As if yesterday wasn’t bad enough today there were 3 Categorised climbs, and they were all HC graded. Before leaving we all knew that, after a very hard day yesterday to have 3 HC climbs today was going to be more than tough so as we met outside our hotel there was a nervous atmosphere, the 7:00am start time gave an indication that the day would be long and after a short briefing by our Ride Director, Andy Cook, we were on our way, leaving as a group from the hotel, reversing the route from the night before, our descent last night was our climb this morning.
Again the Sprint points are to be awarded early after 11K, just after that we were once again climbing the Col Du Galibier, but this time in the other direction. Even though a HC climb on both sides, this side was easier, longer but less of a gradient until the final steep slopes before the descent along the long road we came up yesterday. The view was much better as well more greenery to look at, the mountains that yesterday stayed hidden behind us were in full glorious view in front. The bridges we crawled through on the climb flashed by as we descended to Valloire before climbing the Col Du Telegraphe, which this time was a 4km climb rather than the HC from yesterday, Our lunch stop today was at the top of that climb ready for the descent down the technical side of the Cole Du Telegraphe before turning left into the long valley we climbed up though early yesterday,
When we reached the end of the valley we were no longer retracing our steps turning away from Albertville before a climb that started a kilometre 80 and would not finish until Kilometre 110 – The Col de la Croix de Fer. The gradient was an average 5.2%, the average being reduced by a small descent in the middle, in reality that climb was more like 8% average. it just went on and on and on, each bend leading to another climb, each climb leading to another bend, it was energy sapping. It took me an hour and 50 minutes to complete the climb. Reaching the top Andy was there to greet me and there was an opportunity to refill bottles and have a snack before the descent.
The descent wasn’t straight forward either, with a couple of severe climbs to negotiate, one a series of switch backs. but it wasn’t all hard work. So much to look at on the way down, A soldier’s statue adorned with four French Tricolour Flags, A water fall crashing down from the top of the mountain to the bottom, it must have been 400 feet tall, running down the side of the mountain. A sign to Le Bourg D’ Oisains giving directions to everyone else but warning us it was only 28 Km to our next HC climb. Twice we rode past beautiful blue/turquoise lakes each with dams. The first one we rode past before a hairpin bend turned to look at the dam, a massive structure that looked like an organised pile of small rocks easily the size of a football pitch. The second we crossed and then rode in a zig zag down the front wall , before riding in to the village below with its freshly painted roads ready for the Tour. Yesterday the day ended on a climb and today it was no different, but this was the climb we all wanted to do – The infamous Alpe D’Huez. With 21 hairpin bends the road climbs up the sheer cliffside. Starting from a small roundabout, through some building, a sharp left and there is the first climb, of about 15%. As you approach the climb you can see cars and lorries snaking their way left to right each turn just about wide enough for a bus, but after 5 hairpins the gradient subsides and you are lulled in to a false sense of security, to more Hairpins after long straight and there in front of you is another snake of cars and trucks, but this goes up further and faster than the first. The late afternoon sun was beating down on us – it was scorching, but this was the last climb of the day and as with yesterdays climb I was determined to reach the summit, no matter what.
Each pedal stroke you make on The Tour 21 raises money for Cure Leukaemia, it is great motivation as you struggle with the heat, tired legs and steepness of the climb knowing that people are recognising what you are doing and are donating to the charity. Eventually you ride through a village, with lights hanging across the street, you leave at the far end, turn 180 degrees and ride through again, just a little higher up the mountain. Hot and tired I was determined to get up this final climb, in two days the coarse took in a Category 2, a Category 1 and 5 HC climbs, if I didn’t finish this one the rest would mean nothing. Suddenly there is the ski resort of Alpe D’Duez, high up on the right hand side but there is still 1000 feet of climbing to go along roads painted with lines marked to denote where the crowd will stand either side of the riders who will be forcing themselves up that mountain a week from today. I got to the village. The top of the climb – I had done it !!, but where was everyone … No, there was still more to do, riding up further through the village, more zig-zags before the final straight.
At the finish line friends Nicky and Ian were waiting with Sam and Lee, they had been on holiday and came over to see my finish today. It was great to see them and we chatted for a while, as the sun subsided I looked at my Wahoo, 15,200 feet of climbing, the biggest day so far, 9 hours in the saddle, the longest by far, but we had done it, finished the ‘Queen Stage’ for the 2022 Tour de France.