Velo Club Moulin

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Trophee de l'Oisan

This summer I once again ventured to the Alps to ride the Trophee de l'Oisan. My winters training had mainly been focused on shorter events (by which I mean it was really cold so I only rode my bike for short periods of time), so I wasn't sure how I was going to fair, but things went pretty well. First event was La Vaujany, 109 miles with 4000 metres of climbing. For me, it was an awesome day. It was just one of those days where everything turns out right. I felt great all day, with only one black spot climbing across the front of Villard Reculus. It was a wet, cloudy day - and I loved it (no pollen when it's raining, so I could breathe!). The first climb felt good, going up through the cloud, you couldn't see 10 metres in front of you, riders appeared out of the mist, and those coming past disappeared quickly. My descending felt great, I was able to ride with groups rather than just having people go past me all day, and on the flat/rolling sections I was in groups riding a good pace, and was able to come through and pull equal turns to keep the group moving. 

Ali panicked because he forgot he was cameraman and Jim was bottle holder man, and this picture was the result. 
 Riding over the top of the Sarenne (above Alpe d'Huez), I was told by the officials that I was premier femme, after that I was just riding along thinking 'don't puncture, don't puncture, don't puncture, stop thinking about puncturing, don't puncture, why do you keep thinking about puncturing??' Got to the bottom of the final climb up to La Vaujany, where Ali was reclining peacefully in the back of the car waiting for me to come past, probably having finished the race himself about 5 hours previously (slight exaggeration, but honestly, I think if you can ride La Marmotte in 6 hours, it can't actually be that hard a ride can it?). Anyway, I yelled at him to follow me up the climb as I was paranoid about getting a puncture and losing my lead. I got to the top, and was indeed premier femme. Prize was a stay in a chalet in Vaujany for four people this winter, so if anyone has a penchant for skiing/cycling in snow and wants to buy it off me let me know as I'm going to be in hell (fourth year uni=in lab) so can't go. 
Recovery position. 

 I was staying with Ali and a really nice guy from New Zealand who Ali coaches called Ryan, and Ryan's friend Jim. We were in a chalet in Bourg, it definitely had character...the day after Vaujany we all slept in until 12pm, which was awesome. Not even the dredging pump in the bathroom which pumped water from a the river next to the chalet for our taps/shower/toilet could wake us up. I felt a touch of a sore throat, but decided not to talk about it as I didn't want to be made to sleep outside, or admit to myself I might be getting ill. Tuesday, definitely had a sore throat, gargled with lots of bacteria-killing things and ate lots of fruit. Wednesday, Prix des Rousses, time for damage limitation as my throat was burning and I felt like crap. Managed to come 4th, and first out of people who had done Vaujany. 

Thursday, Friday, still feeling bad but managing to keep full blown cold at bay. Saturday, La Marmotte - perfect illness cure. This was not an awesome day. Well, it was, but it wasn't in terms of performance, or how I generally felt about being alive. Serious damage limitation mode (DLM), or at least trying to. Was still faster than last year, but not by anything like the amount I was in La Vaujany. I was 11th in my category, and 2nd out of people doing the whole Trophee. Didn't have internet so couldn't check exactly where I was in the overall standings. 

Next day, definitely had a cold! Raced up Alpe d'Huez. Horrible. Felt sick and horrible beforehand, and during. By this point for me the worst part is forcing yourself to eat, my body was repelling food and the mere thought of porridge was giving me waves of queasiness. Managed to ride up and beat closest overall rival by 5 minutes, but I wasn't sure how much she'd put into me during La Marmotte, and whether I was leading overall. 

Standing waiting for results felt like the worst kind of waiting to get exam results, but obviously a lot more important than those! My main emotion when I found out I had won (just before getting on the podium) was just relief. 

