Alsace - Training Camp
After a decadent French dinner and some exquisite Bordeaux, I found myself back on the bike to ride one of my previous routes from July 2011. Thought it would be a good idea to get a ‘benchmark’ of where I stand before I meet my maker in the Alps. Since I’ve not really been riding since August 2011, I thought a short 80km route from the hotel to Wintzenheim, Les Trois Epis, Orbey, Col du Calvaire, Col de la Schlucht followed by a short, (yet painful) 5km climb back to the hotel would suffice. Only 1600m of climbing and only 80km. Piece of cake, right? After yesterday’s first ‘real ride’ in nearly 2 years, I learned a few things: one, I used to have a diesel engine to power up these Col’s like Jan Ullrich (the drug-free, Jan) now I’ve been reduced to the grotesque climbing style of Tommy Voeckler and second, Nairo Quintana may ascend the Pyrenees faster than me but I’d bet the farm that I can descend faster than him. Last lesson learned; when you travel abroad and are staying in a small village with a U Mart – don’t forget to bring your energy gels/bars so that you don’t bonk.
After eating some decadent walnut bread, a few eggs and some dark chocolate, the ride started off well A quick descent from the hotel found me powering though centre ville Munster heading toward Wintzenheim, where I turned toward Turckheim and began my first long ascent of the day toward Trois Epis. This was the same climb that saw me chasing a 60+ year old man with a motorized bike July 15, 2011 so although he was absent, I pretended he was in front as I gritted my teeth as I chased an imaginary old man that was never caught. Reaching Trois Epis, I continued onward to Orbey, descending like a mad man down old, lightly traveled roads that snaked back and forth only to reach the start of the 12km climb up Col du Calvaire. This wasn’t a pleasant climb; in fact, I remembered how much I detested this steep uphill battle to the summit, yet rode on. Summiting, I made a quick left turn onto the Route des Cretes and was given a not so gentle reminder of the undulating terrain in Alsace. Up, down. Big chainring, small chainring. Swearing, cursing (in French and English). Finally reaching Col de la Schucht, I breathed a sigh of relief and with the road momentarily closed for traffic going down, I winded up my descent and plunged down 1250m to the Munster Valley only to be greeted with my final 5km climb up to the hotel. Good news is that I managed to climb faster and in one gear larger than the previous ride. Bad news is that once I got off my bike and looked at the stats from my ride in 2011, I saw that I lost 5:38 over the exact same course. Now, I could blame the heat as the contributing variable (it was near 30C vs. 18C in 2011) or the simple fact that this was my 7th time on the bike in 2013. I’ll stick with the latter. Excuses are weak.
Now I sit, typing the last few lines before packing my computer and beginning my long drive to Alpe d’Huez, where I’ll be greeted by a million fans lining the 21 hairpin, 13.8km, 1850m climb. This year’s stage 18 finish will be twice as special as riders summit this penultimate climb, not once, but twice. Let’s see if I can do the same...