Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

France Stage Three In the throne room of the cycling Gods

On the way up.        This is why we came.  

With my bike finally in hand I was eager to roll. This was the stage we had talked about all winter and spring. Breakfast was quieter than usual as we all knew what was in store.

Stephan was almost as excited as I was to see the case that held my bike. 

Since KLM lost my freakin' luggage, I had been like everyone's kid. Can I have some sunscreen?  Do you have any extra chamois cream?  Can I borrow some gloves?  On the one hand it was liberating, as I could essentially ask anyone for anything and be excused, but as a person who prefers to be the prepared one who offers help to others, it grew old quickly.

Ripping down the road.
After loosening up my legs, my knots felt better.  I had been worried that the damage to my body from climbing the Col du Glandon with a 39 tooth chainring would last for days.

The Tour de France will cross this Col in 2012.  The descent from here was an absolute blast
Lots of turns and almost no traffic.

Some of us liked the corners more than others.  Steve took home a bit of France on his elbow.  Soon we were making our way up the Col du Telegraphe.  The Telegraphe would be a noteworthy climb except that it is on the route to the Galibier, so it is relegated.  
When I reached the top I felt wonderful as my bike was working as designed.  The compact crankset is the proud mans triple. The van was waiting at the top and I ate and drank and reloaded bottles and stuffed bars in my pockets. I knew what was ahead and I wanted to get there.
As I rolled through one Alpine village after another I remembered why they are called "Alpine" villages.  We were all strung out and I was on my own. The scenery put the "awe" in awesome and I was enjoying my solitude. 
Recognizing names on the road gave me a boost. I didn't see where anyone had painted "Evo" on the road.  I left Telegraphe with two full bottles and I was drinking per plan. The mountains were so beautiful and I was so excited I realized at one point that I hadn't had anything to eat for over an hour. I dug into my jersey pocket and stuffed a bar in my mouth. 
If you know exactly where to look, you can see the Col.  I was in the mountains and my legs felt strong. I stopped to take photos now and then. Although I don't drink, I would liken my ride to sipping a fine wine; I didn't want to rush. There were hikers, an occasional car, and the wind was picking up. The altitude and breeze were keeping me cool and I was in cycling heaven. My bottles were now empty but I was feeling fine.
Slate Olsen, this shot is for you. 
I didn't see any fat guys on bikes on this route. Everyone I saw was serious. I didn't see anyone on vintage bikes, most notably I was on a 2012 Curtlo.  I watched the meters tick by (vertical meters) and soon I was recognizing the Col proper.
While I was shooting a photo, Marc caught me and we rode to the top together. Marc, who was the Lion of the Peleton of Discovery a couple years ago. 
I stopped a hundred meters below the summit to photograph this building. I have had a picture taken from the Col de Galibier on my computer desktop for six months in which this building is the only structure you can see.  It was surreal to finally see it.  After shooting the picture, I pedaled out of the saddle and caught Marc and we hit the top together.

I made it.  
The descent was fast and long and twisty and I was on my bike and it was so much fun. 
We smoked this road.  I passed two cars.  Don't tell Hottie.  
After the descent we made our way back to L'Alpe d"Huez and the evening had an almost celebratory feeling. Dinner was scheduled later to accommodate our late arrival from the long day.  Though higher, the Col seemed easier to me than the Glandon. I wondered how much of that was the bike. In speaking with others, they felt the Glandon was the hardest of the trip. 
We attempted to demonstrate that we were multi sports fans and turned on the Euro cup soccer match.  Some of us stayed awake.  Not all at the same time.  We all slept well.

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