbing the challenging Col de la Forclaz which takes you over the mountains to France. One more small climb and then it was the descent to Chamonix-Mont Blanc. A beautiful town in the shadow of the imposing Mont Blanc… although we couldn’t see more than a glimpse due to the fog, which had kept it VERY cold in Chamonix this day. We  huddled in the warmth of McDonald’s for a long lunch, before setting out for one more mountain over to Albertville. The descent to Albertville, always a good one, was this time cut short by a road closure and detour. The descent was cut short, but it was no short-cut! An extra 4km climb and another descent and with 175km in the legs we were happy to see Albertville and the Etap hotel, despite what it is…

Col du Glandon

Day 2 and all thoughts were on the imposing Col du Glandon, 20km, 1950m alt. Brett wouldn’t let us go over the Col du Madeleine too, despite protests from the whole group… ;) The weather was better today, but gloves and arm-warmers were kept handy, for the chill still present in the air. The climb was long and painful enough, as usual. Fun! We descended to the lake where the race would start, before climbing the back route up to Alpe D’Huez through Villard-Reculas, seeing only the final few switchbacks of the famous climb. We would get better acquainted with it in a couple of days…

Pre-race day was spent making sure we were set for the race – a considerable swim at 1850m, a short run and a ride. TeamTBB day off…

Race day and we were warned to expect great weather. We all bundled up in pretty much all of our clothes for the 18km ride down to the lake and race start. It was cold, but it was manageable, and the sun was trying hard to break through as the day tried to decide what it would provide us. After racking the bikes and body marking, and somewhat futile effort as everyone would simply cover the numbers up, we took to the frigid lake. I was hoping my memory had exaggerated the cold from last year, but alas, it was as cold as I remembered. They kept us floating in the deepwater start for about 13mins more than necessary as far as I was concerned, and I am not sure they actually started the race – I think someone got fed-up with the delay and just went, so everyone else did too! They added a loop to the swim from last year, and I am not sure they halved the loop size to compensate.

The Famous climb - Alpe D'Huez. The picture makes it look easier...

We exited the water and whilst we were swimming, the weather had made up its mind – it was to be nasty! Pouring rain and a few degrees cooler than when we went in, I was instantly regretting not choosing to use my rain jacket. But it was never that cold, and I only really got cold when we got near Alpe D’Huez, at 1850m and well into the clouds today! By this point I had dropped everyone, the last few up the 21 switch-backs, and had a handy 3:30min lead, 4:40 on the guy who would win. But I had a penalty to serve. (I won’t get into it. Stoopid French.) 5mins standing in a tent at about 5C, wet with only arm-warmers on left me not only behind, but disadvantaged badly by cold. Added to that the fact that I had hardly run due to an achilles injury the last few weeks, and my race was pretty much over. I trudged in to finish 6th. Good training day. Enough said.

The next day we were back in the pool for a little loosen up, before we were back on the road for a little more loosening up… 150km of it! It was a flat day, down Alpe D’Huez and up the valley’s all the way to Albertville. Plenty of head winds, a few rain showers and a good stop where we all ate too much at the supermarket, and that was the end of what was really just a travel day. Same place as the way there, and same Buffalo Grill for dinner and same McDonald’s for dessert. Same same.

Day 6. We had a choice. Hilly or flat. Being as tough as we all are, everyone wanted to go the hilly route ;) so we re-traced our route from day 1. It turns out that little detour around the closed road was a LOT longer in reverse – our day started with a substantial ~10km climb, 4km descent, then more climbing. Good start. Everyone was feeling very chirpy and laughing a whole lot… well, almost everyone. ;) We found a new and awesome descent, but it was tempered by the promise of the ride up the ‘goat path’ as Bek named it. It was a little road, but goats would have called it a highway. And it wasn’t that long. After Bek forced us all to wait for the back-markers, we cruised up the valley back to Chamonix-Mont Blanc, where the weather was good enough to sit outside McDonald’s this time, and we could see the snow-covered mountain. A little more climbing (about 20km!) and we were in Switzerland again. A long descent and a gentle cruise down the valley with a nice tailwind and we were in Aigle, 160km done and just 14km to Leysin. I stopped to pee, and the rest of the group attacked up the climb. Nice one. Turns out everyone was in their own world of thought (read: pain) by this stage, so everyone rode their own pace, alone home to Leysin. I don’t have a photo, but the greeting in Leysin looked something like this…

The Tour ends in grand style... The other Tour does anyway.

So about 750km, 6 days, a half-IM+ distance race and a few swims and we are back in Leysin. Holiday is over and back to work for everyone…

Onwards and upwards…