All done, waiting for results. Jim on right.
Warm up and breakfast in one go before final race. 
 The week after this Ali and I went to stay in a fully catered hotel I'd won a 7 night stay in during this event last year. It was amazing. I was ill, and Ali had had a slight run in with a cliff after a rear wheel blow out on the second bend of the descent of the Glandon during the Marmotte*, meaning he had a knee which didn't like bending, so we just chilled out, ate lots of really nice food, sat by the pool looking at the mountains, watched the Tour on TV every afternoon and on one particularly strenuous day went to the Col d'Madeliene to watch the Tour go by in person. 
Recovery food. 
Currently I am at my Mum's place in Cumbria. The car I normally use to get to transport myself has died, but I needed to see the physio in Edinburgh about my shoulder (which I dislocated the week after the stay in the hotel, another story, with one lesson: don't dislocate your shoulder, it really hurts. Lesson could also be translated as: you know those shoulder stability exercises the physio told you to do four years ago? Actually do them). So, I decided to ride up to Edinburgh, it was awesome, 120 miles of fun. Yesterday I came back via a different route, through Innerleithen, then down the B709 (I think), through to Langholm. The road is awesome, despite the constant head wind I was fortunate enough to encounter, and I got to make friends with a toad which I moved off the road. 

In Langholm I stopped for a coke, as I came out of the shop a friendly local guy asked me if I was riding far, as people are want to do. I told him where I had come from and where I was going, and his kindly smile soon turned into a look of anguish, he said 'you'll never make it there tonight though...', I was like, 'hmm, I think I'll be fine', he reiterated that I was never going to make it, I thanked him for his positivity and said I'd be fine, to which he said 'well, all the very best to you, and take care', in a way which clearly showed he thought I was definitely going to die that day, but there wasn't anything he could do about it, which made him a bit sad. I was cackling quite a bit about this as I rode the next few miles home, which I'm sure didn't help in my bid to convince people that cycling 120 miles with a bag on your back to visit the physio is perfectly sane. 

*Without making it any more dramatic than it actually was, he crashed off the road due to a rear wheel puncture in the middle of a hair pin, his leg got caught on a wall which stopped him going any further over the cliff, but bent his knee the wrong way. The ambulance people put an inflatable cast on him, he made them hide his bike so that when I rode past the ambulance I wouldn't see it and stop racing. I actually saw the ambulance, looked to see if his bike was outside it but it wasn't so I carried on without a care in the world (apart from finishing La Marmotte, and not running over the guy who crashed right in front of me in one of the tunnels, and trying to disguise my sobs of self pity at how horrible I felt as intimidating heavy breathing). They took Ali to the hospital, wouldn't let him go, so he escaped and hitched a lift to Alpe D'Huez so he'd be there when I finished so that I wouldn't worry about him. He had to leave his bike because they wouldn't give it to him, but luckily it turned up in Alpe d'Huez the next day and was returned to him unscathed(ish).

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Velo Club Moullorca

I've been going to Mallorca on and off for the best part of thirty years now and when this years holidays were being organised I made sure I had a bike booked on the flight along with me and the Family.  On my last trip to the Balearic Island five years ago I had travelled with my mountain bike and although it was good this time I couldn't resist taking the road bike to take advantage of the endless kilometers of smooth tarmac.

As any of you that have been to Mallorca with a bike will know there are plenty of hills and mountains to climb in the North of the Island giving more than enough roads to keep you interested.  As always we were based in Pollensa which gave me great access to the roads heading West towards Lluc and Soller. 

My favorite climb during the two weeks was from Inca up over the Coll De Sa Batalla(576m) towards Lluc.  I did this route from both sides with the Coll de Femenia(515m) side being slightly shorter but feeling slightly steeper.  The experience of climbing for 10 km on beautifully smooth tarmac is one not to be repeated in this country that is for sure!

One of my rides took me out to the lighthouse at Cap Formentor, the most Northerly point on the Island. One of the challenges in getting to and from the Cap was safely negotiating the tunnel on route.  The road out here is very well used and as such felt like riding at home apart from the fact that every car that passed gave you plenty of room.

Having endured the persistent Scottish rain throughout June and the start of July it was a delight being able to ride in dry warm conditions without having to worry about what extra layers and jackets that may be required.  I didn't really get fed up of cycling in blistering heat and I don't think I ever would.

But as ever all good things must come to an end and so it was back to the Scottish wind and rain.  It hasn't been easy coming back and having to plan rides around the weather again but at least I have the miles in my legs now and the memories of some great cycling.

My count for the two weeks stood at 220 miles which for a family holiday wasn't too shabby at all.  So if you are planning heading away make sure to pack a bike!