Stage 8 – 148km from Albertville to La Toussuire – Les Seybelles (2012, Stage 11)
This has been my first stage in the high mountains and the best way to describe the profile of todays stage is that it’s been like sharks teeth, with up and downs including 4 big peaks and 4,886 metres of ascent. Climbs in cycling are designated from Category 1 (hardest) to Category 4 (easiest). A climb that is harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie (HC), or beyond categorisation, the term was originally used for those mountain roads where cars were not expected to be able to pass. Well today I’ve ridden two HC climbs, a category 1 and a category 2 climb – so it’s been a baptism of fire!
I started off todays stage in Albertville, the host city for the 1992 winter Olympics, and headed south towards the first Hors Category (HC) peak of the Tour Challenge, the Col de la Madeleine, normally ranked as one of the three hardest climbs in France. At 2000 metres and 26km long it was not exactly the easiest of introductions to climbing the high mountains, but I found a steady rhythm and made the 2,000 metre summit OK, although I did have a mechanical problem with the rear mechanism which ruled out my 2 easiest gear for the first 2 climbs. Road maintenance was in progress on the way up, meaning loads of loose gravel meaning I occasionally lost traction – luckily it wasn’t like this on the descent as that would have been really dangerous. The descent was long and freezing due to how wet my clothes were from the hot ascent, but I forgot about that as it was also really exhilarating – particularly the hair pin bends.
The next big climb was the 22.5km, 2,067 ascent to the Col de la Croix de Fer via the Col du Glandon summit. The hardest part about this climb, asides from not having any of my easier gears available, was the heat – it was sweltering at 30 degrees. So by the time I made the top my clothes were dripping, so a change of tops was needed ready for the descent.
After the first 2 climbs I’ve understood a little more about the French language today, apparently ‘de la’ is the feminine for ‘of’ and ‘du’ is the masculine, so I surmise that the Col de la Madeleine was a right bi*ch and the Col du Glandon was a hard as nails b*stard!
I had a lot of fun on the descent from Col du Mollard, the road was blocked due to maintenance, but I was allowed through, meaning I had the entire road to myself and therefore I could take more of a racing line – great fun!
I almost forgot I still had another big climb with a 14km ascent to the Cat 1 ascent to La Touissuire to finish, the place was absolutely desolate as it’s a ski resort – but given the amazing views I’m surprised more people weren’t about.
Somehow I made it, and as expected, I’m absolutely knackered. Time for some R&R as I prepare to do it all again tomorrow, with the high point of the challenge, Col du Galbier at 2645 metres – let’s hope the weather is kind!
Here’s todays stats:
- Distance: 156.13 km
- Time: 8 hours 35 minutes
- Average Moving Speed: 18.5 kmph
- Total Ascent: 4,886 metres
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight.