Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stage 6 – Racing on Europe’s Highest Paved Road 2802m

I rode 3 km down to village Barcellonette to wait with 1/3 of the field for the neutral field coming down from PraLoup. We merged in and had 5 km more of a neutral start before racing up the Cime de la Bonette, a 24-km road through the Mercantour National Park. The scenery was outstanding as I did my best to hang in with the lead group. Once we blew apart, we slowly formed the chase peloton.

I was impressed to see the woman, Dorina, from the Italian mixed team surge by and pull our peloton up into the headwind climb. There must have been 15 guys and myself behind her! I was told she has been an Olympian fencer (gold medalist Barcelona!), so it must be something with perseverance and drive.

The climb was a nice grade 7-8% but the wind was so strong. I did my best to shelter myself and sit and ride like a mountain biker (tucked down on the nose of the saddle). Ouch, it hurt a lot to stay within the peloton. Every-so-often the peloton would string out and I had to accelerate a few times to get back in. I cried in lactic acid pain each time though I knew I had to as I would be shot out behind and would be struggling alone in the wind if I was dropped. I have not worked this hard in a long time – IT WAS GREAT!! We crawled together up this 1600m ascent. With 2-km to go, the grade eased to a nice 3% to only whip us again into a headwind with a 12% grade with the last 500m to the top.

Most riders stopped for a feed as I continued down an epic twisty road. To add to the scariness of the fast descent was the narrow roads with cliff dropoffs, and unknowns of when a vehicle was approaching from around a blind corner.

After yesterday’s crash, I chilled a smidgeon on the descent not 100% confident in the bike. Around one corner there was already one lead guy in the ditch. On and on…. finally to more open of a road though it was the roughest road I’ve ever experienced in Europe. One guy blazed by though I would have been stupid to consider to follow his wheel. Two more caught me on the easier descent and it was nice to ride with them for a couple km.

Last climb only 400m elevation to the next ski village Auron to end up at 1600m elevation again. I worked it and finished happily first solo woman (4th after wickedly strong mixed team women).

Hotel was right by the finish line, yay. It was impressive to see my bike worked over in the hands of the Mavic guys!

Had more time to meet the riders and support. Helena is support for quite a few riders, Brits, NZ, Aussie, all sailors. Apparently, this is a training event for them. Helena sounds like quite the sailor herself and is attempting the world record for 500m sprint with her partner (wind driven only). They have been close!

Waiting for the market to reopen in the afternoon, we met an American from Iowa that is hiking the Alps for months self-supported. He was as impressed with our riding as I was with his adventure. He has no camera and doesn’t blog or write stories, yet has experienced so much interesting stuff! He hopes to cheer us on tomorrow.

I was happy to buy all the goods for an epic salade at the market. Quality food is lacking with the event and hard to come across in the sparse summer ski resorts. Check out this epic meal – green lettuce, zucchini, tomato, carrot, Italian parsley, red pepper! I had coconut oil and borrowed balsamic vinegar from Helena for a sweet dressing.

Off to the pasta dinner or best said “white noodles, white bun and white dessert” dinner! More to socialize than partake.

One more day… 

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