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.
I don't know why Joux Plane put me in so much misery today. But, I had plenty of time to think about it while my legs were turning to jelly, so lets see what we have: 1) I had a slight head cold for the last 2 days, 2) this morning's cold weather could've sapped more energy than I realized, 3) I already cycled 420km in the last 7 days, or 4) we had already climbed 2600 meters by the time we reached the foot of Joux Plane. I would say its all of the above.
In any case, Joux Plane is the toughest mountain I have climbed. The last 5km are relentless. At a 7% gradient, you can still sit comfortably in the saddle. But with Joux Plane's 10%, the upper body has to move forward over the handlebars. I found myself hunched forward. My neck, shoulders, and back were all very tight for well over 40 minutes.
From the summit, its a fast and dangerous 10km descent back down to Morzine. I was more than relieved to see the finish line. I have completed rides of far greater distances, and a handful or rides with close to 3000 meters of climbing. But Col de Joux Plane took it out of me today.
Click here for my Garmin ride data (course map, course profile, climb splits, etc.).