Friday, 16 July 2010

Télégraphe road

Fortified by a couple of half bananas and a fruit bar, I hacked my way through a jungle of riders to the edge of the abyss - a 20-odd kilometre descent of the Glandon.

What goes up must come down. And down and down and down, judging by the road that sprung out down the mountainside before me like a deranged tarmac slinky.

The race organisers neutralised it - basically turned the timing chips off - so people would go down a bit more steadily. By all accounts, it can get quite hairy and certainly the top is what they call technical. Which means steep and twisty, as far as I can tell.

Martin had already fallen foul of it, puncturing as a result of an inner tube blow-out thanks to overheated rims caused by excessive braking. I tried to stop as I flew past at a daft lick, but it would have been dangerous to do so. Once off the tops, it really was a case of The Long And Winding Road. I lost count of the switchbacks and hairpins negotiated and was genuinely grateful when I saw the signs for St Etienne des Cuines, which signalled the end of the descent.

More fool me. What followed was possibly my worst time in cycling. Approaching 15 kilometres of main road in searing heat and a block headwind the size of Wales to boot. I did my level best to tag on to the end of groups, but they were all moving too quickly, so I wrestled the bike along by myself, feeling every inch like I was being blasted backwards.

I also began to feel the effects of too many energy drinks and bars, which were weighing heavily on the stomach. Cramps ensued, but thankfully respite was at hand in the form of a water stop replete with portaloos. You could say I outstayed my welcome there.

By the time I emerged, having taken an aeon to put my jersey back on, Martin had arrived, so we ploughed on to the base of the Col du Télégraphe in tandem. For the first few hundred yards, I exchanged pleasantries with a Dulwich Paragon rider, but felt stronger after the gel I'd ingested so span on ahead.

Known as being the easiest of the Cols, it lived up to its billing. But what a climb. Forested at the outset, the road snakes ever higher through thinning trees until you can look to your right and see just how high you've climbed from the plain below. An inspiring sight. Cresting the pass without stopping felt like an achievement by the time I got there. But I eagerly sought shade and a comfy seat on arrival.

Fatigue was beginning to set in now and Martin was certainly feeling the effects of little sleep, so we stopped for some time before hitting the descent - a nice 5 km drift down into Valloire. And you can relive that descent vicariously through the medium of internet video below.


video

Yes, yes, I know it looks slow, but that's just the video. Honest.

But I'd be forgiven for taking it easy over that stretch, as the gruesome Galibier was waiting in the wings...

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