the croix de fer was on the agenda as today’s mythical alpine col. it’s a long and awe-inspiring ascent that peaks at 2067ft. i left at around 9am in an attempt to avoid the heat. i should have left earlier, but it wasn’t practical. it was certainly markedly better than yesterday, when according to the garmin, the temperature peaked at 104°. i understand why cavendish has waved the white flag.
i rode up from rochetaille, and had planned to do some more riding afterwards, but my legs were cramping so i felt that discretion was the better part of valour, and headed home. during most of the climb i felt good, and drank an awful lot of water. not as much as heinrich haussler yesterday, but certainly a number of bottles.
the climb winds through a beautiful alpine pass, with hydro-electric dams strung between steep-sided mountains. the temperature rose throughout, but not to the same extent, and it remained more bearable than the Alp. in part due to the added benefit of shade from the trees on the lower reaches. i saw a marmotte; i’m not sure what i thought a marmotte was, but it looked suspiciously like a beaver to me. it was also dead, lying on its back in the road. i saw lots of lizards, including one big green chap who looked like a very small dinosaur.
the mountains, especially above the tree line, maintain an aura of magnificence, encapsulating the sublime. the striations in the rock and the etched contours speak of lengths of time and processes that i cannot possibly comprehend. this is compounded by the absence of people, or even the mark of people on the landscape, beyond the road that clings precipitously to the edges.
the croix de fer is possibly my new favourite. some interesting and slightly overwhelming facts about today’s climb are as follows:
- it’s 18.6 miles in length, this is similar to burrington combe, that’s if you do burrington combe 9 times in succession and make it a bit steeper.
- i was climbing for an hour and 50 minutes, all told. that’s nearly 2 hours spent riding uphill, gaining 5000 feet in height.
i ditched the HRM today, following yesterday’s disastrous, hideous exercise in HRM hubris. for the record, i averaged 182bpm on the Alp, with 191bpm being the max. this was for precisely one hour. it’s no wonder i needed a lie-down afterwards.
what with the ascent of the Croix de Fer taking two hours, there was of course a silver lining – the descent. this took a stupendous 52 minutes. during that time i attained a new record speed of 60mph. whilst attaining this speed i pretty much shat myself, and would hesitate before doing this again (either the former or the latter). the new record happened for two or three reasons, the planets were very much in alignment: the road was straight for a long time, with only a couple of wide, sweeping bends, and none of those classic alpine 1 foot barriers between life and becoming a human/bike entanglement plummeting down the cliff; the gradient was around 11% at this point; and lastly, the cervelo r5 is so incredibly smooth and controlled that it genuinely feels manageable. for a few short seconds.
tomorrow i am taking in some lesser cols, including the sarenne and something else. i am trying not to overdo it…