Alpe D’Huez

Today i rode the Alpe D’Huez. I had intended to avoid the mid-afternoon sun, but didn’t have sufficient time, so opted to head straight out at about 12. the temperature at that point was a balmy 28°. it continued to rise steadily, peaking at around 35° by 3pm. it wasn’t ideal weather for cycling up mountains.

the road is covered in fresh paint from the Tour; lists of names and images of flags adorn the slopes; one section halfway up is entirely orange in honour of the dutch riders. it’s a genuine spectacle, and links the road firmly with the Tour De France, as you climb ever upwards, competing with the remorseless height gain and 21 hairpin bends, each one named after a previous stage winner on the Alp.

i really struggled today. some strange things happened. my max heart rate went up to 104%, and was frequently at 100+. in fact, for the duration of the climb i was considerably above the kind of levels I reach in time trials. i’d guess that firstly, the max setting is too low, and secondly, the heat and constant gradient stitched me up. at times i tried to back off, but just couldn’t get the level down, at all. in the end i gave up looking at it, and reasoned that i should just about be able to cope because it was an hour climb. this in itself is quite an eye-opener, it’s one thing having a bit of a bad time on a hill, it’s entirely another having a sufferfest on a 12 mile, hour long (at least) monster.

when i got to the top i found a shady spot and sat down for about 20 minutes, trying to get some semblance of order and dignity. i was soaked in sweat. i felt little or no sense of achievement – i’ve ridden the alp before – just an unending gratititude that i’d made it to the top and could now breathe, and rest, and refill my water bottle.

5 of the 21 hairpins

during the descent i took a few pictures, it’s not the sort of drop where you can hit it hard and fast, so i took it steady. i then went on from there and tackled the Col D’Ornon, a much more civilised climb of around 6 or 7 percent, a steady gradient up through the woods. although this one had a few moments where the 2ft wall at the edge of the road seemed rather inadequate in relation to the 200ft drop on the other side. having said that, the descent was a total blast, 50mph, no messing.

i have spent the past three hours trying to shift a headache and rehydrate. it’s proving difficult. tomorrow the croix de fer, glandon and villas reculas beckon.

as a minor point of interest today, i wore my club jersey.

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