Reality Bites: Part Three

After the long descent off of the Col de Sarenne we opted to avoid the big road in the valley and traverse the side of the massif we’d just come down. What awaited us was a 6 km climb that seemed to me to be all 12%. I’m sure it wasn’t, but by around this time pretty much everything was feeling like 12%. Below is John, at the end of the road, discussing with me the merits of descending back down to the valley or climbing another 6 km on the Alpe d’Huez road we’d just done a few hours ago. As usual, I chose wrong.

2014-10-09 14.13.03

I really struggled on those 10 or so hairpins up to the village of Huez. I was turning the cranks, but just enough to keep me upright. Not sure what is going on here, but I had a bonk the other day with John and Stevo, too, so I guess that I’m off my game somewhat. As I look at the photo below I can see that I’m not at my trimmest, so maybe it’s as simple as losing a few kg. Or, maybe it’s an Alpe d’Huez curse of some sort, since the last time I climbed it (in the Etape of 2011) I barely made it up, too. I’m going with ‘curse’.

The road we took from Huez took us further across the flanks of the mountain and eventually dumped us near the village of Oz, where we might be staying next July if we get into La Marmotte on November 1st. On the way to Oz we climbed the Pas de la Confession. I confessed that I was feeling like crap.


Before coming to grips with the reality of my legs I had been really looking forward to the last climb we had planned for the day – the Col du Sabot – a long, tough, forgotten climb that looks outstanding. I’ll have to wait to find out because at the ski station of Vaujany I finally found my ‘wall’. John was gracious enough to suggest we turn around because there were dark clouds coming at us from the south, plus we would have been home at midnight if I had tried to finish up. But I know the reality. I just couldn’t chew what I bit off this time.

Which brings me to fitness, or lack thereof, as the case may be. After 4 years of training I know that, generally, when you train well you can expect to have legs when you need them. Maybe my ‘recovery year‘ is just catching up with me. It actually makes me feel good about my training because it really wouldn’t be fair if I could just roll through a season and keep my fitness at the same level as the previous year. The world is certainly not a fair place; some people can cruise through life with little visible effort, while others do all the right things and never get ahead. Some are born with silver spoons stuck their orifices, or others are born the ‘right color’, making their lives easier than some others. But chuck those people on a bike and the playing field suddenly flattens out. And that makes me happy.

And oh, a bad day in the Alps is still not all that bad.


6 thoughts on “Reality Bites: Part Three

  1. Mmmmmmm! if my memory serves me right you were only telling us not so long ago about being in tune with said velo? Oh how quickly it has all fallen apart……LoL!

  2. Gerry: as you said, it’s normal to have some variation from year to year. And after all the training for HRA last year, we can’t expect the same form this year without said training.
    However, not sure about “But chuck those people on a bike and the playing field suddenly flattens out.” The longer I ride, the more I believe that genes have a bigger influence than training…

    • I was thinking about the ‘genes’ when I wrote that, and I’m sure you’re right about it. I know plenty of riders who don’t put in nearly the same time as I do and still hang onto my wheel…much to my irritation! But I’ll stick to my statement, just because it’s at least generally true.

  3. What a great location to ride and the pictures are outstanding.

    I have to partially agree with Jan. There’s no question the value of structured training and the resulting performance it can yield, especially for day-after-day rides, or races like Haute Route. Regarding genetics, I find the opposite….the older I get, the more I realize good genes can’t compete with someone that’s trained smart over their entire lifetime. I’ve read some good research on this topic. That said, genetically gifted athletes certainly have an advantage when committed to similar training programs when compared to their less gifted counterparts. I’ve often wondered how many natural athletes never knew they had unrealized potential because they were never encouraged, coached, or simply given the opportunity to participate. Just saying.

    • Since I haven’t trained hard my whole life I will defer to your expertise, Rob. With the number of PBs you’ve been getting recently. there must be something to it.

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