Overall a reasonable ride and I think I probaly did as good a time as I could have hoped for. Finishing time was 7hrs 46mins so half hour improvement on last year but still half hour slower than my best time back in 2008. Last year riding up Alpe d'huez I grovelled away watching jealously as riders with lower gearing spun their legs passed me . I vowed to return with a more suitable range of gearing but somehow never got round to it, so it was groundhog day as once again I searched in vain for a lower gear as thinks got sticky. I think it's easy to forget the effect of such a long ride on the body which combined with the 5000 metres of climbing makes the Marmotte such a tough event. Riding a compact with 34x25 as a lowest gear simply wasn't enough for me, next year it will be either a larger cassette or a triple! So here's how the ride went with some thoughts on what went right and what not so well.
Start - We were staying on Alpe D'Huez so had to descend down leaving at 6am. At this time in the morning it can be pretty chilly and you are going to be wating around in the start area for some time. Having leggings and gloves you can chuck away before the start is a big help, an old pair of my wifes leggings (I did ask!) and latex gloves did the trick. We were on a 7am start which gave us plenty of time to get in our pen and soak up the international atmosphere. The first 15 k or so is flat and a good chance to warm up, get the legs spinning, grab a wheel and get a good start - so we jumped on one of the fast moving trains and made our way up the field.
Glandon - Steep in sections but with 3 descents which allow brief periods of recovery. A nice climb and we were at the top in under 1hr 50mins.
Glandon descent - This is now a neutralised section as the organisers want to keep riders from taking unneccessary risks to improve their time. From what I've seen it's not having the desired effect. The Glandon isn't a dangerous descent but if you're reckless it can be! After a few hairpins I had a guy come past me on the outside at a silly speed and then a few seconds later heard an almighty bang followed by the sickening sound of a bike sliding along the tarmac, I daren't look back but had to concentrate on the road.
Maurienne Valley - This rolliing 30K section can really hurt if you find yourself on your own, unlikely in an event of 7000 riders! Don and I clipped into a 50 strong group and rolled along happily enough, a chance to eat and drink before the trials ahead.
Telegraphe - A nice steady shaded climb, the gradient is pretty relentless but being still relatively early in the day felt manageable.
Galibier - After the short descent off the Telegraphe the Galibier climb kicks off through Valloire. After a brief food stop I settled into the lower slopes reasonably comfortably, it was when the gradient kicked up at Plan Lachat that the trouble started and I grovelled up the final 6K to the top arriving at the summit shattered.
Galibier descent - With an aching body I took the fist few kilometres of the descent cautiously but once we swung onto the main road at the Col du Lautaret I found a nice quick group and enjoyed flying down the road at some silly speeds, hoping the easy ride would set me up for the Alpe.
Alpe D'Huez - Purgatory! Every pedal stroke hurt and I just couldn't get into a sustainable rhythm, 1hr 20 mins isn't going to beat any records!
Lessons - A lower gear. 34 x 25 may be ok for long rides in the Surrey Hills but it's a different story in the big mountains, next year I'm going for a 27 or 28. - More long rides in preparation, ideally a couple of tough sportives. Training rides and 2 hour races help but being in the saddle for 7-8 hours is a different experience.
I'll be back. It's a great ride and it's got under my skin!