50 Cols for 50 Years

Thanks to German ingenuity and Canadian engineering, I think I’ve found my ‘big cycling thang’ for this momentous year.

Knowing (and dreading) that my 50th was coming up fast,  last year I was juggling about a few different ideas of what to do to put my mark on this half century business. I originally wanted it to be huge and tough, but after having done two Haute Routes already, I just couldn’t manage to come up with anything harder without taking too much time or killing myself prematurely.

Enter German ingenuity. One day, as I was telling Karsten about my non-plans, he just whipped off the idea that is the name of this article – climb 50 cols for my 50 years. Simple, hard, and maybe even fun. I immediately got online to see who else had done it and found one guy who did 50 cols during the whole year he was 50, and that was it. Our plan is to find 50 in a week.

Now, before you start thinking that’s really something, there are events held every year in France, Spain and Italy that do 100 cols in 10 days (Cent Cols Challenge) and there’s even a guy (Phil – the maniac who runs it) who climbed A THOUSAND COLS last season.

But even if ‘50450’ is not the toughest thing around, it’s got class and symbolism, which I’ve decided is important.

Karsten, not quite 50 but willing to pretend he is, will be joining me on this little adventure (in July). We are hashing out details now, but we think we’ve landed on something local (France and a bit of Switzerland), not too high (no Alps or Pyrenees) and new (most of it).

Enter Canadian engineering. I’ve been working on the route and have come up with the following rough sketch. Our journey starts down here, enters the Cévennes, where cols are a plenty, followed by the Ardèche and the northeastern edge of the Massif Central. We then have a col-less ‘transition day’ across the Rhone Valley south of Lyon before heading into the Jura for a few days (totally new for both of us) and finishing with a big, big beer or three on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Kind of makes me wish I was 50 every year.


20 thoughts on “50 Cols for 50 Years

    • I didn’t want him to be grumpy all week 😉 Nothing set in stone, either. I’m just going ahead and trying to get something together, mostly in my head.

      The days aren’t huge, actually. Less than what you will be doing in the Pyrenees, I’d bet. An average day so far (I haven’t touched the Jura) looks like 140 km with between 3000 and 3500 meters. Just enough to make us tired, but not enough to prevent us from wanted to sit down for an apéro and a nice meal.

      • Actually, it is more. Our pyrenees route was made for Paris-based triathletes of varying mountain experience. Our biggest day is 120k/2900m

        • I’d be interested in seeing how you accomplish that through the center of the range, but I’m guessing that is when your biggest day is?

    • Some friends did it a few years ago and said it was just riding all day and sometimes all evening. Quite a massive challenge, I imagine. We’re going to do something a little more manageable, I think.

      Would you do that event again? What’s ‘next’ after something like CCC???

      • It was just straight up riding for 12+ hours every day, so not much time for beers (I love beer) Whats next? Hmmm, probably another CCC, but not the Pyrenees i think, something “easier”. Or I could do what you are planning which looks absolutely fantastic. Enough riding to satisfy anyone, but also time in the evening to take it all in, with beers 🙂

  1. Gerry: you are right to be “realistic” and make time for some fun. Riding 12+hrs per day isn’t in my book :). We tend to plan such things but then the reality hits… Enjoy your 50450

      • I had a short trip: 2 days in wonderful London (work) and 2 days in Belgium. Flew back on Sunday — slept 4hrs on the flight = I needed to recover :). Darn, those Ardennes cyclosportives are hard. This was my third (did Philippe Gilbert in 2014 and 2016). Winter has been too long here in Chicago, so hadn’t done a (flat) ride longer than 2hrs; so the 6+hrs was a shock to the system + my two buddies are stronger 🙂

        • That IS short, but I’m sure it was worth it, especially with the awesome weather you hit. I’ve yet to do a cyclo there, unless Amstel Gold is considered the Ardennes. Was the road too crowded with riders for LBL, or open enough that it was enjoyable? AG was no fun at all.

        • The road was not crowded at all; yes, you pass little groups here or there, but there was never a backup—it reminded me a little of the Haute Route in terms of crowd (there’s probably a few thousand starters over 3 distances but start times are over hours, so it spreads out. Except on the narrow (and steep — it’s a bitch) La Redoute where you had to navigate through some bikes; but that was at most a few minutes. Yes, do give it a try!

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