Today was my big one. Hastily rearranged yesterday when I checked the weather forecast and saw storms and rain were predicted on Sunday. So today was simple, get the last two must-do climbs in.
The route came out at around 85km with 2900m of climbing. A big ask for me considering my legs were still tired. I’d planned an early am start as it was supposed to be the hottest day of the week.
I woke about 7am. Had a crap sleep. It was really warm and I had to open my balcony door at 2.30am to cool down and then I couldn’t get back to sleep for a while. The day dawned, I was woke by a child next door talking loudly, The sun hadn’t come up over the mountain yet so I just dozed for a bit feeling really lethargic. Eventually I got up, made a coffee and had my breakfast. The early start was disappearing fast so I got changed and headed out asap with a belly full of museli, yoghurt and banana. As I exited the basement garage, the sun hit me. It was just after 9am and it was hot already.
The start was all downhill then off the main road onto a B road that runs parallel to the main road. This turned out to be a great decision as the road was wide open, great for descending and very quiet. The best descent of the week so far easy with great views.
I hit Taninges and then right over to the other side of the valley. I passed a bric-a-brac market where various sellers were selling shit. It was upmarket car boot because they had proper tables and gazebos! Over the river and then left down the valley now. Great road, the first bit was a bit busy as it was the main road to Cluses but when I turned off the road was quiet and a great surface, way better than the road back from Samoens a couple of days ago. I dropped into Samoens, briefly got lost as the Garmin played up again and before I knew it I was on the Joux Plan.
This climb has a reputation as the hardest in the area. Its steep and long and because it south facing, if you get the sun you can cook on it too. The first couple of km were ok but the heat was unrelenting. When it gets serious midway, the gradients are all above 8% regularly 10%+ in places. Its a killer and I could feel it. My legs weren’t 100% so I’d opted for first gear and do what I can. 6km to go, the sign said altitude 1000m, it did some maths and I was going to have to ascend 100m+ vertically every km. With 5 to go the gradient was steep and a rider whizzed past on his e-bike not even trying. Bastard! The sweat was pissing out of me, so I kept drinking regularly, long day ahead. Into the trees its steep again but eventually when the hairpins are over despite been 9% you can see the top and it was just a case of counting down the metres until I eventually reached the Lake and the top. Shit that was hard, really hard. I was doubting my legs for the rest of the route but I stopped briefly for a banana and the rolled round the plateau before the descent and climb to the Col du Ranfolly. I stopped to take a couple of pics, the views were stunning. As I got going again some old boy Frenchie spoke to me. I told him I was English and couldn’t understand. He mumbled something else before I left him and hit the top and begun the descent.
Now I understand why the Pro’s love to recce climbs so often. Having climbed this side just a couple of days ago I was awash with confidence as I knew the bends and what was ahead. I descended really well, confidence levels topped up. The road was really quiet too so I could drift over the road a bit like it was the Tour! The bit I particularly like is when you hit the heat in the valley after the cold air of the top of the mountain. It gets technical at the bottom, so no risks and before I knew it I hit Morzine.
At this moment I wasn’t even thinking about my legs I just carried on and started the climb to Avoriaz and consigned myself to go as far as you can with what you got and worse case I can just turn round and go back down. I munched a bar and banana, slipped in 1st gear and begun the climb which is pretty much 6-8% all the way. If you like Aple d’Huez, pop this on your bucket list as the first 10km are peppered with about 18 or 19 hairpins I think. And they are pan flat so you get a rest. I just kept going, ticking off the km. There was a lovely cool breeze which made it bareable and the clouds were rolling in keeping the parching sun at bay as much as possible. The last 4km, the hairpins cease and the road just grinds up the valley to Avoriaz at about 6%. And you can see it which isn’t nice when you’re struggling. 3km to go and I was struggling, I ached all over, my calfs had had enough of the gradient and my mind was beginning to tell me to just turn at the Joux Verte summit and go straight down. I knew there was a restaurant at the junction so I set that as a mental finish line for now. As I approached the wind was getting up I decided I just had to stop. I was out of food and drink and I needed a top up. I sat down, ordered a coke and a bottle of water to refill my bottle. I looked back across the valley to the Joux Plan and I did a double take. RAIN! Shit. That was my worst nightmare. I’d carefully planned my routes around the weather so I kept the risk of me on my own on a mountain, in rain to a minimum. I drank my coke quick, filled my bottle and paid my bill. Bollox, I’m here to do the summit which was 1.3km away so I just got on my bike, got there, did the summit selfie and turned round sharpish. The wind was getting up now and then the first spot of rain! FUCK! (I did say it out loud actually) The coke had kicked in big time, I was off my tits now. The first few km of the descent of the Joux Verte, I was racing a couple of motor bikes. I had them on the corners but the straights I eventually had to give way. My mind told me just get to the Lake then it can rain as much as it wants. The drops got abit heavier so I banged it in top gear and dropped like I was winning a stage. Les Linderets is a mini village half way up that has loads of tourists and shit loads of goats in the road. People and cars everywhere. In and out of them all and I was off in front of the motorbikes again 🙂 The rain was still spotting so I just hit it hard until it got really wet but it didn’t it stopped! I got to the Lake, felt the warmth of the valley and rode the next few km’s downhill on the carpet tarmac, I was still off my head on coke. In the big ring nailing it.
I got lost in Morzine, my Garmin was trying to take me down a one-way street the wrong way so I stoped an figured it out and eventually got onto the familiar Les Gets valley road. The coke had warn off now and the reality of a world of pain set back in before I saw the church which confirmed 1km to go.
Bike away, i got to my room and collapsed on the bed. I needed food and had nothing in so I showered and shuffled over to the cafe for a big ass omlette and chips which I destroyed.
Back to my room, I’m not going anywhere tonight. Right now I’m watching the Classica San Sebastien on Eurosport.
Not event thinking about tomorrow. Au Reviour!