La Marmotte 2013

Drs Michael and Craig headed to France for the weekend of 6/7 July to join 6500 other crazy cyclists to complete the Marmotte cycling sportive. Read some thoughts from Doc Craig as he sped around the course a year after he broke his leg.

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The Marmotte 2013 – unfinished business

Marmotte time: 7hrs 10mins (414 out of 6000+) – not bad for an old fart with a dicky knee!
Grimpee time: 59 mins

This story begins with the Marmotte 2012 edition, I’d signed up and was starting to train when I broke my left leg and was not walking from April – July, hence my ‘unfinished business’. I built up the Colnago for the event last year and it spent most of the year in the basement. My recovery has been speedy so I was ready to ride this year.

Training and racing – my two aims this year have been exploring the dark art of TTing and the Marmotte. Plenty to challenge Rich Simmonds, my cycling coach and mentor, given the diversity required training for 10 mile events and the 170km Marmotte. The bulk of the training was done with 2 hour training sessions (my fault not Rich’s) and I only managed 2 x 4 hour + rides in the lead up (max ride distance was 122km). My opinion – don’t feel you need to fill your weeks with 5hr + rides to prepare for an 8 hour sportive.

Big thanks to Tim Pygott from London Dynamo for organising us to get start numbers in the front starting pen.

I was lined up (number 353 of 6,000+) second row from the front. It was 10 degrees at 7am and a bin liner and throw away long sleeve t-shirt was my choice on the descent down the Alpe to the start line. From the off it felt like a stage in the TDF peloton with a lead car, closed roads, traffic furniture warnings, round-a-bout split both sides and speeds of 50kmh.

Then we hit the Glandon (22km 6.9% average) and my comment was ‘there’s gonna be some people popping later’ as the adrenalin took charge of the pack and an unsustainable pace was surrounding me. I tried to measure my effort but it was hard to control with the pace around me. It is a beautiful climb up past the two dams, partly through the forest and partly high mountain terrain. At the top there was a quick refill and I was ready for the amazing descent from the Glandon. As the roads flattened I ensured I was close to the group forming ahead and had a 30 strong express train into the hot head wind of the valley to the Col du Telegraph (11.5km and 7.3% average) followed by the Col du Galibier (18.5km and 6.9% average – 2642 metres).

Telegraph is a beautiful climb up through the forest; steady in its steepness with a welcome fuel stop at the top followed by the winding descent to Valloire. Then starts the monster that is Galibier. The air gets thinner as you get above the 2000m mark and the snow lines the road of the pass that was closed only 3 weeks earlier. Serious effort to get to the top with the only relief of being that high is the temperature is manageable (34 degrees mid way through the Galiber and cooled to a 29 at the top). Finally reached the summit where I was dizzy from hypoxia and hypoglycemia so the aim was to get as much food in as possible for the 50 km downhill descent to the base of the Alpe. I put this descent down as the reason why my time was relatively quick. I descend fairly quickly but when two young Frenchies came flying by me I decided it was time to get on that train. Hammering out of the hairpins and flying through the dark tunnels – risky business but great fun! Thankfully it turned into a two up with me on the back all the way to the base of the Alpe. Temperature was building and hit 28 degrees at the foot of the climb.

Alpe D’Huez (14km with gradient 8.1%) the heat was intense and it hit 38 degrees midway up the Alpe. I managed to climb it in around 1hr 10 mins and crossed the line a limping broken man with a massive smile on my face. Straight to the massage tent!

The next day I did the Grimpee. The time trial up the Alpe 9am Sunday morning. About 300 of us lined up for a quick sprint up the Alpe. About 8 dynamo’s were at the back and I managed a time of 59 mins or 57 mins from the foot of the climb.

A great weekend – add it to your calendar now for next year!

For those interested I adopted a combined ‘real food’ and energy bar/gel strategy for the ride. It went like this…

5 water stops (so total of 10 bottles – 5 water and 5 electrolyte tables)

Fuel, in order of consuming, all carried in back pockets – at start line – breakfast part two with a bag of porridge, during glandon – gel, glandon summit – white rice and sugar (in a zip lock bag), hot valley – cliff bar and gel, telegraph climb – gel, telegraph top – jam sandwich, galibier climb -caffeine gel, top ham and cheese sandwich (and anything I could get my hands on from the feed station (cake, banana, jubes), gel pre alpe valley, electrolyte jelly beans up the alpe climb.