After our late afternoon / early evening ride of Alpe d’Huez the day before, Suzanne opted for a day by the pool in the sunshine and left me to choose my own ride for the day. I had in my possession a Brevet Card and route instructions for a 50km (56km) Permanent Audax, “Alpe d’Huez Circuit“, so the morning’s riding had clear instructions to follow and a chance to complete my second Audax ride.
It was a beautiful clear sunny morning, cool and yet with a promise of warmth. I set off again on the D1091 from Rochetaillée to Bourg d’Oisans but this time stopped in at the Tourist Information for a timed stamp and signature. As this doesn’t open until 9am it was 9:15am when I set off again to the base of Alpe d’Huez for the second time in two days. As I passed the 0km mark for the timed climbs I glanced at my cycle computer and noted that it was 9:25am, and then I set off at a steady pace. For the climb I kept between 9kph and 10kph which felt hard but not impossible and allowed me to watch the scenery unfold while still requiring a constant effort. No time for photos on this climb as I focused on the breathing and pedal action. I had been reading Obree’s training book, “The Obree Way” and was thinking about my breathing in through the nose and trying to pedal in circles. It worked really well, pulling up on the pedals is difficult when you first try it, but after a bit of practice it becomes part of pedaling as a whole and just one section of the pedal stroke. Instead of just pedaling down at the front of each stroke, include a forward motion at the top of the stroke and before long you are spinning instead of pedaling. I’m sure others could explain this better… Graeme Obree does in his book.
As I passed under the “Arrivée” sign marking the end of the timed section I glanced down and saw 10:35am; I had a 70 minute climb under my belt – so Marco Pantani was twice as fast as me!
After a drink a gaining a control stamp from the bar I set off on the rest of the curcuit, assuming that Alpe d’Huez was the highest and hardest part of the climb. A lesson to look at the map in more detail in future!
From the resort I rode the wrong way along a one-way street up a short sharp incline to reach a school area, the top of the resort and the airport. I couldn’t believe how much more there was above the resort as yesterday we’d turned round and kept facing the direction of the valley. From this direction the mountains opened out and I was struggling to cycle more than 50m without stopping to take another photograph.
The road surface was much more English than the playground which is Alpe d’Huez. The road is a narrow singletrack road, with gravel and an uneven lumpy surface so I took care and used the brakes, pulsing them to keep my speed right down and picking my way along the road. The reward was stunning scenery though, and I felt like I’d found something no one else knew about (apart from Audaxers). There was not another other cyclist on this road and I descended to the bridge at the top of the gorge where I became a little disorientated. I thought that there would be no significant climbing but the road down the gorge didn’t look like a proper place to cycle and the road that carried on went significantly up. Finally I spotted a small walker’s sign which indicated that Col de la Sarenne was indeed higher up the road. I smiled and cycled on. This was still not a steep climb and the road surface wasn’t too bad, eventually I came up to the brow of the road and met a fellow cyclist right at the top coming the other way. “Bonjour, parlez vous Anglais?” I asked. “Of course mate” he replied. We talked briefly about the climbing in each direction and he took a photo for me.
I’m not too concerned about the failure though, as the title says, this was an Audax Fail but a Touring Success.