Cogal Report: The Alpine Ride

Cogal Report: The Alpine Ride

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@936adl loves a Cogal and he didn’t mess around with this one. Later today the San Francisco Cogal report and next week the much awaited 200 on 100 report.

VLVV, Gianni

It was getting dark as Martyn and I rolled back through the gates of the Campsite in Saint Jean De Maurienne after the most Epic day of cycling I’ve ever experienced. Never, for me at least, has malted recovery beverage consumption been more earned…

Nearly 12 hours earlier, Scott, Martyn, and I had rolled away from the campsite, sun shining, and mountains waiting. The plan was a simple one, administer a quite ludicrous measure of Rule VV, and see what happened. As we rolled along the valley which links the small towns that sit at the bottom of some of the most iconic of Alpine climbs, I began to contemplate the task in hand. To make things more manageable it struck me as a good idea to break it up, and being in France, a country noted as much for its food as its cycling,  I used a food analogy.

The Starter – Col du Telegraph 1,566m – 11.8 km @ 7.3%

A relatively small mountain in Alpine terms, this modest Col still stands over 200m above the highest point in the British Isles. With fresh legs, the kilometres soon passed by as the climbing began. The reward was spectacular views into the valley we’d recently escaped from.  I was feeling pretty good and was beginning to think that perhaps Martyn’s crazy plan was a possibility. Before long the summit of the Telegraphe was in sight, and after a quick picture stop, it was time to roll down to Valloire, for our first regrouping point of the day.

Scott made his decision at this point. Although looking forward to the main course, he wasn’t having any desert! Fair play though, and we’d see him back at base camp.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
The Main Course – Col du Galibier 264Vm – 18.1 km @ 6.9%

The Galibier, a true giant amongst the very highest cols. Twelve months previously our attempt to conquer this brute had been scuppered by the sheer volume of fans wanting to watch the Tour, but this year nothing was going to stand in our way.

The climbing starts immediately as you leave the picturesque town of Valloire, steady at first, but soon easing off. It’s back to big ring territory as the gradient eases. But this is bad, and ultimately means it’s just going to get (much) steeper later. Never have I resented a flat(ish) road quite so much.

The resentment soon passed as the road kicked upwards. Visibility was good, which on the one hand meant that you were treated to quite stunning alpine views, but on the other meant you could see fully the magnitude of the task in hand.

As I approached Plan Lachat the landscape changed markedly. Passing the 8km to go marker, the road kicked up, and it was perhaps the finest Rule VV moment I’d experienced (to date). It was time to grind out those final few, relentless kilometres. Like all great climbs though, the Galibier saves its very worst until last, and as you turn left just before the tunnel, the last km marker shows 9%, and after over 30km of climbing it feels all that and more. Rounding that last corner, the fire in the legs subsided as at last I saw the summit; the euphoria of the achievement carries you those final few hundred metres to what feels like the very top of the world. I’d conquered the Galibier!

 

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Martyn soon joined me at the top, and it was decision time. The weather was good, and time was on our side. It was a no brainer, and we may never have the opportunity to do this again. As we rolled off the summit towards the Col du Lautaret it really was the point of no return.

I’d like to say that the descent was fully Rule #85 compliant, but the unlit tunnels put paid to that. Rolling into pitch black tunnels at over 50km/h to find that that lights have been knocked out is a truly terrifying experience, and not recommended!

Finally we reached the valley floor, and all that was left was a spin along the valley floor before the final climb of the day…..

Dessert – Col du Glandon – 1924m – 24.1 @ 4.8%

After the briefest of pit stops in Le Bourg d’Oisans, it was time for desert. All I can say is that the numbers above just don’t do this climb justice, it’s a fucking killer! Frank was right when he tweeted ‘Glandon is more than desert, that climb will kick your ass! Good Luck!’.

The climb starts in earnest from the Barrage du Vernet, a giant man-made lake that sits at the bottom of the valley. It’s big brother, the Barrage de Grand Maison sits much higher up the mountain. It would be some time before I saw that!

I was soon back into the climbing groove as I hit the lower slopes of the Glandon, and the kilometres were passing, albeit slowly. Mart and I soon separated; the plan was to re-group at the summit.

The climbing was relentless, but before too long I was rolling through le Rivier d’Allemont. Shortly after this town however this climb hits you hard. A series of downhill hill hairpins lose you a couple of hundred of the oh so precious metres of climbing you achieved, before it hits you like a hammer. Well in excess of 11% is not what I needed and it was the closest I’d come to stopping all day. An emergency dose of Rule VV, not to mention the 29 lurking on my rear cassette somehow kept the wheels turning, and mercifully the gradient eased(slightly).

