Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June: By the Numbers

June is almost over, unfortunately. The next few days are rest/travel days as I make my way from Alpe D'Huez back to Nice and then Barcelona. 

My Garmin lets me download ride data. Here is the June tally:

Number of rides: 17
Total distance: 1,752km
Total gross elevation: 33,113 meters

Cols climbed: 23 (Vence x2, Castellaras, Gourdon, Bleine, Bonette, Sine, l'Ecre, Braus, Joux Verte, Corbier, Grand Taillet, Jambaz, Joux Plane, Forclaz, Colombiere x2, Grand Serre, D'Ornon, Sarenne, Glandon, Telegraphe, and Galibier).

Mountain top finishes: 6 (Route D'Avoriaz, Vaujany x2, and Alpe D'Huex x3)

Tour de France Climbs: 10 (Bonette, Joux Plane, Avoriaz, Forclaz, Colombiere, Alpe D'Huez, Glandon, Telegraphe, and Galibier)

Ranked Climbs:

  • Hors categorie: 5 (Bonette, Joux Plane, Alpe D'Huez, Glandon, and Galibier)
  • Categorie 1: 4 (Corbier, Avoriaz, Colombiere, and Telegraphe)

So thats it for the French Alps. I'd like to return and tackle the remaining monsters (Madeleine, Ventoux, etc), but I'll have to save that for another trip. 

Stay tuned, as I expect to be in the Pyrenees in mid-July to watch the tour, and ride several more HC and C1 climbs!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

San Remo, Italy: Drilling the Poggio

At 298 kilometers, Milan - San Remo is the longest professional one-day bicycle race. Apart from its length, there is nothing particularly notable about Milan - San Remo; its a fairly flat course that typically favors sprinters. 

There is one climb, however, at kilometer 287. Its called The Poggio. Its not very steep (~5%) and its not very long (3.8km) but given just how tired the cyclists are at this point, Il Poggio often determines the final selection. 

On Thursday, June 16th, I rode the coastal road from Nice to San Remo to experience Il Poggio for myself. So, for the die-hard cyclists out there, here is the Poggio in all its splendor. (NB: I have deliberately slowed down the footage so that you can see every twist, turn, pitch-change and switchback in fine HD detail). 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A French Cyclosportif: Five Cols in One Day

I am wiped out. Today, I rode 145km in a cyclosportif (an organized, mass-participation cycling event) in Morzine, France. It wasn't the distance that was so tough; it was the climbing (total ascending for the day: 3,636 meters). We crossed Col de Joux Verte, Col du Corbier, Col du Grand Taillet, Col de Jambaz, and Col de Joux Plane.

To summarize the first 122km: ~300 people started the course at 8am. Luckily, the rain stopped just 5 minutes earlier (it rained non-stop since I arrived in Morzine on Friday arvo). The event organizers were kind enough to give us an easy 100 meter flat section after the start line, before immediately heading up onto Col de Joux Verte. Joux Verte was a nice climb, despite the wet roads and mist. The temperature at the summit was 1C/34F. The next few hours are a blur. I met an Aussie, 8-10 Brits, and countless Belgians and Dutch. I remember going up, then down, then up, then down, etc, etc, etc...

Then we got to the final Col. Col de Joux Plane is famous for cracking Lance Armstrong in the 2000 TDF. He bonked and Jan Ullrich rode away and gained 2 minutes. I studied the climb profile last night, and I wasn't too concerned about it. Its 12km in total with a 10% average gradient in the final 5 kilometers. It didn't appear too out of the ordinary.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Col de la Bonette: Standing on Top of Europe

At 2,802 meters, Col de la Bonette towers above the surrounding peaks. On Friday morning, Jono and I set out from Saint-Etienne-de-Tinee (elevation: 1,144 meters) for the 27km ascent to the summit.

The climb took an hour and forty minutes. And its unrelenting: if you stop pedaling, you'll lose all speed within 3-4 seconds and the bike will simply topple over. The final 2-3km push to the peak was thrilling: Bonette was within sight, the winds were howling (sometimes a headwind; other times a tailwind), and the green valleys were far, far below.

After Wednesday's rain ride, we were praying for warm, sunny weather. Bonette's foothills gave us just that. But as we reached the higher elevations, the temperatures continued to plummet, and we even had light snow flurries at the top.

All in all, it was a superb ride. Bonette is a monster of a climb, and the weather conditions don't make it any easier.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Col de Bleine: The Rain Ride

Col de Bleine (1,439 meters) was Wednesday's challenge. It started as a perfect day: the sun was shining, the forecast was for 27 degrees (80 fahrenheit), and we had all day to enjoy the 125km route.

The mountains and valleys behind Nice are a magnificent sight to see. However, the mountains often have their own micro-climates, as we learned. Unprepared for cold, wet conditions, we shivered our way back to the villa. My fingers were so frozen, I could barely shift gears.

Initially, we planned to tackle Col de la Bonette (Europe's highest paved mountain pass) the next day. But after the beating on Col de Bleine, we agreed a rest day would be wise.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Col du Castellaras: We're Not in Murrays Bay Anymore

Monday's climb was spectacular. We rolled-out from the villa at around 10am. After a quick warm-up in the bright Mediterranean sun, we started the 1000 meter climb to Col du Castellaras. The gradient was a constant 6%-7% for almost 20 kilometers, making it easy to find a rhythm. Cliffs rising up over the gorge dominated our view for the first few kilometers. Approaching the summit, the views over the valleys were quite spectacular, although the weather packed in. We finished the 90km ride with an espresso back in Tourrettes-Sur-Loup. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Col de Vence: Please don't make me ride

This is a short video of my first ride in France. The movie begins at Jono and Teressa's ridiculous villa just outside Nice. We climb Col de Vence (963 meters) and then make our way home via a small village or two.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June: Month of the Mountain Goat

I landed in Nice this morning. My plan is to spend all of June in France. I'll spend the first 7-10 days with my friend, Jonathan Macbeth, and his wife, Teressa, in their villa in Tourrettes-Sur-Loup just outside Nice. We have a couple of warm-up rides planned, including: Nice - Monaco (the coastal road), and Nice - San Remo, Italy.

Then, we will head up to the French Alps (with maybe a few days in the Swiss Alps) to suffer on the monster climbs. My goal is to climb Europe's highest paved roads. I just hope I'll still be standing by the end of this month. This is the preliminary list of legendary climbs:

1. Col de la Bonette - THE highest paved road in Europe (elevation 2802 meters)
2. Col du Galibier (2642 meters)
3. Col de l'Izoard (2361 meters)
4. Col de la Croix de Fer (2067 meters)
5. Col de la Madeleine (1993 meters)
6. Alpe d'Huez (1860 meters)
7.Col de Joux-Plane (1700 meters)
8. Col de la Ramaz (1610 meters)

Stay tuned for video/photos.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Plugging in to Europe

I haven't been travelling for more than 10 days in quite a few years. In the past, I would typically bring a mp3 player with me. I was more than happy to walk away from my computer and all the other devices that keep us too connected.

But this trip is different. Firstly, I am travelling for three and half months, and secondly, I want to record my adventures and share the photos/videos/data with my friends. Although a bicycle is purely mechanical (basic frame geometry, pull-wire brakes, hub/spoke wheels, and shifting concepts hav not changed in 100+ years), this is a list of all the essential electronics I am taking to digitize my adventures: