Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Triathlon Training Camp 2011 - Part 3

When you’re given massive bowls of salted peanuts and a good dose of vienetta with your dinner from the people who are supposed to be ensuring you are well nourished for sport, that’s when you know the next day will be a hard one.

This morning after a good breakfast we set off for the hills. We had a good hour or so on the flat, valley floor to warm up the legs for the thrashing they were about to receive.

The first climb was the Col de la Columbiere; a whole seventeen kilometres of up. I managed to stick with Marie for all of about six minutes before I settled in to a steady plod. The first half of the route was actually fairly gentle and I ambled along happily as my legs found a good rhythm. Halfway up, the village of Le Reposoir is the turning point where Columbiere gets a lot less friendly. Whilst the views open out to a fantastically vast mountainous vista, the gradient sneakily shifts up a couple of notches and the sharp switchbacks start to force you out of the saddle as the fatigue sets in. The heart rate steadily rose and I was glad for the lack of traffic as I veered around opening gels and gobbling them down.

When you turn the corner and see the hut at the top of the Col along a really easy looking bit of road, you feel absolutely marvellous as you know the torture is nearing the end. However, the next section is the hardest slog of the whole climb and getting to that stupid hut takes blinkin’ ages!

Sheer elation filled me as I reached the top of my first ever alpine climb. I was only about five minutes behind Marie and once we’d chowed down on more nuts, bananas, jaffa cakes, energy bars and whatever else was around to scoff, we donned our jackets and began the long descent towards La Clusaz and our next climb: Col des Aravis.

Col des Aravis has a very different feel to it than Columbiere; in fact it’s almost schizophrenic, forming totally different personalities dependant on the weather conditions. On a sunny day you could almost be in the Sound of Music; enjoying the sound of cowbells and looking out over lush, grassy plains to big, wooden farmhouses in unlikely alpine spots. Today though, a dark cloud loomed overhead and turned the atmosphere of the narrow valley spooky . The spiked peaks of mountains on either side closed you in and the noises of the cowbells were haunting.

On a physical level though, Aravis felt easy compared to what we had just done, we hit the top in good time and without too much pain.  The descent was something else; tight, winding bends one after another after another. It was very exciting indeed, throw in a couple of tunnels and a few un-barriered corners and I felt like I was riding some sort of roller coaster,  just one that definitely hadn’t passed the risk assessment.
We had a bit of a wait for the van to arrive at the bottom and I had started to get a bit grumpy, mostly because all of the food was on it! But once we had fuelled up again we powered through the last part of the ride, enjoying a wonderfully unstressful, long, open descent.

All in all, a 69 mile circuit with 7,403ft of elevation gain.. and a top speed of 49.8mph. That all makes for a very happy Egg! 

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