The first few kilometers were flat. We were lulled into a false sense of easy. Then it got steep and it got steep fast.
They mark the kilometers to the summit with these tombstones. Legend has it that the riders who die trying to climb to the summit are buried and these are their grave markers. I piloted the Velo Jaune toward the summit and the markers told me the distance and the grade of the kilometer to come. The grade was steep, eleven, twelve, fourteen percent. The gearing on the Velo Jaune made the last few kilometers a series of alternating single leg presses. I could feel my quads twitching as they do before cramping. As I would pass riders, they would look at my bike and in their respective language, mutter the breathless equivalent of "what the hell??" Every rider looked to be in pain. There was nothing but suffering on the way to this Col. I was on the steepest part of the route and then I rounded a corner and it got even steeper. Under most circumstances seeing the one kilometer to go marker would have been a moment to rejoice. With the grade as steep as it was one K to go meant I still had eight minutes of suffering.
Soon I was on top and eating cookies and pickles and drinking energy drink. We paused and took this photo. Now all we had to do was enjoy a pleasant descent and then climb up freakin' L'Alp d"Huez to get to the hotel.
I put on my arm warmers and we headed down. The road was great and I leaned over and let the yellow beast fly. After we dropped Tom and Kevin and I formed a grupetto and began the climb up to L'Alp d"Huez. The road was clean and the switchbacks seemed to go on forever. My cadence was slow and my legs were cramping. I had to hop off and stretch a couple times. It was frustrating because my legs felt strong, but the high gearing was killing me.
Tom drops his head as he churns up the mountain.The views were breathtaking. We climbed and we climbed. The turns are numbered and each has the name of a past winner of a Tour deFrance Alp d"Huez stage.
After a shower I received a text from Hottie who informed me they had found my bike and it would be delivered the next day. I danced with joy and slid into my compression tights. After another big dinner Horst proposed that because the next day was looking wet, and most of us were toasted, he suggested we make the next day our rest day. The motion was carried and I went to sleep knowing I would ride the Velo Jaune no more.