It occurred to me the other day when I did the WA’s birthday post that there was a story in there that whilst its a massive flashback, it’s probably worthy of rehashing for a modern audience. Yes… I am THAT desperate for material, but bear with me as a story is still a story… A warning though, quite a long read today!
You see, once upon a time, before Dirty Nomad was on-line, it went out as an e-mail. WTF? How cute and analogue! Sure, it was blocked by 95% of e-mail firewalls, but ultimately thats how this sort of all started. I would do shit and then e-mail it out to those bored enough to elect that they wanted to get an update, but mainly it was unsolicited, like me at a work party. Whilst I have retrofitted one such instance into the DN site (the Trans Provence Tour series), there is plenty of gold still hiding in them there e-mail archives to warrant the odd flashback.
And this is one such example… So, join me as we time travel back to July 2012 and into the depth of the Cannasia (RIP) Cols Classico tour and a day of legend that was the Col du Galibier and Alpe d’huez double stage! What you’ll get below are exerts from the original e-mail report of that day, with some modern finessing thrown in of course. Its worth noting that the trip I am referring to here was one of my first major overseas cycling holidays, aside from Whistler in 2011 and absolutely sowed a deep seed for how awesome it is to travel with your bike, your crew and do amazing rides… Allow me to demonstrate…
Monday 23 July 2012 – Stage 4 of the CCC: Valloire to Alpe d’huez, Rhône-Alpes, France
81.2kms… Not a very big ride… At all really, not even a century. But, whilst on paper this was the ‘short day’, 2 of the most impressive and arguably famous Alps climbs lay in our path; Col du Galibier and the legendary Alpe d’huez. These two are the ones I had always wanted to climb and for me, represented the pinnacle of what the trip was all about. We were also riding them in the same direction as the exciting stage 19 in the 2011 TDF, where Tommy V made the mistake of going with A Schumck and Cuntador when they attacked on Galibier, no easy ask when you look at it:
The Col of doom started basically straight out of the hotel front door! No warm up, straight into it… Oh yay. We rode out of town in a group and passed the first kilometer marker on the side of the rode, 18kms to go, cue fart noise. After all, this was Day 4 of epic Cols riding and the body was starting to get into the “Fuck I’m going to fall apart here cunt” zone. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, it was cold, but sunny and no clouds, very impressive scenery from the gun leaving Valloire:
The normal order of business on these climbs had been we would ride as a group for 4 or 5kms, then the Welsh Assassin, Clarso and Kevin would ride off and leave the rest of us to suffer in silence, like cast off cycling condoms… The ‘Tim & Tim Grimpeur show‘ being the only ones to claim a KOM win so far (98% of those going to the WA). None of us had a strategy to counter this, so expected the same pattern on Galibier.
Then, as we went past KM marker 16 (yes, 16kms to go to the summit), the road flattened… I was on the front… I put it into the big chain ring and pushed a little, hmmm… Legs felt good, oddly… I pushed some more… Click, click, down a few gears… More power… Momentum… A gap appeared. I sat down and began to power away. After another km, I dared a look back and the gap had grown, significantly and I was now alone. My mind started to race at this point, there was 14kms to go, but I had a gap I hadn’t had before on a Col and I felt weirdly good, dirty even. Was it madness to lay all my cards down now? I decided it had to be done, in a Kyle Reese kind of way, it was either glory or destruction, no in-between.
Was the Welsh Assassin worried? Hardly, sun was shining, his major Col win record was still intact and the thought of some fat hairy vermin disappearing up the road was hardly a concern…
I picked a gear at my limit and started to power away, switch back after switch back, I sprinted to get around the next corner to stay out of sight, if they can’t see me, they can’t chase me as effectively was the only thought that my oxygen starved brain could manage… I cut corners where semi-safe to do so and alternated between out of the saddle bursts and seated efforts. As I went past the 8km to go marker and into the alpine range, I allowed a look down the Col to spy my pursuers…. Yes, the chase was on, but my lead was defendable – Well, if you were riding with normal people.
