Thursday, 20 June 2013


COLS CLIMBED: Col de la Placette at 588 metres and Alp D'Huez at 1850 metres


Distance: 132 km's
Average: 19.5 km/h
Climbing: 2627 metres
Riding time: 6hr 47min
Temp Min: 4 degrees (This was on Alp De Huez as it poured down rain on the group)
Temp Max: 28 degrees
Crashes now by Zane: Two

As a special surprise to my faithful readers and followers of this blog I want to introduce you to our only girl on this tour and her take of the day. Please enjoy Antonia's words below of our big day of climbing the great Alp De Huez.

The pain of day four and Eric sneaks his bike in!
What a day! I think every day just brings out whole new level of wowness in every facet that you can think of! The alarm went off at 6:00am and as much as I wanted to press snooze and roll over, Alp D'huez was calling. Today started with Sharky's very punctual trip to our local wifi hotspot so that his infamous blog can get out to the eagerly awaiting media/audience. Meanwhile the rest of us were packing our bags for our overnight stay at Alp D'huez. The Van was coming out with us for the first day with Eric the assigned driver. However, tucked a way in the boot, I noticed was his bike! He obviously had that same calling from Alp D'huez! 112km to the base and then a 13km climb! Out and off by 8 o'clock and I don't think there was one of us that wasn't feeling the hurt of the last few unrelenting days. We hadn't long left and I was already hearing comments from around the group such as " I think there is going to be blood in my knicks tonight" " I can honestly say that I have never worked my body so hard in my life" "Geez I love red lights" All things that were buzzing around in my head, but just hadn't verbalised them. As much as one doesn't like to hear that others are going through pain there is also that sense of relief to know that you are not the only one suffering. Although to be honest I think some people were pushing through a higher level of pain than others for obvious reasons (namely Zane and Sharky)

Our first Col felt like a major one
Our first stop was St Laurent du Pont for a loo stop at a public loo, give me a bush over this any day to duck behind. A welcome stop never the less. Not long after we left there we were climbing our first col for the day! "Col de la Placette" Although we reached a mere altitude of 588m, at that point in time it may as well have been Alp D'huez! A quick bite to eat, slap on some sunscreen and back on the bike. No rest for the wicked! A lovely descent soon after which I heard from Sharky's mouth "No more climbing and a tail wind and I think I will be right" No sooner did he mutter these words and we were climbing again.

Lunch was a blessing and we were beautifully catered for as we have been the entire week by Eric and Graham. As per usual it wasn't a leisurely sit back and feet up lunch, it was pretty much gobble and go and of course slap on the suncream for safe measures. Although saying this, Zane did manage to fit in a massage by our in house masseuse in Sharky (well deserved of course)

Zane gets his number 3
They say things come in three's and for Zane this is certainly the case with number three being racked up in spectacular fashion. Not long had we been on the move after lunch when Zane copped another fall, literally shattered body, train tracks and stupidly thin tyres being the culprit. A hard fall, which he described as worse than his high speed gravel flip. The car behind slammed on his brakes to narrowly miss Zane! Wow, it is not as if Zane hadn't been through enough already. Yet, in good old Zane spirit, he was back on the bike again and powering on, all be it through gritted teeth.

From that point on, what was to enter our visual space was mind blowing. These mountains started popping up all over the place. Terrifying is just one word to describe it. I struggled bending my head far enough back just to see the tops, but truly picturesque. My main aim at that point was to enjoy it while I could as I well knew that half way up Alp D'huez wasn't exactly going to be the most opportune moment to take it all in.

The climb we had waited for all week was finally upon us
Finally the base was upon us. The van was parked at the base with no bike and no Eric! He couldn't resist it! We all fueled up with sweets, water and various other things and off we went to climb the famous Alp D'huez! 21 switch backs, all numbered on the way up. I was surprised to begin with how quickly these numbers went down but then all of a sudden they started to slow down, I think rather then them getting further apart it was rather a matter of my legs slowing down.

The top was more than welcome, although I wasn't quite sure where the actual top was, but thought I saw Sharky in the distance so just followed on and up! I didn't mind though as the view was something out of this world! No picture I have taken has yet given it justice. It wasn't until I was descending back to the village that the cold air really hit me. It was a welcome site to see my mum there to meet us, she had been there since 11;00 am waiting for our arrival, time now being just before 5:00pm!

