Col de la Croix de Fer
Despite having only two days rest from the Grand Bo’ it was time to get back out for another monster training session. There wasn’t much choice regarding timing because there is another race on Sunday and leaving it any later wouldn’t give enough time to recover for the race. This was intended to be the final really big session in preparation for the Etape and because the weather was good I decided to drive to the Maurienne and complete the final section of the Etape route that I’d been forced off by a storm previously. The boiling hot weather would also be a good test to see how I’d cope with that and whether any change in strategy would be necessary.
The climbs are hard and relentless – with extensive steep sections. There is nothing easy about this route and I’m sure it will be a very nasty surprise for many participants on the Etape. Nothing prepares you for this because it’s just an unreasonable amount of climbing. This brought my own climbing total over only two rides to over 7000 vertical metres. The surprise for me however was that my legs were OK! I was tired but functional the whole way – keeping my heart rate in the 150s for all the climbing. I can only attribute that to the use of nasal breathing – which once again I held to strictly for over 4 hours before struggling with it.
Normally after a hard race I’m completely unable to work hard physically for about 4 days – and even then wouldn’t think of tackling something too extensive. It appears to me that the problem has been due to serious metabolite build up (lactic acid plus everything that comes with it). Those metabolites seem to have been disrupting my training and also having a big impact on my morale. I didn’t expect to be able to really tackle such a serious workout as today so soon after a very big race – but the shift to nasal breathing and pace control really seems to have straightened things out. I was tired and perhaps less motivated than I’d have preferred – but the body was basically fine and the ascent of the Croix de Fer was 10 minutes faster than the previous time when I was fresh! I’m starting to understand how people can build up some serious fitness.
This was the first time ever that I’d entered a planned route into Endomondo on my telephone and used it for navigation. It worked perfectly! One single device for sportstracking, navigation, music and photographs – without any hiccups! Pretty stunning really.
The final climb up to La Toussuire is long – between 17km to 18km – and very steep at the start. This will destroy a lot of participants on the actual Etape du Tour. Many of those who push hard at the start of the day simply won’t finish. In the bar at the finish line in Toussuire the owner told me that there are people climbing every day to learn the route and he is glad of it for the business. His little terrier dog was busy chasing lizards and it was really funny until he switched his attention to chasing me!
On the way home I stopped for a drink and so it was dark for driving the rest of the way. Several kilometres from Aime the road dips down towards the river Isère on a high speed dual carriage way and in my headlights at the side of the road I saw three boys in swimming trunks waving a paddle! This is relly the middle of nowhere on a fast road and I couldn’t stop in time. Knowing the area I pulled off the road further along and went back through the village and uner the dual carriage way to get back onto it and pull over beside them. They had been standing there for an hour in the dark in only their bathing costumes and nobody had stopped for them! I’d been worried in case they had other problems in addition but all was OK. They are here for the World Champion kayak descent competition this week at Aime. I knew there were teams from all over the world here (some with only one member!). It’s just shocking that nobody stopped to help them.
Now for photos with a REAL camera and not a telephone…