Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, July 6, 2012

France Stage Two the pain cave isn't a cave, but is in fact, a Col

After another fitful sleep wondering where my bike might be, we awoke and stumbled down to breakfast. Coffee, coffee and more coffee. Then we shoveled down huge quantities of the same breakfast of croissants, muesli and fruit.  Once again it didn't take long to pack and soon we were rolling.

The first few kilometers were flat.  We were lulled into a false sense of easy. Then it got steep and it got steep fast. 
We passed a sign that told us we were entering the territory of hurt. So much hurt in fact, there is a Minister of Hurt.
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.
It was hot and I had flies swarming around and my legs wouldn't let me outrun them. I passed two cyclists that were going so slow, I'm not sure how they stayed upright. Soon I could see the pass and then I could see the van.

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.
This turns are numbered in reverse order so the first one you hit is turn twenty one and the next is number twenty.  Imagine my surprise (and uttered profanities) when I discovered turn one is followed not by the finish, but by turn zero!  Then I went under the finish banner.  This is when I realized Horst must have some some preoccupation with altitude as I still had to climb to get to our hotel.
When I arrived at the hotel I had 3,500 meters of climbing in my jelly-like legs. I leaned the bike against a fence and told Stephan I would not ride that bike tomorrow.

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.

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