Sunday, August 16, 2015

Post #8 Galibier! Télégraphe! Oh Yeah, This IS a bike vacation!!

This was such a spectacular day. Words cannot capture the absolute grandeur of this ride. Oh Hell, let's give it a try.The ride plan for the day:
  • Drive the White Paddy Wagon up to the Lautaret. 
  • Warm up a bit. 
  • Then Climb the South Face of the Galibier. 
  • Celebrate. 
  • Descend in joyous anticipation to Valloire. 
  • Climb the South Face of the Télégraphe (which is a little hind-tit of a Col). 
  • Celebrate. 
  • Descend to St. Michel de Maurienne in somewhat joyous/anxious anticipation. 
  • Commemorate our presence there for a second consecutive day. 
  • Then turn around and start W.O.R.K.
Our Crew comprised Ticket, Whip Gingerhammer, Ullrich and Herr Doktor.

FUN FACTS ABOUT OUR ROUTE (Wikipedia is pretty neat!)
Col du Galibier (el. 2,645 metres (8,678 ft)) is a mountain pass in the southern region of the French Dauphiné Alps near Grenoble (unless the tunnel is out). It is the ninth highest paved road in the Alps and the sixth highest mountain pass. It is often the highest point of the Tour de France.

It connects Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and Briançon via the col du Télégraphe and the Col du Lautaret. The pass is closed during the winter. It is located between the massif d'Arvan-Villards and the massif des Cerces, taking its name from the secondary chain of mountains known as the Galibier.

From the south, the climb starts from the Col du Lautaret (el. 2,058 metres (6,752 ft)) and is 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi) long at an average gradient of 6.9% (height gain: 585 metres (1,919 ft)) with a maximum of 12.1% at the summit.

Let's Get it Started!

We started right where the graph above gets Nantucket Red. And no I am not gay. Note that Yeti and Wife covered this route from Briancon on this same day, which covers the entire graph listed above. They slept late, as Yetis do, and rolled from the house. SuperK stopped at the Lautaret, and the Brazilianed Hairy Monster climbed the whole thing. This is all I know about their Ride. And here are a few pics. They look like they had fun, right?

Yay Us! 

Todd's Bike Makes a Great Background!

My Kit is Older than that Glacier!

OK - back to the vertical saga. We kept a pretty controlled pace up the first climb. Everyone finished in less than 50 minutes.Wattage varied by the mass of carcass each pulled up the Hill.

Here is the Ticket at the top:

Sorry Dude, You Still Can't Fly

Here is Ullrich:

And here is Dr and ME:
When you write the blog, your pictures are naturally bigger.

After photo ops, we began the bombing process. I am kind of a Puss when it comes to many things, including going fast down European switchbacks with no guard rails. So, as my brakes were put to max use, everyone, but particularly the Dr, gained max time. He stopped in Valloire, ordered an espresso and a Nutella Crêpe and commenced to defiling the bathroom of the establishment. The rest of us caught up eventually. Crêpes and espresso all around! So Euro!

At this point in the ride, the Ticket decided both sides of the Galibier were enough for one day. Fully understandable, given his Grenoble accident,** and his Dwayne Schintzius body mass. we bid the big fella au revior,* rolled out of Valloire and started the climb up the South side of the Télégraphe. Before we knew it, we were in celebration mode again!

South Side of Télégraphe Smiley Face

As you can see behind ME, the road was pretty busy with our two-wheeled brethren. Truly amazing how many cyclists were on the Mountain. As we bombed down to the valley, we passed tons of Italians, Australians, French, English. Not too many Americans.

He's got a big mouth!

We bombed to the bottom, back to the town where we watched LeTour.

Once in St. Michel, we could descend no more. At this point, we were fully pregnant. I felt it inspiring to share some insight that Jack (cycling coach and a veteran of Alps Cols) gave me regarding our day's ride plan. When asked about the feasibility of a Galibier/Télégraphe out and back, the question triggered a thoughtful pause. After reflection, Jack said "That....would be a long day in the Alps." Given that we had just descended for about an hour, this was kind of a "no-shit" moment for Doc and Ullrich. Still, when a powerhouse like Jack (all 135lbs of him) judges an effort difficult, it makes one pucker up appropriately.

More Galibier/Télégraphe Climb Facts-
From the north, starting at Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne (including the Col du Télégraphe), the entire climb is 34.8 kilometres (21.6 mi) long, gaining 2,120 metres (6,960 ft) in height (an average of 6.1%). The actual climb to the summit starts at Valloire and is 18.1 kilometres (11.2 mi) long at an average of 6.9% (height gain: 1,245 metres (4,085 ft)). The maximum gradient is 10.1% at the summit.

The Col du Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911; the first rider over the summit was Emile Georget, who, with Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou were the only riders not to walk. None of us walked, by the way. Of course, back in 1911, they rode single speeds, carried their own spare tyres, and smoked cigarettes/drank whiskey to recover.

