Sunday, July 31, 2011

La Marmolada

Marmolada is the highest mountain in the Dolomites at 3,343 meters. I found a route that would take me on a 85km circuit around Marmolada by crossing Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Fedaia. 

Fedaia was an awesome climb. I didn't realize it, but there is a fairly large lake (and dam) at the top of the pass (altitude: 2,057 meters). Marmolada's peak towers another 1,300 meters above Fedaia.

Below are some pictures. If you are looking for my Garmin data file, it somehow got corrupted. I am hoping Garmin can fix the file so I can upload it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Maratona dles Dolomites

Another long day. I am pretty buggered after crossing 7 passes totaling 4,000 meters. I won't bore you with the details, but below are ~20 pictures of the Dolomites as well as my Garmin ride data.

The passes, in sequence, were: Gardena, Sella, Pordoi, Campolongo (from the south), Campolongo (from the north), Giau, and Falzarego.

Click here for the complete Garmin ride data.

I will update this post sometime next week with a video from today's ride.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Global Climb Map

I have started using Google Maps to pinpoint the world's major climbs. Its a time-consuming exercise, and I am only part-way through completing the Alps, Pyrenees, and Dolomite passes (at least the hors categorie and cat-1 climbs). 

This file can be shared, so email me directly if you either want a copy, or if you'd like to add climbs. I am still working on Italy's Giro and Spain's Vuelta, as well as New Zealand and Colombia.

I have climbed the red pins. Blue pins are still on my list.

View Global Climbs in a larger map

Monday, July 25, 2011

This Week's Cycling Adventure: The Dolomites

I just booked a flight. I'm off to the Dolomites on Wednesday morning. In case you don't know, the Dolomites are located here in northern Italy. The Dolomites are a limestone mountain range and appear quite different than the Alps, even though they are just a couple of hundred kilometers away. 

Last week, I spent a couple of days planning my trip. This is how its shaping up:

  • Wednesday: 830am EasyJet flight from Barcelona to Milan. Pick up a rental car and drive 400km to Badia. 
  • Thursday: the Maratona dles Dolomites course (another cyclosportif, or Gran Fondo as they are known in Italy). The Maratona was held last month, but I plan to ride the 7 passos anyway (total: 138km and 4190m of climbing).
  • Friday: the Sella Ronda course. Another Gran Fondo, and covering several of Thursday's passos, but in reverse.
  • Saturday: rest day. Drive to Trento.
  • Sunday: I have entered The Charly Gaul Gran Fondo in Trento. The race is 145km and 3,600m of ascent. Looking forward to it.
  • Monday: rest day. Drive to Bormio.
  • Tuesday: I plan to ride the Marco Pantani Gran Fondo (already held this year, so I'll just ride the course). 175km and 4500m over Passo Gavia, Mortirolo and Cristina.
  • Wednesday: Climb Passo Stelvio (hopefully from the north and south) and Passo Umbrail. 
  • Thursday: drive to Milan for a 6pm flight back to Barcelona.
  • Friday: sleep for ~24 hours. Clean up the apartment before my friend, Ari Patni, visits for the weekend.

So, a nine-day trip, five of the Dolomites' six highest passos, two rest days (or buffer-days, just in case), and lots of awesome cycling.

I am expecting a rough week. The Dolomites are steeper than the Alps and Pyrenees. And although the Dolomites are popular with cyclists, I get the impression they attract the more serious cyclists. That is fine with me; I just hope there are plenty to meet while I am on the road.

For more information on the Dolomites, click here. And below are some Google images of the Dolomites.

Stay tuned. I'll be posting from the northern Italy shortly.

TDF Stage 14: Plateau de Beille

Stage 14 turned out to be a very long day. I stayed up quite late last night planning today's route and got up at 445am (after 4 hrs sleep) for the 2 hour drive to a village named Massat. It was the most convenient place to park the car, intersect the TDF route, ride the final ~100km of Stage 14, and then loop back. 

I was in the saddle by 830am and looking forward to the day's climbs. Four climbs were on the TDF route: Col de Letrape, Col d'Agnes, Port de Lers, and Plateau de Beille. I would then have to cross Col de Port to get back to the car.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

TDF Stage 13: Col d'Aubisque

I planned a big day in the saddle for Stage 13. Late on Thursday night I mapped the stage and determined I could intersect the route at Arudy (approximately 75km into a 152km stage), and then complete the stage. At 830am I left the hotel for the 50km ride to Arudy. Cyclists were making their pilgrimage to the TDF. I rode with four fellow Kiwis and then joined up with two Portuguese guys.

