|Team Dave - Mission Accomplished|
Now completed, Team Dave rider Slip (Stuart) Read describes his experience perfectly after not only grinding his way to the finish line like the rest of the team, but also nursing a broken bottom bracket bearing over a Tour de France Queen's stage - La Marmotte 2013.......
|Alpe d'Huez warm-up ride|
We got going at about 08:00 and headed off along the valley floor for 10km; the initial enthusiasm meant the speed from the start was pretty high, approx 25 mph; we then turned right off the valley floor and after another couple of kilometres started the ascent of Col Du Glandon (18km long with average grade of 7.5%). What amazed me immediately was the steepness, most of the time we were riding a grade of 10% plus, there was a couple of flatter sections which brought the average down, but most of the time we were pushing hard to keep a decent speed on this climb.
|Start Line Mania at La Marmotte|
With thousands of riders on the climb at the same time, the road was jammed with 6 or 7 riders wide; the faster ones on the left side the slower on the right; I started on the left, but after an hour I found myself hugging the right of the road, trying not to get in the way of faster riders, things weren't quite going to plan, I had not expected this, thought I could hold my own for much longer than this, my spirits dipped a little, but I kept telling myself I was holding back to be fast later on. I pushed on keen to get to the top of Glandon and onto the first descent.
|TD Looking pensive at the start line|
|Doc on the Glandon|
I was feeling relieved I solved my water issue and felt that although I never found a group in the valley to shelter in I was doing OK; my strength would tell on the climbs to come I told myself - Oh My God how wrong was I!!
|Everest on the Galibier|
|Taking a breath at the feed zone on the Galibier|
|Slip cramping up...|
I stopped after 10km up the Galibier at Plan L'Achat, just before the road really ramped up to 12%+. I readied myself for this well known tough section which climbed up to 2740 meters. I climbed back on the bike and rounded the hairpin that led to the first steep section. Oh no, not cramp again! After just 50 meters of this climb the cramp started in my upper left leg, but fortunately my previous experience with cramp meant I knew I just had to push through it and with gritted teeth and sweat streaming off my brow I just kept the legs turning through the cramp. I could see the road flatten out at a hair pin and new that if I could just get to that section the cramp would release me and I could carry on. I made, and with even more trepidation I began the slow plod to Alpe D'Huez. No more stops for 8 km saw me arrive to the last couple of hair pins before the summit. We had been told this section was really steep, but by now everything was steep and this section seemed no steeper than the rest but I was pretty chuffed by then. At the top of Telegraph I wasn't sure I could continue, but I'd just climbed one of the most Iconic mountains in the Galibier with a busted bike and was OK. I decided to give it everything I could for the last 100 yards, get a sense of achievement from it, It was great. I over took a couple of riders and almost sprinted across the line. Until that point the only riders I'd passed going up Galibier were either walking or standing at the side of the road, so this was a little victory in my now very tired mind.
|Don't be fooled by the smile/ grimace|
|Everest snow bound|
I stopped at the feed zone at the bottom of Alpe D'Huez, for a rest and another ham baguette, I was sick of my energy gels by now and I was craving something savoury. I sat on the curb next to a Frenchman who cracked open a cigar case and lit one up. I asked him if it was good for going up the Alpe, he said he had already been up and had come back down to wait for his son - I guess he deserved his cigar. As I mounted my bike an English guy remarked to me that this was not likely to be his most proud 2 hours on his bike but I dare not think about how long it was going to take - that was too much. I just needed to keep turning the peddles over, hairpin by hairpin, all 21 one of them.
|Pelo on the Alpe d'Huez wall of pain|
The problem was even in my lowest gear I just could not make my legs go faster than 40 revs per min. Normally I would climb at about 80 revs, but I just had nothing left at all in the legs. I reached the 5 km to go sign - over 65% of the way up the mountain and I looked down at my computer to see I was only doing 6 kph, another hour of climbing, OMG!!!!
|Doc on the Galibier summit|
I was not the only one struggling, by this point in the ride everybody bar the best were at the end of there normal endurance capabilities, so strewn across every hairpin was cyclists seeking shade, sitting on the walls, lying on the road in the shade of the wall, those taking their shoes off to try and relief the pain, and those with just enough energy to walk for a bit before making another effort to ride to the top. One rider seemed to be teasing me, I must have passed him 6 times, whilst he rested only for him to constantly cycle past me again. Alpe D'Huez although only 14km took 2hrs 10mins, nearly as long as the 18 km Galibier, but the Alpe was far harder, the steepness was unrelenting and the heat was the worst of the day.
|Slip grinds it to the finish|
God knows how, but amongst the hundreds at the finish I bumped into Steve, Stephen and Andy, all had finished much fast than me, but all had suffered just as much as me, especially on the Alpe D'Huez. My ride time was 12 hrs 2 mins the fastest of Team Dave was 9hrs 24 mins official time. My official time was 11 hrs 2 mins, as they deduct the descent of Glandon for your official time. The race winner was a Belgian with a time of 5.5 hours - unbelievable!
Everybody was very tired, Andy had to drive me back to my hotel as I could neither cycle or walk that far. That evening in the restaurant stories were shared and as each hour passed talk changed from never again to if I do it again. By the morning we were going to give it another crack at some point in the future....!
What an experience; great weekend, great challenge, with great friends, what more could anybody want... other than to do it faster next time...
Stu 'Slip' Read
|Team Dave return in one piece on the chunnel|