Drama aplenty (Mum, panic not)

Yesterday was challenging.

We got up super early, and arrived in Le Bourg-d’Oisans to start riding at 10.00 hrs. All to plan so far! And apart from Ollie thinking he had lost me, and searching town for me whilst I was making my way up the mountain, the ascent went well. I passed five people in the first two miles, which was a confidence boost!
Ollie found me at the first town, where I was busy standing with my head under a tap, and went on ahead as planned, following behind Chris who had started the ascent first. I continued at my own pace and stopped in shade at regular intervals. At one such stop, a particularly picturesque one, I met Steve and Andy from San Francisco – on their first trip to Europe. They asked me to take a picture of the two of them and then returned the favour, taking pictures of me in front of the view. I continued the climb with them for sometime and Steve ‘interviewed’ me on his Go Pro. At the next stop I headed to a shady spot and took a slightly longer break, so I next saw them in the final two miles and was able to get a finish line picture with them. It’s good to have company on hills, but I hate holding people back, so meeting new people of my standard to get up the hill with was a winner!

So, at the top…we had all made it – which made it more successful than L’Iseran! image

imageStill feeling relatively good we decided to continue up to the lake a little higher. However part way up I decided it wasn’t sensible to continue and I found the only shade available at the top of a mountain at 1330hrs; the shade created by a camper van. I huddled into the shade right next to the back wheel, and called over to the (French) owners, who were sat a little bit higher up the mountain, and pointed at the shade. I think they were suspicious but I needed that shade.

The boys went to do the final mile or so up to the lake.

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It’s at this point that the day became challenging due to two unrelated, unfortunate events occurring in parallel.
As I sat quietly sipping water, in the camper van shade, I got the shock of my life, screamed, panicked and then chased…

The camper van was rolling down the mountain.

The owners shrieked and the man started scrambling across the rocks towards the van, but fell. The van stopped against a rock but was perched in a precarious position in which it could easily have fallen on to its side and rolled. With the van stopped, the focus turned to the man, whose ankle had swollen and was bleeding from somewhere.

I called the boys and asked them to come back immediately, but only Ollie arrived and he wanted water because Chris had fallen off; I had given all of mine to the man.
Then Chris arrived and catastrophe corner consisted of a unstable campervan, a broken ankle (man), blood, more blood, an unrideable bicycle and a midday sun.

Chris' elbow

Chris’ elbow

Damaged shifter

Damaged shifter

Pringle shaped wheel

Pringle shaped wheel

In France it’s supposedly a legal requirement for drivers to carry first aid kits, however I flagged three cars and got:

A few sips worth of water
A small plaster
A small saline solution
Toilet paper
In the end we decided to leave the campervan couple, as we did not understand each other and they were on the phone to emergency services. As Chris said…

They are French people in France, we need to get down off of this mountain.

So the three of us walked the short way to a restaurant, which was shut but agreed to sell us water, and then Ollie went to descend the mountain and fetch the car. Chris and I continued walking, with the intention of finding some shade to sit in and wait.

We hadn’t walked very far when we saw a car with British plates coming towards us, so we flagged it down and asked the guy for a first aid kit. He had one, but offered us the use of his apartment to clean up instead. So Chris loaded the bike into his car and Paul drove him to Huez village, and I followed by bike. We cleaned and bandaged Chris’ arm and then went back to the car so that Paul could drop Chris at a nice cafe. Again I followed by bike.

Ollie made good progress down the hill but had a blow out on a corner, luckily it didn’t cause him to crash though, and we were all reunited at the finish line and were finally able to eat some lunch and then set off on our 5 hr trip to Italy.

Only to end up back where we started the day, near Albertville, about an hour later due to an unexpected road closure!

We finally arrived at our BandB at around 2300hrs, tired and smelly!