I didn’t realise at the time, but it was this section that put paid to Martyn’s attempt to conquer the Glandon. I was now on my own.

The sight of the Barrage de Grand Maison was a joy to behold, and gave me a real boost. It was then that I heard the sound of a car approaching. As it passed I heard a familiar voice; Martyn was doing his finest Marc Madiot impression and was leaning out the window of the otherwise anonymous Renault, shouting Allez Allez Allez!! At  first I thought I was hallucinating, but Mart confirmed that as Frank predicted, the Glandon had kicked his ass! Martyn’s misfortune provided the final boost I needed and I was more determined that ever to make it.

The final couple of km seemed to take an eternity, but finally, I made it. As I tweeted from the summit, I reflected on the most amazing day’s riding I’d ever undertaken. The V-meter was well and truly off the scale!
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Mart was dropped off at the top by his rescuer, and I found him sleeping under a blanket supplied by a concerned camper who’d taken pity on him.

From here it was downhill all the way and after a fast and furious descent we rolled back into Saint Jean de Maurienne. I’d covered 167km and had completed almost 4000m of vertical ascent! An epic day in the saddle by any measure, and faithful to the Cogal spirit.

As the beer flowed, we reflected on the day’s riding. Scott had conquered the Galibier, and Mart(with a small amount of assistance) and I had made it round one of the classic Alpine loops.

La Vie Velominatus!

// Cogals // La Vie Velominatus // The Rides // Unforgettable Rides

  1. Chapeau! Sounds like a fantastic ride, with some epic climbing. Post-ride recovery ales very well earned!

  2. Nice ride mate and fantastic photos.

    Did you enjoy your new bike?

  3. @TommyTubolare

    Nice ride mate and fantastic photos.

    Did you enjoy your new bike?

    Thanks.

    The new bike was just awesome. I really couldn’t want for anything more.

  4. What a read, thank you for posting. Could almost feel some of those gradients. Molto rispetto.

  5. Wow, we should all be so lucky to attempt a ride like that one day!

  6. Thanks for the write up! Until some of us get to go to these places, the vicarious experience through fellow Velominati is a real treat. Thanks and chapeau on a great ride!

  7. sweet

    Chapeau!

  8. A feat of Merckxian proportions! Great pics – I am white, yellow, polka dot and most of all, green with envy.

  9. I left my heart and soul on those climbs this past July 7th however started with the Glandon and ended on Alpe D’huez..One of the best 8 hours and 31 minutes of my life!!!

  10. Chapeau. Your article is almost too humble! The magnitude of your effort wasn’t really evident until the second to last paragraph. 167km + 4000m up = fucking awesome!

  11. Chapeau. A great write-up for an outstanding ride.

  12. Chapeau.  I really need to move to Europe. 

    On a side note – I’ve been seeing the phrase “put paid” pop up quite a bit lately.  Obviously, I can figure out what it means by its context but can somebody help me out with where it comes from, what it means, its etymology, etc?

  13. Very cool.

  14. @Cyclops

    Chapeau.  I really need to move to Europe.

    On a side note – I’ve been seeing the phrase “put paid” pop up quite a bit lately.  Obviously, I can figure out what it means by its context but can somebody help me out with where it comes from, what it means, its etymology, etc?

    “‘Put paid to’ probably derives from the practice of book-keepers of writing or stamping “Paid” on bills when the paperwork for a sale was completed.”

    http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/293200.html

  15. What a ride!

    I’m envious and admiring in equal measure!

  16. @Cyclops

    Chapeau.  I really need to move to Europe.

    On a side note – I’ve been seeing the phrase “put paid” pop up quite a bit lately.  Obviously, I can figure out what it means by its context but can somebody help me out with where it comes from, what it means, its etymology, etc?

    +1.  When I retire I am going to live in Europe for at least one month a year (well, at least that’s my plan, have yet to clear it with the VMH).

    Cyclops, according to some website I just ripped off:  ”

    ‘Put paid to’ probably derives from the practice of book-keepers of writing or stamping “Paid” on bills when the paperwork for a sale was completed. The term isn’t especially old and I can’t find any examples of it in print prior to the 20th century. An early citation comes from the Winnipeg newspaper The Manitoba Morning Free Press, October 1905. This appeared in a listing of English football results, which were presumably printed in a Canadian paper for the benefit of the many English immigrants:

    “Wolverhampton Wanderers put paid to Bolton’s account, the scores being: 2-0″

  17. That’s like 2 weeks of training in 1 day. Impressive

  18. What a blessed day, climbing up such famous cols.  Wonderful writing, my legs were noodling just reading through it.  Not to be outdone, you compose yourself so properly for the photo ops.  I’d be buckled over the toptube spewing up breakfast and shot bloks.

