|Climbs||Col d’Izoard,Côte de Puy-Sanières, Côte de la Rochette|
2 Days in the legs, and facing pretty much in a HC climb, there was another sense of trepidation on the morning of the 3rd day. The sun was shining, but it was bitterly cold, although we knew that with 20km of climbing ahead that we wouldn’t be long warming up.
With almost 19km of climbing ahead everyone quickly just settled into their own rhythm. We had been told that it was one of the most stunning climbs in France, but between the weather and scenery, it was definitely the most enjoyable part of the whole week for me.
The first 10 or so km, until just after the village were really enjoyable, the gradient was relatively benign (probably no more than 6%), and the roads were really quiet. This time however there was a sting in the tail, and the last few km often hit double-figure percentage gradients, although the switchbacks did offer some relief.
The cumulative fatigue in the legs definitely made for a slow final few km, but with a few photographers luring at the hairpins, it was important to keep moving!
Probably because of its remote nature when compared to Alp d’Huez, but once at the top of the Izoard there were a lot more cyclists and motorcyclists around. Once again, of course, we quickly got cold waiting around at the top, but once we got all the gear on, and took a quick group photo we were away. There was definitely a sense of danger with the first few km’s of the descent, the difference with the Sarenne being that a mistake there would have been a bad injury, here the drops were just terminal!
But once we got a flow going it was really enjoyable, and everyone was able to easily hit 50, 60 kmph and be comfortable doing it. It would be interesting to try the Izoard from the other direction, heading back to Briancon.
If the Izoard was the highlight of my, then the second half of the day was definitely had some of the low points as well. By the time we stopped in the village of Guillestre the sun was high and hot, and even though the Parcours was mainly downhill, at this stage any push of the pedals at all was a challenge. We stopped for a decent lunch, knowing we had most of the climbing down, but with still over 1,000m to go and another 80km.
For the first 30 or 40km while I wasn’t exactly feeling fresh, at the same time I felt like I was able to spin relatively freshly. We did get news about halfway to Gap that one of the roads was closed, and Marcin went ahead to scout a new route. The good news (for those of us on the rivet anyway) at this stage was a little bit of the climbing and distance would be knocked off.
Having said that, the most empty I was during the entire week was at the top of the final climb. It was only a Cat 3 up the Col du Manse, but when your that empty it’s just a struggle. When I made it to the top I just had to slump over the handlebars and suck air for a few minutes, before double back a few hundred metres to a tiny village, where I had spotted a tap with some potable water.
Don’t get me wrong, it was an absolutely epic day, but it was definitely good to finish with a downhill!