Squadra di Vecchi Tori


Col de Lauratet, Alp D’Huez and Col de Sarenne by kiwicyclist
July 22, 2011, 6:51 am
Filed under: Rides

How do you properly describe one of the most significant, incredibly epic, awe inspiring, exhausting, exhilarating days of your (cycling) life?  Every cliche in the book would not do it justice.  The following statistics would not come close – 3140 meters of climbing, 8.23 hrs of riding, 131 ks covered, 65 minutes or close to it up Alp D’Huez.  

Huge fucking day on the bike.

 – that would do.

I’m typing this up at 10pm after returning back to our hotel in Sierre Chevalier at 7.30pm, an empty tired shell full after a 3 course feast washed down with a number of well earned beers.  My knees ache, I feel raw, dehydrated and on an absolute high.

We headed out this morning at 8.30 to climb the Col de Lauratet which is 15 odd ks up the valley from our front door before decending for 40ks down to le Bourg d’Oisans at the base of Alp D’Huez.  It is a long slow drag up at around 4 -5% with the fun part closer to the top of the climb when we headed through some of the avalanche tunnels.  

When I stopped to put on knee and armwarmers and a vest a curious group of Frenchmen came over to inspect the bike. One of them started pointing at my Garmin and asked me in French if it worked by satellite which I confirmed “oui par satellite” and we proceeded to have an animated discussion about the model number, different readings availablenand cost back in Australia – in my case in broken French and sign language – I think I lost him when I tried to explain why I didn’t use the height percentage reading (as I have said before it is too mentally challenging) but there were lots of gallic nods and gesticulations – they seemed to be quite impressed.

As I posted up on twitter earlier today we stopped for about half an hour further down the road in La Grave (famous for its extreme skiing) which is 10 ks into the descent as the weather turned and rain came over from the direction we were heading in – and it was freezing.

Some views from the Col de Lauratet and a few Ks past the summit towards La Grave:

The descent is pretty manageable with the only tricky part negotiating a number of long very dark tunnels with bike and road traffic in both directions making it a bit treacherous.  As you head closer in towards Bourg d’Oisans you skirt around the edge of a lake filled with grey glacial water and cross a hydro dam before heading up again for a number of ks along a steep sided valley covered in forest. 

In the gorge – the heavy metal horns thing is catching on with the group (I feel so proud):

Borg d’Oisans itself sits at the base of Alp D’Huez and the infamous first ramp started almost immediately out of the town.  “Bang” it hits you straight away and is a challenging slog for the first 5 or so kilometers.

I decided to push on alone as I knew some of the stronger climbers in our group would overtake me and managed to get up to turn 9 without stopping for a short breather and a photo as per below.  The views are incredible and there was a constant stream of riders tackling the climb as well as campervans and cars lining the route on the upper slopes. 

While tapping away in a steady rhythm on the pedals I saw two riders snap chains during the climb – “poor bastards” I thought as it brought back memories of my trip up Mt Ventoux a few days earlier.

What I thought was pretty cool about the climb apart from the spectacular views across the valley were the markers with the different names of famous riders as you can see from the shot above. 

Oh, and I should mention the Dutch.  Boy can those guys party.  Further up the climb I bumped into these guys below and had to stop and take some shots – they were already pretty smashed, had the doof doof music blaring and were making a huge roar when anyone wearing rabobank kit came by.  One of them came up and offered me a beer when I stopped and babbled something incomprehensible in my ear which probably was something like ‘Ya dude, ve like to party much no?”

Dig the older guy rocking the clogs – legend

Further up the climb I rounded the infamous Dutch corner – how did I know you ask? Apart from the fact that I could hear it from several turns below and the 20 ft section of road painted orange, there was was a 2 story scaffolding construction set up as DJ box covered in taupaulin – with a DJ spinning discs on twin turntables!  Look for it on TV tomorrow – it is completely mental.

The final part of the climb levels out a bit and we all completed it in grey skies and gently falling drizzle –  I like to think of the conditions when Armstrong attacked up the climb in the rain but in reality it was mild and slightly refreshing in comparison.  It was mayhem in the village at the top with huge crowds of riders getting photos taken and buying souvenirs.

Jarrod (part of our group)’s ghetto video arrangements for the descent below.

By now we had completed around 70 ks of riding and had to retrace our way back up the valley to Col de Lauratet – a long steady climb of around 40ks on tired legs.   Both Poz via email and someone else up on the hill suggested an alternative route home which would avoid part of the climb and bring us out further up the valley – by going over the top and climbing and then descending the Col de Sarenne which is what 5 of our group managed to do.

View above airport Alp D’Huez on route to the Col de Sarenne.

And that is where the “epic’ part of our day started. (to be updated in the morning when the computer is recharged).

Kiwicyclist

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