The climb up the Télégraphe was awesome. I followed Doc relatively closely, and we regrouped with Ullrich at least once. The grades on the climb were a very consistent 7%, and shaded by trees nearly the entire climb. Switchbacks aplenty, and tons of cyclists in front of us to focus on.

Doc and I summited the Télégraphe in 1:04, Ullrich rolled in at 1:17, with the smile you see above.

One of the things that made this trip spectacular was the stops. We stopped in Valloire (at the same place we had nutella Crêpes) for lunch. Pizza, salad, fries, and a Coke. It was an awesome break in the coolest French hamlet atmosphere. Midway through lunch we made friends with some wine drinking French vacationers at the next table. Well, I think we made friends. They spoke no English, and we are French-disabled.

Here is my translation of the conversation:
(Please read this with a French Accent)
We as French people celebrate lunch with wine and desert every day. You as cyclists will earn the right to celebrate once you get to the top of the Galibier. We as French people think climbing the Galibier is pretty awesome. We have no idea where Texas is located, nor do we care. We are French! And we pretty much hate Lance Armstrong. But you guys seem pretty cool.
We rolled out of Valloire about five pounds heavier, smiling, fat and happy. After five minutes of climbing, we were just fat. The first 45 minutes post-lunch was tough. The stomach was not interested in more climbing.It voted for system shutdown! It eventually relented, unlike the mountain. The Galibier was a crucible. After the previous efforts, it tested both fitness and resolve, burning off ego and braggadocio with only true fitness, power/weight reality, and desire remaining.

Interesting Note: On both sides of the Col du Galibier mountain pass, cycling milestones are placed every km. They indicate the distance to the summit, the current altitude, and the average slope in the upcoming km. These tombstones, I mean milestones, are alternatively helpful and psychologically damaging. Knowing the excruciating upcoming details can be potent NEGATIVE psychological fuel,Those damned km markers taunted ME repeatedly. It seemed like they popped up every half mile.

Translation: "GET OFF THE BIKE"

On the way up, our French lunchmates actually stopped and cheered us on at three different spots on the climb! "Allez! Allez! Allez! Would they do that in New York? Advantage France!

We regrouped once on the way up, at a stinky cheese co-op. Doc, who had dropped me immediately after lunch, was chatting with a French couple. They were semi-impressed with our effort, in truly French fashion. After this stop, I saw the Doc get progressively smaller until the summit.

In the last km, there was a photographer earning some cash for documenting our suffering. I later found out that all of us reacted to the camera guy thusly:

1. We noticed he was there.
2. We slowed down a bit, zipped up the kits, adjusted the glasses.
3. We cranked it up as we got into the picture taking zone.
4. We smiled like it was a total walk in the park.
5. We got past the picture guy.
6. We stopped and got off the bike.
7. We acted like we were taking a selfie.
8. We were actually trying to breathe.

 For the Camera...

For the record...

The original Galibier summit was at 2,556 meters, with the pass going through a tunnel. I was wishing it was bike accessible. At the south portal of the tunnel, at the edge of the road, there is apparently a monument to Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour de France. The memorial was inaugurated when the tour passed through in 1949. Whenever the tour crosses the Galibier, a wreath is laid on the memorial. The "Souvenir Henri Desgrange" is awarded to the first rider across the summit of the highest mountain in each year's tour. They were passing out no wreaths when I rolled through.

Since 1947, the Galibier has been crossed 31 times by the Tour de France. It would have been 32 this year. Damn tunnel. Can you imagine the stress this route, PLUS d"Huez would have put on Froome? Perhaps the tunnel collapse was a SKY job? Let the conspiracy theories begin!!

The summit was as much relief as accomplishment. The last three kms were super tough. Around three hours of climbing in all. Positive Note: The roads were pristine. French Butter. But steep at the top, with some grades around 10%. All in, Strava had ME at 14,300 feet for the day, in 70 miles. That included coasting down the Laturaret for about 20 miles at the end. Pretty sweet to get over 14k of climb out of a 50 mile out and back. Can't find that many places. At the top, the French couple from the cheese shop were there. They bid us a congratulations on our accomplishment. I love the French.

We bombed down to Lautaret after a short break. Later, Ullrich told me that our French lunch friends were waiting for him at the top as well. Vive le France!!  French bike culture is truly phenomenal.

Ladies Day
I wasn't there, but I hear the ladies had some good times in Briancon that day. They chilled, shopped and chilled some more. They tackled some math problems (like what is 34 divided by 3?) and battled some alcoholic bees. It was a landmark day all around! Here are some pics:

 Coffee, Croissants & Culture

 Shopping in the Old Town is Hard Work!

 Bungee Time - Well Not For Us...

Gargoyle's Foot, One Day Later

NEXT UP: Post #9 - Last Night in Briancon/Last Night in Geneva

* French for "I wish I was joining you"

**Accident is a French word. I suspect it is pronounced "Oxidahnt" but have no formal training in this regard.