All posts by Mike

A brutal day on the Galibier for us, but not as bad as Pogacar on the Col du Granon!

Not that unlike a photo I took on the Tourmalet during the Lance years, with Lance leading out Ulrich and several other contenders. Here we have Pogacar following by Vingegaard, who would soon be spoiling his party.

Things went according to plan today on our Galibier ride; no issues with picking up the rental car, finding a place almost right at the bottom of the climb to start, and having just the right amount of time to get to the top. Yeah, that last one…

You have to wonder what Pogacar was telling his team director over the radio; this is shortly before the top of the Galibier, the last time Pogacar seemed completely in control of his destiny. He completely fell apart on the final climb half an hour later.

Kevin started out pretty strong at the bottom; thank goodness I was feeling a lot better than yesterday, but he still had to wait up for me quite a few times. At least until we got past Valloire, on the “real” Galibier (past the Telegraph), when Kevin’s legs and back just weren’t in the game anymore. I thought lunch would revive him; it helped, and his spirits were buoyed a bit when the Caravan came through (proof that you’re really at the Tour de France). But there was no water sponsor handing out bottles this year!!! What’s with that?

When the Gendarmes came through and announced we’d have to walk, it was almost a sense of relief for Kevin. I couldn’t go fast, but I could still turn the pedals. Eventually we found a good spot, about 1.5km from the top. Afterwards I asked Kevin if he wanted to finish the climb, but no, not today. It’s not unfinished business though; Kevin did the full Glandon/Galabier loop back in 2011 I think? That’s going to be a tough act to follow.

On the way down, we came across a huge crowd off to the side in Valloire; there was a huge TV screen showing the end of the race. That was really cool; normally we don’t know how things finished until we get back and see the reports on-line or, if cell coverage is good enough, on our phones. But this time we got to see the last 3km of the race live, the part where Pogacar gets dropped by Vingegaard and likely lost his Tour bid this year.

Kevin feared the return section between Valloire and The Telegraph, and nothing I could tell him could make him think it’s actually the fun climb/diversion from the descent that it is. It’s a power climb; between 3-5% and, following a ton of other cyclists, you really get into it. I’ve done it twice, and I remember feeling the same way Kevin did as you descended into Valloire on the way up. You’re thinking, I don’t want to have to climb this on the way back! Today, I was seeing power numbers that made me think it’s possible I’m going to ride myself back into shape while here.

Tomorrow it’s Alpe d’Huez, which involves a shorter drive, less than an hour, and hopefully it will be just a bit cooler.

Wow. Where did the Chamrousse come from?

Today we were supposed to see our first stage of the Tour de France, but our midnight arrival on the scene last night kind of killed that, and any ideas of just being silly anyway were squashed when I did the 8am appointment to pick up the rental car, and instead of the cute little Renault Kangoo, a car we’ve not-so-secretly lusted after since Kevin and I started coming here together for the ‘Tour, they brought out a full-size cargo van. Umm… no. Trying to find a parking space for a beast like that? No way no how. Tomorrow they’re supposed to present us with a medium-sized car instead.

So what do we do to get our feet wet? We, or I, decided why not do something different, why not ride an area we’ve not ridden before. There’s this hill, the Charmousse, last used, I think, in the 2014 TdF.

Another time, another version of me, the Chamrousse wouldn’t have been that big a deal. But the current version of me doesn’t tolerate heat very well if I haven’t spent a lot of time getting used to it, and the current version of me was in real trouble going up that hill, with temps right around 100F for a good part of the climb. My sweatband seemed to be working against me; I think it’s kind of like how a dam works really well, until it doesn’t. I just couldn’t get much power to the pedals. Kevin thought it was maybe the rack with stuff loaded down that was making a difference (he was riding au naturel), but that explains being slower; it doesn’t explain the low power numbers. Some of it may be due to the meds I take for my mild bone marrow cancer thing, maybe. And some, sure, my lungs don’t work like they used to, but this was epic-worse than anything I’d experience climbing Kings.

And heck, as long as I’m complaining, the Chamrousse is way too wide to be fun, which also means a lot less shade too. But the kilometers did (slowly) tick off, and we did eventually make it to the very top, where, as France would have it, there was a very nice little cafe run be a very nice middle-aged woman serving up cokes in glasses with plenty of ice.

Tomorrow hopefully goes better; it’s only the Galibier after all. Our first TdF intercept, with full camera gear.