The High Alps Challenge is a week-long cycling challenge which starts in Geneva, traverses the French Alps, and ends in the coastal town of Nice in Southern France. Catch up on what happened earlier in the week on the High Alps Challenge Part 1.
Another day, another climb.
I had thought yesterday’s 22km ascent was pretty beastly, so I was more than a little daunted by todays 45km climb to the Col de L’Iseran, which loomed ominously just a short ride from the campsite.
With legs stiff and sore, we set-off up into the clouds through Val d’Isere (over a couple of black runs), past an alarming amount of snow and, with the temperature dropping noticeably, up and over the Col – collapsing over my bike right in front of the cameraman, typical!
Now at the top, all that stood between man and beer was 40km of descent through barrierless hairpins on wet roads – no time to relax just yet! An hour or so later, mentally and physically exhausted, I arrived at our camp for the night.
The views here are simply stunning, and its time to relax in the sun. Phew!
This was one of the big ones. We woke up in Bramans - about 15km from the base of the first climb. Waking to the smell of the delivery of baguettes direct to our camp was a great touch. Everybody set off together to get to St Michel du Maurienne, a very popular town within the Tour de France (and now Giro d’Italia) schedules.
Now for the important part: we had two climbs today, the Telegraphe followed by the infamous Galibier. But the real secret is that these are only joined by a couple of kilometres of descent, so essentially it is one long drag of over 30kms into the heavens.
We planned to rendevous at the top of the Telegraphe for an Organina and photoshoot – everybody whizzed up and with the beautiful weather, we all chilled out on the lawns of the picturesque mountain bar. Then, as if it was planned, Cliff (Dave’s dad), arrived on his motorbike to join us for the week. Perfection.
Boom. A massive crack of thunder just as we were leaving the Telegraphe peak, it was almost as if the Galibier was beckoning and goading us to take it on. It was pretty intimidating and as we went through Valloire and up to the start of the climb, the clouds got extremely dark and everybody knew that they were in for a session (if they hadn't before).
As soon as we started, the rain began and it did not stop. This is why it is called the High Alps Challenge and not the High Alps Bike Ride – it was tough. About 3 kilometres in everybody was forced to have a little rest as about 1000 sheep were flooding across the road, we were in the wilderness. The climb is like no other we have done and with this weather everybody was getting cold and tired, they fought on though and the lead group made it up in pretty good time. In fact, everybody did. Going past them handing them sweets was encouraging but I think that the words of encouragement were lost a little with Adam (our cameraman) and I sat in the warmth of our VW.
The top was cold and wet. We did not do the usual waiting to regroup as they would have frozen. We stayed in the car and let the group go down as they arrived - this really was tough. The descent was treacherous but everybody was super careful and some very wise coffee stops on the way down helped people to rediscover their fingers.
It was a long descent down to the campsite, and in fair conditions would have been an easy and quick one. However, the rain meant that going was slow and much longer than expected. Everybody got down and after a stop off at the supermarket the support team rewarded them with a huge BBQ (the weather had abated). Everybody has now goe to go to bed, they will sleep amazingly well and be extremely proud of what they have achieved – on a very full stomach.
Tomorrow’s rest day is welcomed but everybody is very excited about completing this amazing challenge.
Please do not forget to help the team by going to http://www.justgiving.com/HAC2013. Any support is very much deserved.
If you have enjoyed what you have read and want to hear the rest of the story, check out post 3!
If you have enjoyed what you have read, and fancy being a part of this team taking on the challenge next year, go to the HAC website to sign up!