Cluses to Notre-Dame-de-Bellecombe. Distance 63km, Elevation Gained 2,200m.
‘20%’ By Rory Chappell (Support Team)
Waking up this morning to grey skies after a night of storms isn’t what you imagine when you come away to Southern France for a cycling challenge. That said, it is perfect climbing weather. Today was the first chance some got to experience a classic Col, and where better to start than the Col de la Colombière.
20% never seems like a lot. You get that grade at school, and a sad face will strike itself across yours. But when you picture it as the amount of distance, climb and days completed by the cyclists, it turns into something more. Something motivating and tangible. Tomorrow is a tough day, but to think back and know you have already done more than you are going to do tomorrow can be a comforting factor.
The first day, everyone was treated to a scorching sun, presenting challenges of its own. Today built on yesterday; an even more arduous climb up from Cluses. John Wilkinson spoke about how pleased he was that, after yesterday, his legs were able to work; Roland Valori achieved his first classic Col; John Anderson reached 70 km/h on his way down Colombière, but he’s only getting started. Alison Anderson and Claire Lehman rode together, leading a spirited ride to the top. Alison admitted that she can walk at 5 km/h, but only cycle at 4 km/h in places; however, after tasting Auntie Jill’s cherry shortbread and bringing the sun with her, she got back on the saddle and sailed down the other side. Something you have to respect about The Alps is how fast and dramatic the weather can turn.
Lunch was in Le Grand-Bornand, we sat enjoying a French baguette with ham and cheese. Time for a photo. This was where the second climb began: Col des Aravis. Under sunny conditions, and I imagine against their better will, this proved lighter work for the team. John A, Roland and John W finished the climb and sat on deck chairs besides the support fan, filling their boots with coffee and cake, baked of course, by Auntie Jill. Alison and Claire followed soon after, keeping up a good spirits, and Claire offering her best rendition of The Hills are Alive.
For many, there’s nothing better after a hard day’s work than a cold beer or glass of wine. But, few will experience the feeling of quenching a thirst with a cold beer or glass of wine after a mountainous day on the bike. But it makes it worth it. It tastes that much better, especially amongst great company.