Well our time at our old mate Russel O'Malleys spacious home has come to an end. Katrina and I spent exactly 8 days here and in that time did way more training than would have been possible if back home working. In those 8 days we got in 6 runs, 4 swims and 4 bikes. We got to climb another two Cols that are famous in this part of the Pyrenees called Col De Marmare at 1361 metres, and Col De Chioula at 1431 metres. Both these Cols were easy going with the maximum gradient being 8% but predominately 6%. The descents were quite technical in places but also free-flowing where top speeds up to 80km/h were possible. It has been great to watch Katrina’s confidence soar, not only in her descending skills but her climbing strength is astounding. Watch out when she returns home for she will seriously kick some butts. Now open-water swimming is another matter; she has some head problems with shadows and coldness of the waters while wearing a wetsuit, which she feels restricts her breathing and freaks her out. Our last open water swim saw her come in early as she talked herself out of it. Two days prior to that she swam no problems, so once we are in Zurich we will get her in the water and hopefully get her confidence up with swimming in the same lake all the time.
Thank you to the O'Malley family
We are both indebted to our friend Russel and his Wife Helen for trusting us with their home for the past 8 days and I know they are following these blogs, so I need to thank them publicly to show our appreciation. You guys have hearts of gold and we will never forget your kindness. Russ I can't wait to recreate some more famous memories such as what you put me through those two unforgettable days!
Goodbye Pyrenees, Hello Alps
Monday July 9 was our road trip day. A 600km trip from Foix in the Pyrenees to the famous town of Chambery in the French Alps. As you know it is Tour de France time for 3 weeks in July and we definitely were not leaving France without experiencing the Tour. So Chambery it was, positioned nicely at the foothills of all the major climbs in the Alps. Also because my old mate Phil Anderson gave us permission to hang out with his Phil Anderson Tour group for a day. And what better day to hang out with Phil then when he is taking his group up the iconic, lung-busting, heart-stopping, adrenaline-forming, lactic-acid-producing, quad-burning Col of Alp D'Huez! Phil told us where his group was staying and after 8 hours of motorways and gorgeous back roads and the obligatory baguette stop for lunch, we lucked in and were able to get a booking for just the one night in this incredibly charming, huge castle like Chalet for just 118 euro for the night twin share. It is one of those places where if you eat at the restaurant, you will quickly realise why the accommodation rates are so reasonable. Katrina and I sat down to eat and did the unthinkable in France and left before the waiter came back to take our order! Very rude but we saved ourselves 100 euro by getting in the car and finding a place that gave us a good steak with salad and frites for 20 euro, which included a beer. We both showed our true Aussie travel-on-a-budget sides tonight and could not have been happier!
The climb up the infamous 14km, 21 switchback, 1850 metre Alp D’Huez
From Chambery, Katrina and I became professional stalkers as we followed Phil's travel group, which consisted of 4 vans all with 6 to 8 bikes attached to the roof of each van. I wondered how they got them off as the vans were so high? My question was answered when we pulled up after 90 minutes of driving, to arrive at our launch point just 6km's from the start of the official climb just out of Bourg De Oisans, when they pulled out a step ladder to reach the bikes. Phil and his wife Annie run several tours a year to all the major events such as the TdF, the Giro and the Tour of Spain. The stages in the Alps and the Pyrenees are always the most popular and up to 35 riders were in attendance today, plus the two stalkers in our Smiddy kits, standing out like sore thumbs. The groups were broken into 3 starts and Katrina opted to start in the second medium group while I opted to go with the last group. All groups were sent off 10 minutes apart. Unfortunately for poor Katrina the group she went with had a leader that shared the same misfortune as our old mate Graeme from the Smiddy Pyrenees tour when he allowed the Garmin to over-ride better judgment. The end result being: hopelessly lost. A feeling I know only too well. So I take off fully expecting to see Kat at some stage up the climb as I knew she would be cruising due to Ironman Switzerland in 5 days. But I never did see her so thought she had got mountain fever and pushed the pace. So I got to the top, after riding the entire way up the 21 switchback climb to 1850 metres with Rudi Rogers. Rudi was part of the team working with Phil. His is a name that you may not be familiar with but over here he is a legend. Now 50 years of age but as a pro he finished 2nd in 1984, in a sprint finish to the great Sean Kelly of Ireland in the great Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix. Very humble and at any stage could have ridden away from me but was happy to have a chat and cruise, as much as you can cruise up Alp d'Huez! While waiting for Katrina I got a photo at the top with Phil and Rudi, one I'll always treasure for sure.
Finally Kat crests Alp d'Huez
Kat's group of 12 lost all faith in their team leader and went the way they thought, rather than the way the Garmin was telling them. Kate on the other hand struck out on her own and found a very different route to the top. Just as hard but without the 21 switchbacks. I was relieved to see her. She was clearly disappointed she did not get to ride the official route, but I assured her that no matter which way she climbed she had earned the right to say she had conquered Alp d'Huez. I secretly brought a small Alp d'Huez trophy, small enough to fit into my jersey pocket, and after we descended down the way I had climbed, so that she could see what she missed, I presented it to her once we got back to the car. Next year we are running a 5 day Smiddy tour through the Alps just prior to the TdF, and of course Alp d'Huez will be one of the many Cols that we will traverse during our 700km Alpine Odyssey. If keen to sign up for this exciting tour please drop me a line at sharkyATsmiddy.org.au or go to the Smiddy website for more information www.smiddy.org.au I would love to ride with you in 2013!
Anyway tomorrow Kat and I are going to see the TdF stage where the riders tackle the great climb of the Grand Columbier. It will be our final day in France before heading to Zurich and both of us are extremely excited! What a way to celebrate 20 wonderful days in this stunning country.
All the best to all my blog readers.