Now to find the local bike shop…

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Col D’Iseran

We changed our itinerary around yesterday due to the likelihood of thunder storms today. We didn’t fancy facing thunder and lightening at the top of a mountain! So, rather than a long flat ride we attempted a mid-length mountainous ride. The Col D’Iseran climb is 48km or just under 30 miles and has an average gradient of about 4%; the height at the bottom is 815m and the top is 2770m. We made it to Val d’Isere at 1827m…

So, yesterday wasn’t a total success and I owe the boys an apology because I am sure that inwardly they are somewhat disappointed. I am confident that I could have completed the climb, which I wasn’t finding overly challenging, if it weren’t for the conditions. It was so hot! Around 30 degrees, and midday sun – no shade. My body doesn’t appear to be able to regulate temperature very well, so despite drinking a crazy amount of water/electrolytes, within a very short period my head was throbbing and I had to have my first break; a sit down in a patch of shaded grass to the side of the road and my first steal of some of Ollie’s water.  Once my heart rate was down and I was cooler we started off again, for a few miles until we met up with Chris in our designated lunch stop village. Sadly, the village was in a period of shut down, between the winter and summer seasons, so there wasn’t even anywhere to buy water. This was at about the 1200 point and my water and electrolyte reserves were very low. Again, we spent some time in the shade before setting off; arranging to meet Chris at the next eatery. 

However, we pedalled and pedalled without finding anywhere. With reserves so low we were stopping once every mile just to get out of the sun, so progress was extremely slow. At around the 1400 point I stopped in a patch of shade, drank my final drops of water and stood shaking – bonk. Ollie went ahead to see if he could work out how much further/get water/ find Chris. He found Chris, who went ahead to find water.  Ollie and I walked up the hill a little and then got back on for the very well received tunnels. Ahhhh shade! 

Finally, we reached Val D’Isere. Panic; nothing is open. Relief; the hotel is. Disappointment; they aren’t serving food. Relief; the Supermarket is. 

After a drink stop at a lovely hotel we cycled a few 100m to the supermarket where we bought baguette, cheese, ham and crisps for lunch. 

At this point it was around 1600 and too late to continue climbing. So we descended back to the village of Bourg St. Maurice. 

Laura 

(Pics to be added once I am able to connect my phone to the Internet!)

One week to go…

..with just one week to go until our epic trip to the Alps Ollie and I have spent the day doing bike washing and maintenance. We are planning on having a week off of cycling, so our next ride will be on arrival in France! Which is exciting and scary all at the same time. 

   

As the neighbours went out for their Saturday morning I was sat cleaning a cassette and when they came back from their Saturday morning excursion I was sat, in the rain, cleaning another cassette. Now our bikes are sparklingly clean and my hands and nails look like they belong to a mechanic. 😐
Next we have a trip to the shop planned, to get some new cycling glasses, as mine broke yesterday after only 2 months of use. You get what you pay for I suppose! Though I don’t like to pay too much for glasses because they inevitably get sat on, and because I have a wonky face and they don’t tend to be that comfortable!  I suppose on the contrary I could actually spend more to get some which fit my wonky face. 

The week is going to be a busy one, but also a second week of anxious waiting. Chris has managed to injure his Achilles at the worst possible time. We are all desperately hoping that it will mend in time for our adventure – and he’s been to see two physios to try and speed up the process. He’s taken it in good spirits though and has been looking at the potential to hire an electric bike! Not something he would normally condone, but needs must and there is no point is making the injury worse and being out for 6 months just because of a 2 week holiday.
Laura x

Count down to this year’s challenge 

Hello Blogosphere! 

It’s been almost a month! I’ve been catching up on, well, everything! Since I handed my final essay of the university year in I have been just as busy as I was, just with fun, sociable things (and cleaning) instead of academic stuff! 

Typically though, the weather seems to have taken a turn for the worse since I was released from the grips of academia, but I have managed to put in a reasonable amount of miles. Three more weeks of training and then a rest week before heading off to mainland Europe and the Alps! 

Top 100 climbs

In our training for the Alps we seem to have taken to attempting climbs which feature in the top 100 climbs book. This weekend we climbed out of Cheddar Gorge; a nice climb really! I even spent some time on the big ring!! The same could not be said about Bushcombe Lane… Ollie, Chris (Ollie’s brother this time) and I did the British Heart Foundation Cotswold bike ride a few weekends ago, and as we were going to be going past the end of Bushcombe Lane my brother suggested that we should try it. So we did. 

