Marmotte Alpes

Mamotte Alpes was most likely the hardest Cyclosportive or Gran Fondo I will ever do. 170km+ and 5km uphill across famous Tour de France climbs, in peculiar alpine weather. Strava stats here.

Typical race set-up for me is these days a minute ad-hoc schedule. Again didn’t have too much preparation, sleep or energy intake before the race. Just the previous race behind as the training buildup. Add on top 10hrs+ car driving and business meetings in the past 24 hrs, we finally arrived sometime 1am to the hotel in Alpe d’Huez with wife and one kid. It didn’t help the race was moved from Sunday to Saturday at short notice because of the sudden French elections. Crash immediately to bed. Alarm goes off 5:30 or so. Breakfast, bike set up, and off we go rolling down the bends to the valley. Pick up number just before 7am and get in the starting grid in time. I pass the line around 7:30am.

First climb to Col de Glaudon goes pretty well. Weather great. Cloudy, no wind. On top in about 2:15 and feels energetic. The first weather surprise comes at the end of the descent. Feels like a heat barrier hits at some point and the temperate goes up. Wind also pick ups and of course it is headwind. Struggle in the flat or slight uphill with the wind, and drop from peloton to another. I am not comfortable riding at the heels of others.

Col de Telegraph, the second climb, goes quite fast. A hint of rain pours in at some point but the clouds give away. A short descent to the bottom of Galibier and I finally get to the first food station. Have some banana bites and a piece of a cracker. Clearly service doesn’t compare to Italian events. I could have taken more calories if available.

Then Col de Galibier. I know this is where this race comes together. I start pretty easy, watching the heart rate not to go too high. Closer to the top the wind picks up and it looks like there could be more rain coming. At the top we have another food station and energy refill. Pass the entry to the tunnel at around 7:15, still pretty much in the planned schedule. But when the light comes out at the end of the tunnel the rain goes sideways. And we have storm!

Hitting the descent with huge headwind, rain and overall coldness feels both surreal and unbearable. Brings to my mind some the legendary Tour videos I’ve seen. Curse heavily as the water blinds the visibility. Have to stop multiple times just to figure out where to go. I can’t see a thing! Maybe 15 minutes in my hands, legs and essentially the whole body starts to shake. Feels like my bike is shaking. My body is about to break. I wish I have had a jacket. Neck gets stiffer and it feels like a curtain shuts whatever I have left of the little visibility. Have to consider quitting for real. But it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t make sense. It was supposed to be just a long fast downhill to the bottom before the final climb. There is nowhere to quit, we are in the middle of nowhere, with no bail outs.

Arrive finally to the bottom, the temps get higher, the rain goes away, and clock ticks about 8:56 or so before the finale. I think I’ve lost half an hour in the downhill because of the weather and its implied wear & tear to my body. Okay, let’s hit it. And. It. Is. Tough. Alpe d’Huez takes about 1.45 instead of my planned 1.15. It is simply too much for me today. Have to stop multiple times to drink and rest.

Final time is over 10:30. I thought sub 10:00 should be doable. I am however very happy to make it to the end in one piece and all the damage I’ve built up will eventually wear out. The bike did great job, no mechanical issues whatsoever. Today it was the nature that took the show.