I’m currently writing this in a foggy haze. Today was huge. No, the other days were huge. Today was off the charts. It was set up to be our biggest day on the bike, so we got our run out of the way super early and very easy. Our 10k minimum ended up taking almost an hour.
Back at the hotel, we did our usual morning shuffle. Since we moved to a new place today, we packed our bags and stuffed down as much food as we could at breakfast. At dinner tonight, I was asked what I had for breakfast, so I’ll recount it here as well:
2x bowls of cereal with dried apricots
3x cups of coffee
2x coirssants (sp?)
2x packages of yogurt
1x hardboiled egg
1x dollup of peanut butter
I don’t know how many calories that is, but it’s probably a lot. And I burned every last one and much, much more on the ride today.
We left La Grave and headed towards the Galibier. It was about 10k to the turn and another 7-8k to the top. There was no KOM on the Galibier, so the group took it really, really slowly. I was very happy about this, but eventually I settled into my casual pace which was a bit harder than the group wanted to go. As a result, I had a great chat with Peter all the way until 1-2k from the top. Then I got a little itchy and went for it. I didn’t pick up the pace too much, but I wanted this for myself. I took a ton of pictures on the way up, and I even got a little teary-eyed towards the top. The views were so good that they were emotional. I’ve been dreaming about these views forever.
After a short break at the top for warm gear, we headed off on the chilly descent. It was long and fast and absolutely incredible. There’s nothing I love more than a fast descent after a hard climb, and the Galibier definitely delivered. There was some kind of event going on though because there were a million cyclists coming up while we were descending.
After a long descent and a few towns, the group caught back up with me, and we worked together for about 10k. People must have been pretty shattered though because I ended up breaking away and riding solo for the majority of the rest of the ride. There was a deccent amount of climbing on the way to Iseran, but there was nothing too crazy.
The leadup to Iseran was very pretty. We were down in the valley, and you could see it looming in the distance. The town just before the climb was extremely pretty. They all had the same stone masonry and same stone roofing. It was all so very French. I loved it!
Iseran was a bit of a low point for me. It was a 14k climb, and I had enough of a lead where I could take it at a pretty slow pace which meant that it was going to take a while. I wanted to grab some chamois cream and my headphones at the last aid station, but I was too focused on a quick stop that I completely forgot.
The first few switchbacks of Iseran were extremely beautiful. You could see the valley and the mountains off in the distance. It honestly looked much like the other big climbs we’ve done, but that doesn’t mean you get sick of it!
The middle section got a little dark for me though. You make a turn away from the valley, and you don’t really know where you’re going. I could see trails or roads off in the distance that looked like it could be the way, but everything around was just so high that I wasn’t sure. Mentally that’s tough. If you can see the top, then you have something to look forward to, but if you can’t, then climbing seems endless.
The final section is where the wheels started coming off for me. Even with 4km to go, I still wasn’t sure where the top was. There was a section with one-way traffic, and I had to stop for over five minutes. In a way, I was pretty happy about that. It gave me some time to rest my legs, eat the only bar I had on me (an extremely melted snickers bar,) and drink the last bit of water in my only water bottle. Starting back up after that stop was tough. The legs were heavy, I was totally bushed, and it was starting to get cold. We were almost at 9000 feet!
The summit was also a little underwhelming. There isn’t much at the top. No cool cafe or swag shop like the other cols. Instead, I just put on two jackets, drank some coffee, ate three cookies, and was on my way.
The descent was prettty legendary. Thank god we didn’t go up that side because it was absolutely endless. It felt like I was descending forever. There were a few cool tunnels along the way, but they were a little sketchy without lights. However, in one tunnel, we got stopped at a light, and a Lamborghini pulls up next to me. When he took off in the tunnel, the sound spoke to me. It was SO loud. I loved it!
I hit the intersection where we were supposed to turn towards our chalet, but I made the decision to tack on more. Yes, I was aiming for 200k on our biggest day on the bike. Yes, I am insane. I didn’t think we’d have any more opportunities to hit 200k again for big points, so I went for it. I had an hour and a half, and I figured I could make it pretty easy.
However, when I went past the turn to tack on, I just kept descending and descending and descending. I kept going for over 10k before hitting the valley floor where it was reasonably flat. I thought I was good on time, but with a 15k climb up to the chalet, things were looking tight. I downed my last energy bar, my last sip of water, and went for it.
I ended up hitting 200k with an extra 1300 feet of climbing five minutes past the cutoff. Newsom was a good sport about it, and he let the points count. He said that if I wanted the points, I could have them. And let me tell you, I worked damn hard for those points. I could have tacked on during the flat section before Iseran or I could have turned around at any point and descended the remaining kilometer at any point to hit the cutoff, but I didn’t. I decided to push harder than anyone on our biggest day to make it happen. That definitely deserves yellow in my book.
The chalet we’re staying at is beautiful as well. It’s big enough to fit everyone, and the dining area can sit everyone too. We had a private chef cook us rice and curry, and afterward I sat in the hot tub with one of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen. How am I so lucky to be here??