Spectators were already lining the roads by the time I hit the route at 10am, and the peloton wasn't due for another 5 hours. That is normal on the mountain climbs, but this was down in the valley where the roads are flat, straight, and fast.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

TDF Stage 12: Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden

Yesterday, I drove from Barcelona to Lourdes, France. I'll be staying here for the next 3 nights to follow stages 12-14 in the Pyrenees. Lourdes is centrally located for stages 12 and 13. I'll be able to ride most of the route (and certainly the climbs) and then loop back at the end of the day.

This is the first time I have seen the TDF in person. For stage 12, I left my hotel at 8am and rode 30km with Luis, a Spaniard, to Luz-Saint-Saveur, a small town down in the valley that is jammed between two hors categorie climbs - Col du Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden. I climbed Tourmalet (19km in distance and 1,400 meters in elevation) from the west, the site of last year's final battle between Contador and Schleck. This year's route climbs from the east and descends the west, but I was running short of time. I was able to descend ~4km down the east side and then re-ascend.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Running of the Bulls (WARNING: non-cycling content)

On July 6th, I took the train to Pamplona for the annual San Fermin festival and the famous Running of the Toros. I didn't really have a plan. I just bought the train ticket and bargained on sleeping 1-2 hrs in a park. At least I got that part right.

However, I also expected sweltering heat. I was wrong. My shorts and a t-shirt didn't really cut it for nighttime temperatures in the low teens (celsius). Purchasing the festival outfit (white pants, white shirt, red neckerchief and red belt) once I got off the train turned out to be a very healthy decision. 

I met 2 Americans and a Canadian on the train. We really do live in a small world. One of the Americans, Ross, told me his wife is from New Zealand. Once we got through the back and forth of "what part of New Zealand?" it turns out his wife's family live next door to my parents in Auckland. And, Ross has met my parents and even watched a Superbowl or two with my father. Yes, small world indeed. 

So, I hung out with Ross, Chase, and Kimon for the night and had a great time (and I didn't have to sleep alone in the park). I didn't run with the toros, but I wish I did, as I think its the only way to experience the festival. Spectating is like watching ice-cream but without eating it.

Here are some scenes from Pamplona from the night of July 6th, as well as the Running at 8am on the 7th.

Left to right: Duncan, Kimon, Ross, and Chase.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

La Marmotte: 3 Hors Categorie and a Cat-1

La Marmotte is a course that traverses Col du Glandon, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, and Alpe D'Huez. I am yet to find a course tougher than La Marmotte - it climbs 5,180 meters over 174km.

La Marmotte is actually an annual event held every July. Its so popular that the 9,000 open spots typically fill 6 months in advance. Although I wasn't able to ride in the official event, I didn't want to miss this opportunity.

Col du Galiber was definitely the highlight. It is 35km in distance beginning at 718 meters and finishing at 2642 meters. The landscape looks more like a moonscape for the final 10km.

I met my Australian friend, David Leckenby, and his family in Valloire for lunch. David and I rode the Morzine cyclosportif a couple of weeks earlier. After lunch, David and his son, Guy, joined me for the ascent. Having company certainly made Galibier a lot easier.

Here is the footage from the day.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Alpe D'Huez: Switchbacks Gone Wild

Alpe D'Huez is a legendary hors categorie climb in the French Alps. It is most famous for its 21 hairpin switchbacks as the road winds from the small village of Bourg D'Oisan to the ski station at Huez. And recently, Alpe D'Huez has become a staple of the Tour. Marco Pantani, Lance Armstrong, Frank Schleck, and Carlos Sastre have all won stages at Alpe D'Huez.

I time-trialled the climb on June 25th, and it was a lot tougher than I expected. The average gradient is 8%, but this is misleading as the flatter sections are offset by 4-5km of 9-10% pitches. The total ascent is just over 1100 meters. However, the switchbacks break up the 14km road, and the scenery is truly amazing. 

The time trial record is 37 minutes. Because I filmed my time trial, I decided to deliberately slow down so that you could study every hairpin turn in fine detail. Here it is...

And if you want to see how the pros do a bergzeitfahren in Le Tour, click here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

La Vaujany Cyclosportif: Hauling myself over Alpe du Grand Serre, Col D'Ornon, Alpe D'Huez, Col du Sarenne, and Route D'Vaujany

Last Sunday, I participated in another cyclosportif. We set off at 7.15am and I finished just over 8 hours later. The race was held in the Bourg D'Oisan area of the alps, about 70km east of Grenoble. 

The route was one of France's best. The climbs were long and the descents were fast, and sometimes treacherous. The high temperatures took a toll; I saw ~10 guys pull out on the last climb. They were either throwing up, walking, or just sitting on the side of the road, unable to go any further. 

Here is footage from the event.