This is where you start to get fever as a cyclist, I was cold, but sweat was pouring off me, I was hurting all over, yet my body screamed “STOP you fucker” and “fucking GOOO!!!” all at the same time. I started to believe that I could get KOM glory on this Godfather of epic alpine ascents, even imagining what it must be like for tour riders who try these crazy early attacks and can feel their chasers breathing down their necks. Dramatic much?
Then at some stage, word made its way back to the Peloton that the gap was now somewhere in the region of 3 to 4 minutes…
For about 0.1456 seconds the WA’s fire control software considered letting a domestique have its day… A gift if you will, a gesture of goodwill perhaps? A scrap off the table for the common folk? No. Instantly the Anti-Benevolence system kicked in and much like the ruthless assassination of the Hawk on Col Du Sauosages (4 to 5), new orders were instantly issued:
Hunt the Nomad… Catch the Nomad… Kill the Nomad…
And with that, the day of the jackal begun, as you’ll note, some skinny climbers are starting to drop the wheel here, a few minutes into the pursuit:
Meanwhile, sensing the Empire was about to strike back, I sprinted from switchback to switchback, lactic acid building, the gradient changing from 7 to 9 percent, with pitches even steeper. The headwind hit me, so I was gagging for each right turn to have it at my back. I powered on, knowing this was my only effort of the day and watching the KM markers tick by agonizingly slowly. Oddly, in this hurt locker world of pain and suffering, I was blown away by the most incredible mountain scenery around me, spectacular shit and no, I didn’t take these obviously, my hands were welded to the hoods:
Then there were only two left at the head of the peloton… The hunted and his Welsh hunter… If we had a camera strapped to the WA, I suspect at some stage he would have spotted his furry prey scampering away with the same desperation of that teenage antelope everyone hopes will escape the lion assault… But then gets fingered and eaten:
I would love to tell you a tale of a happy ending (nothing to do with an Asian massage), of high fives, podium girls (for promo photos only of course) and KOM glory, but alas, it was not to be… As I hit a 9% section, with a nasty head wind with 5kms to go, I glanced back to see the Welsh assassin powering up… There had been nothing but empty road behind me for almost an hour and then suddenly, he was there. 68kg of coiled steel climbing machine hurtling relentlessly at me.
Hope turned to horror, power turned to panic… In moments he was on me like a Welsh Ron Burgundy and my 11km defiant breakaway rebellion was snuffed out with no mercy. I tried to respond, but I was toast, ruined and spent. “Jump on my wheel!” he commanded as he went past me, I complied more out of the use of authoritative tone than ability and in less than 100m of being vaguely ‘on the wheel’ the mind & body had come to a joint conclusion: Impossible
And with that, he was gone… Like a ghost, I had been shot with a silenced weapon and now had to struggle up those last 4km’s or so with 9mm slug in my carcass… The not so great news is that I am pretty sure those are the hardest 4km’s of the whole fucking mountain. Particularly the last 2km’s and especially when you’re deep-diving into some self loathing around your inability to hold out just a little bit longer before caving into the reamfest:
And so, to the victors go the spoils and we had to organise another “WA at the summit” KOM Rapha porn photoshoot, this time facilitated by some weird Dutch tourists given we were all still flailing around on the side of the Col:
From this point on its like Platoon… One by one the decimated survivors started to arrive at the summit, with grimaces or looks of disbelief etched on their faces. Some relating to my futile insolence and some because of how fucking hard this was as a warm up… The only thing distracting us from the bitter summit cold was the mental vistas around us. Herr Doktor had used science and an advanced algorithm to work out that 13.5kmph was the optimal Col Climbing speed if you weren’t a super 70kg lactic acid junkie climber, and as per usual, science was right. The thing I love about this shot it was only 2 days later that Herr Doktor began the conversion back to FULL ENDURO… Er, before we knew what ENDURO was:
Whilst I had collapsed in the last 3km’s, no such drama for the Hawk, who rightly thought through the strategy that we still had the brutal punishment of Alpe d’Huez to come, I mean, fuck, look at him, gliding along on those pedals like some sort of Conti PRO with free Sidi’s. Wetness:
Dirty travel tip – Fuuuuuuck its COLD as all fuck at the top of these Cols. Obvious really at 2,600m, but don’t be mistaken by the PRO’s who crest and then glide down the other side in a summer jersey and shorts. Hell no, it was time to deploy every single piece of Rapha winter kit available on the website. This is why you need the support van people, its essential!