Graeme's words over dinner
Dinner was sensational with the best backdrop I have had to any meal. At the dinner table Graham mentioned something different that he has noticed about the Smiddy groups he has taken out compared to other groups he takes out for personal training, and that is the dedication they show. He says that no matter how much hurt or pain that they are going through, they push on through as it is not for themselves in particular they are doing it for it is for a greater purpose. This rings true with me. I think we have certainly seen this sheer determination within this group as I saw the exact same attitude when I was fortunate enough to do the Midi Smiddy earlier in the year. It is what makes every day really special.

Apologies for the slightly different blog to usual. I must leave the top 10 highlights to Sharky so you don't miss out on some well loved Sharky entertainment for the day!

Antonia no apologies necessary, thanks to you I got an extra two hours sleep, so thank you for your excellent account of your day on the Huez.

Well I am not sure I have much to add but here are just a few highlights and a few special awards as I saw it from today and over the past four days.

1. I was directly behind Zane when he took his second tumble and it was a beauty! He very nearly saved himself by throwing out his left leg to counter balance the bike wanting to fall right. But the big fella's one leg coming out actually catapulted him and his bike sideways and there was serious airtime, prior to the heaviest train track fall I have witnessed, on to his right hip and shoulder. The very same that took the brunt in his first fall. He actually ended up in the middle of the road, the car behind slamming on its brakes, a motorbike stopping abruptly traveling in the opposite direction and a group of French cafe drinkers watching with amusement on the side of the road as if it was all perfectly ordinary. Zane lay there momentarily out of it. Glen and I eventually got him off the road and once he was on his feet his immediate words were; "I think that's me done Sharky." Ten minutes later he was back on his bike and in a world of pain. The guy use to play footy and if not for his incredibly strong build he would have been down for the count long ago. Zane tells me that riding a bike is tougher than anything he endured as a Rugby player. The admiration of all in our select group went another notch higher for this man with the big heart and endearing never give in smile.

2. Antonia is such a tough nut that she probably did not even notice the teaming rain that brought temperatures down to four degrees for the climb up Alp D'Huez today. Apparently it did not rate a mention as nothing was said about it in her blog. Well I am telling you -here and with the utmost certainty- that it rained cats and dogs and mothers and children, it was freezing, great torrents of water were cascading off the mountainside, mini-tsunami's barreled head on into the riders, the wind was cyclonic and landslips forced riders to mount the odd cow that had not been blown off the mountain to help get bikes and bodies through the carnage! Yes it was that bad, although I may have exaggerated a little with the cat quote... Anyway hats off to the crew as none gave in and all made it successfully to the top.

3. The actual finish of the Alp D'Huez climb is at 1850 metres and situated in the village itself. But as I attended a six week triathlon training camp here with the legendary Tri coach Brett Sutton, and his squad in 1993, I knew that you could continue climbing to just over 2000 metres, 2080 to be precise. The rain had stopped and I actually felt okay on the climb for the first time in four days so I continued on. Unbeknown to me Antonia spotted me and followed me and on my way back down there she was coming up. It involved a further three kilometres of climbing, we stopped, had a quick chat, I pointed out the top and off she went. Like I said before, one tough girl that one!

4. The hairiest legs and most fluro bike socks award goes to dual winners in Zane and Garath. I have not mentioned to Garath to shave his legs as this man is already fast enough as it is.

5. The award for most recognizable helmet from five kilometres away goes to Antonia, who with her go pro camera perched high above her helmet on an alien tentacle like monstrosity, scares the bejesus out of me each time I spot her.

6. The most unrecognizable accent award goes to our good old American mate in Eric. Last night Eric was asked to read the blog and we all thought he was speaking another language, not helped by the fact that a few celebratory ales and reds were consumed over a few hours after he had successfully hammered out a 90 minute ascent and descent of Alp D'Huez.

7. The first on the scene award goes to Glen, who was once again dragging Zane's sorry and sore arse off the road and fixing his bike yet again.

8. Having a moment and bitching to Graeme about being sick award goes to Shark, who at the top of today's first Col just needed to voice the demon's in his head. Eric suggested I do some van time, that snapped Shark out of it!

9. The excitement level award at climbing Alp D'Huez award definitely goes to Garath. He spoke constantly of it as the best and hardest thing he has done in his life. He was still talking about it in his sleep. I was in the room next door, solid rock walls, I am half deaf and yet I could make out these words; watch out Cadel, I'm coming to get you!

10. And finally, the biggest and toughest and just gets on with it award goes to good old Zane. Anyone else would have pulled out days ago. The big guy was hurting today after the train track crash, yet he took on and climbed Alp D'Huez, with a hip that is so sore he can't walk without a serious limp. Hats off to you champ. The rider of this tour by far!


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