One final Col...

One final Col...

Celebrating my last day evening in Valloire and my ascent of Col du Galibier, I ended up at a local Pizzeria where I enjoyed some Italian food (hard to eat when you’ve just been in Italy) and vin rouge with my dinner. Was a fairly early night and picked up the computer and started to write about the day’s adventure in the Alps. I had exchanged a few emails with a friend Ray that evening and I “joked” about riding it again in the morning. Next morning I woke up and it wasn’t raining (as forecasted) and began thinking...

I thought I could ridden stronger on the previous day’s ride and found my mind wandering for a brief moment. Now at first I thought “self, you must be joking”, you don’t need to do this, you just did it (and had enough red wine at dinner that would end any contemplation). Then I started to wonder ‘what if’.

Amazingly, my legs weren’t sore, body wasn’t aching and I felt pretty good when I walked down the stairs to breakfast. Two thoughts entered my mind, either I’m still pain-free because of the wine at dinner, OR I might be getting in shape. At breakfast my curiosity grew...

Sitting at the breakfast table my curiosity turned into hope, my hope turned into a plan and then all of a sudden I was eating a “pre-ride” kind of breakfast instead of a tourist-breakfast. Nothing was perfect about this moment; my favourite clothes needed washing, I had been drinking more the night before, no sleep again (what’s that anyway?) and I had to check out.

It was decided; I’m going to do the ride AGAIN and it might be kind of ‘fun’ because now I have no pressure and hey, I’m in France! Then walking up the stairs to my room I was quickly reminded that I had just climbed 2200 metres the previous day BUT I already had made up my mind and committed myself to doing it.

Frantically, I got myself ready and shot out the door at 10am on my bike with everything I needed for a successful repeat (and betterment) of my previous day’s ride. Climbing on my bike I felt ok, legs were a bit stiff but I quickly was distracted by a Belgian guy in his mid 40’s that was leaving Valloire to Telegraphe to descend so he could ascend. There seems to be a common, multinational theme with cyclists visiting the Alps: bring your bike, find a big mountain, start at the bottom and ride to the top.

Descending Telegraphe was WAY better this time (as there was no rain or residual moisture) and since I was keeping an eye on metrics, I took notice that I descended several minutes faster. On my way down the Col, I saw a whole string of cyclists that were on the way up Telegraphe (which is inspirational, more people to ‘catch’ on the way up), a couple ambulances, police cars/motorbikes and a helicopter on one of the switchbacks (an accident that didn’t look good). About 500 metres from the base of the climb I noticed a guy going up in the maillot vert (sprinter’s jersey). I quickly turned around and thought he’d be a good person to chase...

After about a kilometre I managed to chase him down and then exchanged pleasantries in French and we both agreed on several things (je suis plus fatigue, je suis tres chaud, Thomas Voeckler, Viva le Tour de France and the countdown of each km in French to the finish). Somewhere during our brief ride together, I also found out that he was French, 29, weighed 69 kilograms, was 173 centimetres, and was only doing Telegraphe then c’est tout. We climbed together for 11 of the 12 kilometres and I (le grandpere) set the tempo so I could beat my time from the previous day. This young Frenchman had company (his dad) with him who would stop every kilometre on the side of the road, yell at him and then offer him water and encouragement, nice dad.

At halfway I pulled away and began riding solo thinking that he had fallen off the back. 3 Kilometres later his dad stopped in front of me and was cheering him on, so I knew he was getting close but I wasn’t about to slow down. We rode together for another 2 km exchanging facial expressions and noises only (another common theme when you don’t ‘speak’ a foreign language but this communication always prevails). With 2 km to go, I turned the screw and pushed the pace. He followed for about 500 metres but then I couldn’t hear him anymore and knew that I had gotten away. A quick sprint for the summit ensued and after summiting, I waited for him (with his grumpy looking dad). When he got to the top he was all smiles and I was very happy to see that I had helped “push him” on the climb. I invited him along for Galibier but he looked at me with an expression that didn’t require language or hand gestures.

So I zipped-up and descended into Valloire.

Always riding with music is my one motivation when all else is failing (mostly my body) and on Telegraphe I had ‘unplugged’ to carry a conversation of broken French, grunts, sighs and some other weird noises he was making. Unfortunately when I hit ‘play’ on my ipod, nothing was coming out and my motivation slowed to a grinding halt. Given my effort on Telegraphe, coupled with an ill-functioning ipod and a long (read: conquest) drive ahead to Frankfurt; the hotel driveway suddenly looked very inviting as it approached.

This would be my last ride before returning to Toronto.

As I drove from Valloire toward Frankfurt through these magnificent Haute Alpes, I felt sad to be leaving a place of such beauty and inspiration.

To be continued...

Starting Over.

Starting Over.

Up, down, Up, down, Up, down. c'est tout.

Up, down, Up, down, Up, down. c'est tout.