  19. Fantastic write-up of an awe-inspiring ride! Well done!

  20. @Cyclops  You live just north of somewhere that you can string these monster rides together: Salt Lake City. A personal favorite is canyon hopping along Wasatch Dr.  Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood, and finally Millcreek.  144kms, 3350m climbing.

  21. Yes, chapeau! Great report, would love to give this ride a shot some day.

    Ha, that’s awesome to have a pal screaming at you from the team car. Glad you got the boost to get to the top!

  22. I want to share my strava info from my Marmotte on this similar route…BTW I am  a 52 year old woman. I got 3rd in my age group :)  glandon, Telegraph, Galibier and alp D’huez….

    http://app.strava.com/runs/marmotte-le-bourg-d-oisans-rh%C3%B4ne-alpes-france-12746876?ref=1MT1yaWRlX3NoYXJlOzI9ZW1haWw7ND00Mzg0Nw%253D%253D

  23. Wow, this sounds like an AMAZING day! One of these days, I’ll make it to Europe and ride some of the famous passes there.

    Thank you very much for the awesome ride report!

  24. Awesome awesome awesome. I love that little part of France; as you say, every road there contains a bit of cycling history. My favorite town is just down the valley in Vizille – there is a fondue join on the corner in town that is second to none, and we did a good job building some memories on those roads.

    I didn’t realize that you were riding from that side; your side of the Glandon shares most of the pass with the Croix de Fer, which in my estimation is the most diabolical of alpine passes. The first time I did the Croix, we didn’t need to do the extra little jaunt up and down that you describe; that didn’t come until later – it is truly awful to lose that kind of el that you’ve fought for, especially knowing you have to make it up again.

    Anyhow, that new bit puts your side on par with the other side, which has a similar loss of el. Obviously these road workers aren’t cyclist or they’d make a tunnel or teletransport device of some kind.

    Excellent work!

  25. Thanks for all the feedback. As i said before it really was one hell pf a day. Absolutely awesome.

    We’ve already started planning next year’s trip to the tour…..

  26. What an awesome day out. Inspiring.

    Did it help to have Rigoberto’s hair?

    BTW where did you get the road markers, were they from local touristy shops, if I get to ride over the Tourmalet next month I’d love one for that?

  27. @Chris you can buy the col markers at any tourist shop in the alps. Not so sure about the Tourmelet. I rode across the Pyrenenes in 4 days (450 miles 33,000ft climbing)….hahahha so fast I didn’t have a chance to look :)

  28. @farzani That’s pretty impressive. My previous trips to the Pyrenees have involved lounging around on a chairlift before tumbling down the mountain hoping my way to fat to climb downhill bike doesn’t land on to of me!

    I read your article this morning. A truly moving story, it’s fantastic to read of the strength you you took from your joint love of cycling.

  29. @Christhank you Chris, I use my love and strength from cycling to move forward and smile each day. I am blessed with a strong body and appreciating the suffering that takes one to the next level. I never knew how important that would be in so many ways…today I rode a great ride in the Ardenen and PR’s on the Stockeau as well as other LBL climbs..My husband would be proud.. and of course I had fun :)

  30. @Chris

    We bought our Tourmalet road stones from the gift shop at the top. I’m sure though that you’D be able to get them in Bagneres as well. Good luck with the climb btw, it’s a brute!

    As for Duran Duran’s barnet……….

  31. @farzani

    @Christhank you Chris, I use my love and strength from cycling to move forward and smile each day. I am blessed with a strong body and appreciating the suffering that takes one to the next level. I never knew how important that would be in so many ways…today I rode a great ride in the Ardenen and PR’s on the Stockeau as well as other LBL climbs..My husband would be proud.. and of course I had fun :)

    I’m sure you’d go faster if you pedalled ;-)

  32. @936adl Bagneres is a good bet. Only problem is that I’ll have 60km still to ride to get home from there and I’m not sure it would be too comfy in my jersey pocket. Can’t get it on one of my recce rides as I won’t have earn’t it by that point and I’m not sure that I’ll get a chance to head back down there after the ride – it’ll be at the back end of the holiday after I’ve ridden myself into form..

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