Bushcombe Lane 

During the first section, I wondered what the fuss was about. Yes it went on a bit. Yes I was tired. But it didn’t seem to be on the same scale as the top 100 climbs of Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Then I came across a local chap and I asked him whether I was nearly at the top. He just laughed and told me that I hadn’t even gotten to the steep part yet. 

I turned the corner from him and hit the hill. Within minutes my cadence was so low that I was falling off sideways into a bush. With wobbly legs I leant my bike against a tree, held onto said tree to keep me upright, scoffed some Jelly Babies (other sweets are available) and recovered my breath. 

I looked back down the hill and saw a relatively flat driveway off to the side; I clunked back down there on my cleats and got back on, whilst the gentleman looked over amused to my comment of “Here I go again!” 

I made it slightly further this time, before getting off due to a car coming up behind me making lots of revving noise (off-putting). I had almost made it to another drive, so I walked a few steps and then climbed back on for the final part of the hill. 

Phew. Bushcombe Lane is certainly deserving of the top 100 climbs book (although I think it features in the second book rather than the first).

Name and Shame

While the hill at Cheddar wasn’t too bad, the drivers of Somerset were the worst encountered so far! They were impatient, aggressive and lacked driving/common sense. On two separate occasions we were subjected to unpleasant hand signals; the second time by a passenger in a Ford Fiesta, who decided to do hand signals at every single cyclist on the hill. 

Whilst a driver (presumably a tourist) on Cheddar hill caused all sorts of chaos with his atrocious driving. 

Gains

Despite being unconvinced that I am getting any better at hills, the amount of hill climbing that we have been doing has vastly improved my strength on the flat, and thus my average speed over flat rides. This was demonstrated in my first 10 mile time trial of the year, a few weeks ago. My time was 30.50 which was a decent improvement on last year’s times. 

Finally

The last few weeks of cycling have left me wondering:

1. Why more cyclists don’t keep their buffs as part of their summer kit. I am yet to ditch mine, as it is excellent at keeping flies out of my nose and mouth! Doesn’t do much for my face tan though.

2. Whether other cyclists have as much trouble as I do when cycling through wind. Sometimes the grass isn’t even rustling but it feels like I am pedalling into a wind which is pushing me backwards. This wind which doesn’t even register on the ‘Grass scale’ saps my energy, making even a short ride feel extremely challenging. Will this ever become easier? The boys don’t seem to notice it. 😔

That’s it for now. I will try not to leave it so long next time. 

“Shall I call an ambulance?”

Saturday’s adventures…

As planned we headed out to attempt three of the TdF hills. The planned route of around 80 miles, had an elevation of about 8,000 ft, but we managed 27 miles of it and just under 2,400 ft.

Despite keenly watching the changing weather forecast regularly throughout the week, and realising that it would be wet and windy, we underestimated the effect of being up north and being up a big hill. It’s cold up there, and the weather is unpredictable.

We decided on quite different kit, but that is fairly normal as I feel the cold. I decided upon bib tights, waterproof socks, jersey, arm warmers, a waterproof and my Sealskin mitts. Ollie chose a Jersey, shorts, arm warmers and fingerless gloves.

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The first 20 miles were okay. It was rainy on and off, my arm warmers were off, my raincoat was on, off, on…and Ollie was happy with his choice of kit. However, after the 20 mile point we began to struggle. Ollie’s fingers were too exposed to the headwind and driving rain which was battering us, which meant that he had to keep them warm by putting them into his mouth. I was okay kit wise but the wind was sapping my energy. But the 20 mile point coincided with the first of the three major hills, between Buckden and Hawes, which went on and on and on. Ollie was kindly either waiting for me, or racing up the hill and then coming back to get me – so that he kept warm- whilst also keeping his hands warm, one at a time.

