The ‘Marmotte Gran Fondo Alpes’ is frankly a real ball-buster of a ride (even for those of us who don’t have them!) It’s a total of 120 miles with over 17,000ft of climbing taking in 4 of the legendary climbs of the French Alps. The combination of long, relentless mountain climbs, technical descents, and the extremes of alpine weather, makes it impossible to equate this to anything in the UK.
Like all the best (or foolhardy) plans, it started from the comfort of the sofa on a chilly November day when having a ‘challenge’ for 2016 seemed like a good idea. Getting in is the first challenge … a case of ‘fingers on the buzzers’ the moment entries open .. but having got a place, it was on to months of training – a weekly regime of increasingly long and solitary rides round the mountains of Snowdonia … without so much as a glass of Prosecco to ease the pain : )
How did it go? I’m sure I’ll bore most of you about it out on a ride sometime, but here’s a few of the Highs and Lows …
– Riding the iconic alpine HC climbs! Starting with the Col du Glandon, it was a sweat-fest up the 28km climb to the summit at 1924m, followed by the combined ascents of the Telegraph and Galibier – a total of 35km from the baking heat of the valley to the summit at 2642. I absolutely loved this climb, especially the final section of the Galibier as it steepened to the summit – admittedly, this happy feeling didn’t appear to be shared by many of my fellow riders : )
– Alpe D’Huez! Finally, with 100 miles of hard riding already in your legs, and nothing left to give, you’ve got to get up Alpe D’Huez to the finish line. An classic climb, 14km and over 1000m of ascent up the iconic 21 bends and steep gradients, it was a ‘love / hate’ affair as in a fair bit of pain, I dug deeper than I ever have before, to ride continuously to the finish line at the top.
My Marmotte Low …
– It has been said that in riding the Marmotte ‘most people will go to hell and back at least once during the day’. For me, hell came at the top of the Galibier – I had felt really strong on the climb, but was hit by an alpine storm at the summit. Gales, sleet, torrential rain, and a 40km technical descent off the other side – my worst nightmare on a bike. Cold to the core, road as slick as ice, steep hairpins and dark tunnels, my shoulder froze in a muscle spasm making braking difficult and made a hard descent even more dangerous. Scared and shaking, I just wanted to get down in one piece : (
My Marmotte: I had hoped just to get round safe, so was gobsmacked to find that I had finished in ‘Gold’ time! There are few things that I am genuinely proud of having achieved, but this is one of them. The Marmotte is punishing – the climbs and descents are hard and relentless, the alpine weather is notoriously extreme and unpredictable … but ultimately it was fantastically rewarding! Go do it if you can : )