I love 'racing'. The feeling of riding in a
living thing thats bigger than you is mesmerising. Smashing through
the Gorges de la Nesque in a group of 50 of us will a lead car in
front is something that will live long in the memory.
If Ventoux was 15km long it would be tough but cool.
However at 21km its a pig. And the sections at 12%
Doing Ventoux at the start of the day is a lot easier
than doing it with 120km in your legs
Cycling in Provence is much more than just
Ventoux. Because the big beast totally dominates the
skyline I did not think there was much else there. I could not have
been more wrong. From glorious roads through vineyards, to epic
gorges to punchy 8-10km climbs the region has it all. You could
send an amazing week riding here and never once go near
What a pleasure it was to see so many nice
bikes, and riders admiring the various bikes. It had the
feel of a glamorous car rally
Feed stops became a risk/reward. For reasons I
wont bore you with, my Parlee only had one water bottle cage.
Normally in a UK sportive thats not an issue. You stop when you
want and its cool enough that dehydration is not an issue. However
on Day 2 we had 140km and 3300m of climbing. We passed feed
stations at 40km and 78km and I rode through both. I eventually
stopped after 120km. Thats quite far to go on only one bottle and 3
gels when you have done 250 watts for three and a half hours. But
the group I was in was so good that I knew if I stopped then I
would never get back on, and you would lose many minutes fighting
the wind on your own. So I risked dehydration and bonking for the
free speed of the peloton. It was the right decision to make, but
these tactical decisions were not ones I had ever faced before.
I need to be able to descend better. Losing
touch with the group on fast descents just means you have to sprint
full gas on the flat sections to catch up. And you do that enough
times and it will eventually pay. You only have so much gas in the
tank; you want to save as much as you can for the final
A 36 chainring and a 28 cassette is not big enough for
me for these Alpine monsters. When the gradient is 8% or
less I am okay. But when its 11-12% my cadence drops markedly, and
so does power. Grinding at that cadence is no longer cycling,
instead its a succession of leg presses…..Unlike in Mallorca which
I feel is a cardio workout, Ventoux was never hard enough to really
get the lungs going. Instead my legs gave out first.
There are many ways to skin a cat. My group had
a 50yr old Frenchman in it - on a sustained climb he would get
dropped, but he could descend like a demon and then catch us up and
be ahead of us on the valley floor. On one road he caught a car,
and motor paced it at 70 kmh on a windy road. He put minutes into
us, and it took us ages to finally catch him. We may have been
'fitter' but he had alternative skills. At the end of the day you
do what you need to to get to the finish as quick as you can.
Glamorous cycle events are booming. Haute Route
has shown people will pay a decent price for a well run epic
challenge. Wiggle et al cannot discount experiences or bucket list
The 3 day Haute Routes may be shorter but they are not
easy. People were training for these all summer. Dave and
I showed it very little respect and rocket up on base training. I
have spent all summer doing Ironman stuff - I have no top end at
all. I managed to sneak into the top 50 overall - but the
separation between my times and the really fast boys in the top 20
were marked. If (and its a big if) I want to get to that level I
will need to really step it up. I will need to be able to climb a
bit better, descend much better and practice a lot more race-craft.
Not much then !!!
Competitors were a friendly bunch. I had heard
some stories that it was a bit serious and argy bargy on some of
the 7 day events. I cannot say, but in my experience the 3 days was
full of great camaraderie. The standard of riding was very good,
and people looked after one another on the road. If there was a
pothole or some road furniture it was called out. People were quick
on descents but without stupid risk taking.
I am a convert to Haute Route. Next year I want
to do more. 3 day or 7 day (or both). Bring it on for next