No matter what the temp though, always time for some #Bromance action in front of some famous signage… Even if it does mean queuing up with some old Germans to get in front of the landmark. Hard to see here, but our faces are already frozen in place, hence the goofy grins.
Ok, so before we depart, one look across the other side into the vast awesomeness of this Col. According to Strava the highest climb I have ever been up and yeah, its a total beast, no question there. May I recommend perhaps riding it within your limits? Would probably make the last 3km’s have less of that ‘death march’ feel to them. If you like mountains, coming here is a MUST DO, but you want a day like this, it would be insane cuntery in bad weather:
And then, the ‘reward’: A massive fuck off descent down to the base of Alpe d’Huez… My brain was oxygen starved and frozen, but I recall it being around 47km’s of “holy shit this is fucking fast and I really don’t want a front puncture on these clinchers” of starfish tightening full gas road bike descending. How cold? At one stage I went to have a drink oddly and ended up just pouring water all over my face like a total cunt on account of my frozen lips. Classy.
Its not often you’ll get flogged out from riding downhill on a road bike, but with the speed, the tunnels (mega fart noise inducing), the fact it appeared we were all still racing each other and the sheer epic nature of this descent, a break is probably a good call – Not to mention as you get into the valley, its as hot as fuck and you’ll slowly start to roast up like the mountain bitch hog you are, or maybe that’s just me… Most likely:
Relief! in two parts; 1) I’m not going to bore you with a blow by dirty BLOW of how slowly Dok and I rode up the Alpe while all the little people frothed and frotted each other in a Grimpeur frenzy up the road, but suffice to say the WA had/is the second coming and smashed the notorious climb to bits and 2) the real relief was having the van at the base of the climb to dump 18 pieces of winter kit we had on. I highly recommend the support van at the top and base of climbs approach for Alps suffering.
I actually enjoyed the Alpe d’Huez ascent, well, ok, it was insane suffering, massively hard, ran out of water and got passed by weird units on MTB’s, but I got to enjoy the Dok’s company and had a full science lesson on how mountains work, but further more it was the scene of the only time Science has ever been wrong, which would take another post in itself to explain, so instead enjoy the only pic ever on DN of Herr Doktor in road kit, race fit road kit at that:
So in the end that 81.2km’s took 4 epic hours, with 2,441m of climbing across 2 climbs… Yeah… A tough one when its your 4th straight day of insane Alps riding. Strava fetish? I have you covered:
Some quick Dirty tips on this day:
- Riding from Valliore to Alpe D’huez is an awesome route, so should be on the list
- A support van is pretty key in my view, worth having it stop at the top of Galibier and the base of ADH
- If you want a mega day, start at the base of the Telegraph, one of the BEST climbs in the alps for amateurs and do that first… Cafe au lait in Valliore and then push on to ADH, so around a 5 hour day or a bit more?
- The descent is looooong from the top of the G Banger to ADH(D), so leave the Zipps at home, unless you want to melt them and get warranty
- The Alpe d’Huez climb actually keeps going past the cafe’s when you get into town, so don’t stop like I did and get a coke, back in the day when I had hyper tension about segments this was cunty
So, definitely one to have on the road bucket list, rather #notenduro, but it did lead us oddly back on a path to rad shredding, so a day that will always be remember.