Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Galibier!!! Stage 3 Haute Route

First words - ouch and oh my!! Doing 3 cols in one day is crazy and hard. Every rider was totally dehydrated by the top of the 2nd Col Telegraphe with no water in sight. 4000m was maybe 1200m too much for me.
proof I carried my camera up Galibier
On the scenic side... Galibier was the most amazing climb I've done for open epic-ness! It was definitely neglected to tell us about the WIND!!

riders & bikes packed in the gondola 
We had a 6 a.m. convoy down the hill in the dark then a climb, total 4 km distance to the gondola entrance. Each gondola was packed in with about 12 riders and bikes. Easiest and safest way to get the peloton down to town. Once all the riders were down we started at 7:15 a.m. with a 31 km neutral start- long.

I recognized the highway we were on as it was the main road that took me to the World Cup MTB marathon in Val Thorens back in 2006.
photo I took of Stephanie climbing on her own!
The race began once we were on the route to Col Madeleine. I saw Team SOLO working together. I decided to ride with them. The pace was slower than I would have liked though the rest may help for the later climbs. Team SOLO didn't seem too thrilled that I decided to ride in between their drafting line. With me behind #171, he wasn't aware he was dropping my solo woman competitor Stephanie. It was energy conserving to cling on his wheel.
relaxed and waiting for Team SOLO - photo Helena
At the top of Madeleine, I waited moments until Team SOLO got their feed and joined them on the descent. It was awesome and lots easier to ride fast behind #171 although Stephanie braked a little. There was a long flat section at the bottom where it was welcome to have #171 to follow. We slowly picked up more riders. Then #171 dropped off with a flat! 
hurry Team SOLO - photo by Helena
No problem, another French guy friend filled in for him and towed Stephanie and I up Col Telegraphe. On route, I was baking. My feet felt twice the size inside my shoes. I had blisters on my hands that hurt on every bump. My decision was to hang with them until the top of Telegraph. Racing time was over and I wanted to find a way to enjoy the last climb. It was noticeable we were all parched. I was impressed that Stephanie was holding up well and climbing consistently.
riding behind Team SOLO - photo by Helena
At the peak of Telegraph with no water in sight, we all began the descent. I hung on as the breeze from the descent was cooling. Riding through the next village, I looked left and right for a fountain. At the end of town I saw a cyclist just leaving one. I stopped for amazing cold flowing water. I soaked my head. I wanted to soak my bare feet in it though knew it would be difficult to continue after that.

After a nice break, I rode another couple km when finally there was a feedzone. I grabbed some skinny packages thinking they were gummies like Clif. Biting into one later, it squirted all over me as it was a liquid gel, nice.

Starting into Col Galibier, I felt more energized to tackle it though then I felt a wind hoping it was temporary. That strong wind was with us the whole next 1200m up on a super exposed very cool scenic mountain pass. To ride this Col was truly amazing. I was picturing crowds from the Tour all over watching the agony of racers climb.

Made it though, crap, my feet hurt!
I passed the odd rider as we crawled along. The finish at the peak was visible though was still so far away. It was a happy sight to see the 1 km to go sign and make it to the Finish at the top . Water and coke was offered to us, yet we still had to ride another 31 km to town, all down though I was wiped out.

Marg & Gabi in front of the climb up Galibier
Gabi had a great day and finished close to me. We started the descent together and we both had the same thought to stop at the first sandwich place we saw. We joined other riders that were there. My championnes soup was so delicious.

Lunch in front of Galibier with German Team Claudia & Martin & Gabi
The last 20 km to town was long and tiring. My hands were tired from braking.

That night when we were out for dinner, the waitress thought she misunderstood me when I ordered two separate main courses. The guys followed my double order.

A good night sleep in a cozy hotel for the 11.5 km time trial tomorrow! And more rest time.

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