The 20 mile point was like entering a time warp, the hill lasted forever, there was nothing; no civilisation – just moors – grass – water – sheep. I think it even got to the point where there weren’t even any sheep. And then there was snow. Not just sleet – snow. Snow and wind. Still I was okay, but Ollie’s fingers were increasingly cold and painful.We got to a steep downhill section, which frightened me so we had to get off and walk for a little way. After that though, my fingers also became cold, even though they had been wrapped up in my Sealskin mitts. I began to compare the ride to that of Boxing Day and Ride 100, in terms of miserableness. But then it got a little worse;  a passing Landrover splashed me, and I was soaked through.

 

We carried on, miserably, shivering and desperately looking for a pub to warm up in…and eventually came to the cobbled streets of Hawes. We blindly followed the streets until we came across a Coffee shop – Herriot’s – where we dumped the bikes and went straight inside to a friendly welcome. We perched on seats and ordered hot chocolates, which I downed almost in one. We pretty much immediately decided that we would terminate the ride and that one of us would get a taxi back to the camp site to pick up the car. As we sat waiting for lunch, drinking the hot chocolate Ollie’s fingers warmed up nice and quickly, but I continued to shiver uncontrollably in my wet clothes.

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Ollie and the Cafe owner, Glenn, were increasingly concerned about my inability to warm up – Glenn and his wife Liz tried to find me a hot water bottle but decided to offer me the use of one of their Bed and Breakfast rooms, so that I could have a hot shower. He gave me a walkie-talkie and instructed me not to collapse. The shower, on its hottest setting did the job, but I was back to shivering once I got out. However Liz kindly let me borrow some clothes so that I wouldn’t have to put my cold wet Lycra back on, and I spent some time under a hair-drier.

 

In the meantime, another kind couple offered Ollie a lift back to the camp-site, and Glenn ‘sold’ Ollie a room for the night – so Ollie headed off to get the car and Glenn gave me a key to a new room. The end of our camping adventure  – I didn’t even manage two nights!!

 

While Ollie was away I ate my lunch soup, chatted to some other cyclists and fully recovered.

 

We finished off our route on Sunday – so still managed to do all of the hills that we’d planned to do. Photos below…

 

Buttertubs Pass

Buttertubs Pass

Climbing Buttertubs

Climbing Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

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Buttertubs

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Buttertubs Pass

 

Decisions, decisions, decisions…and a horror film.

Yippeeeee! It’s a lovely day, I am about to go out on my bike for the afternoon and tomorrow we are heading up to Bamber Bridge in Lancashire to purchase the new bike. All in all pretty exciting.

I am fairly rubbish at making decisions, I struggle with questions as simple as “how much dinner would you like?” – to which I generally reply “oh, the normal amount” and then go back for seconds. The purchase of my first bike (a Giant Defy 2) was so painful for the people in my old office that my boss mentioned it in her speech when I left, under “what we won’t miss”. And the procurement of my second bike has, if anything, been worse. I now know more about bikes and about the spec that I would like. I am not simply taking my brother’s advice or choosing the prettiest one.

So I always assumed that I would upgrade to another Giant. Due to neck pains on my current bike I did however decide that I would go for a WSD, so the Giant Avail Advanced 1 looked like the obvious choice and I would easily be able to purchase this from the LBS.  But that wasn’t to be, it met my spec but it isn’t available in time. Circumstance therefore forced me to consider other options, so we took ourselves off for a weekend in London and a visit to the bike show. My previous post summarises my thoughts from that trip.

I have since considered and ruled out the Scott Contessa Solace, a lovely bike, but then so it should be for £1700 – particularly when the components are only 105. When I say only 105, I mean for the price; 105 is very good, apparently. The Cannondale I have not given any further thought to; Cannondale were never on my radar before the bike show and I am really not fussed still. So that left Dolan and Ribble to fight it out.

Tomorrow I am off to Ribble. Dolan is half an hour away but I doubt I will go there. I think…I have made a decision. 

Ribble Grand Fondo, Di2.

I think I will need more than electronic shifting to get up here though: http://thecolcollective.com/col-collection/col/alpe-dhuez

I had better get out in the sunshine and do some training!