- 101km Ride (Col de la Columbiere and Col de la Ramaz)
- 10km Trail Run around Lac de Montriond
- 3km Swim in Lac de Montriond
- Le Grand-Bornand to Morzine
HOW I FEEL
I feel rough. Not as bad as I did post Col de L’Iseran - not sure I’ll ever feel that bad again - but it’s clear that yesterday’s tri took its toll. I woke up a few times in the middle of the night in a cold sweat (hormones seem to be a bit out of whack again from the hard day) and I generally feel pretty tired as a result. I'd give it a weak 5 on the 1-10 scale of hurt to robust.
After putting down yet another monster breakfast - I’m really going to miss these - we packed our bags and got ready to ride to Morzine. Giving our final goodbyes to Piet and his wife Eva at Chalet 4, we got rolling at 8:30am.
Today would be the last of our long rides - suck yeah baby!! 101km (63 mi) with 2712m (8900ft) of elevation. It would largely shadow this year’s TdF Stage 20 - the penultimate and last of importance for determining the Yellow Jersey. We'd go over two Cat 1 (AKA hard) climbs, Col de la Columbiere and Col de la Ramaz. (Unfortunately we had to alter our path a bit due to road work and cut out Col de Joux Plan. The roads get repaved when the Tour rolls through and, surprise surprise, strikes have put the work a month behind…)
After just a 5 minute descent, we started our climb of Col de la Columbiere. While being a Cat 1 climb, Col de la Columbiere - 11.6km (7.2 mi) at an average grade of 6% - is a bit easier than the other big cols. Given how I was feeling, I took it easy on the way up, holding just 175 watts, and was quickly shot out the back door by the others in the group. After almost an hour - with some photos and a wrong turn in the mix - I reached the top. I later heard that Shannon narrowly took out John for the KOM, reaching the top in an absurd 36min52sec, and earned Queen of the Mountain status on Strava. Pretty incredible given the popularity of this regularly occurring Tour climb.
Pics Below From Left: View going up Columbiere, Top of Columbiere, View from start of Columbiere descent
After a quick stop at the top, I descended solo down Columbiere to the foot of Col de Romme. The descent could have been a fast one, with some wide bends, but I took it slowly since the road was still having a good bit of work done on it — this would be the theme of the day.
I headed up Col de Romme, still solo. Approaching from the south, Col de Romme a short but steep — just 6.2km (3.85mi) with 325m (1060ft) of gain at an average gradient of 8%. Unfortunately due to the road work, the pavement had tons of asphalt bits on its surface. These got caught in my wheel well on a few occasions which had me on and off the bike. The climb was a slow one as a result. I reached the top in a little under 30 minutes holding 173 watts. Interestingly, the top of Col de Romme is not actually in the town of Romme. It’s a bit higher up in a no man’s land of sorts. After less than a minute of descending down the north side, you cruise through the town. It’s pretty in an old-world type of way, with mostly small houses that look like they were built in the 1940s.
Before starting the descent down the northern side in earnest, I took a wrong going through the town and ended up descending down what turned out to be someone’s very long and windy driveway. I righted myself by climbing back up and then cruised down the ~11km road to Cluses.
From here, still solo, I made my way through the town of Cluses and to the foot of Col du Ramaz. This was only 21km or so, but took nearly an hour since I was rolling through the streets of the town and frequently needed to consult my map. Thankfully Julie from Pyrenees Multisport was posted up at nearly every turn, waving me in the right direction.
Pics from the Left: Entering town of Romme, View just prior to descent down northern side of Romme, Town of Cluses
Col de la Ramaz would be the last of the big climbs for the day. I had been riding solo for about 3.5 hrs and was about ready to be done. With Ramaz being a key climb in this year’s Tour, the road was lined with photos of the past Tour winners (with the exception of Lance…pretty interesting). I soaked in the history while riding at a steady pace (185 watts).
While I was riding blind - had legit zero knowledge of the climb - I now know Ramaz to be a deceptively tough col. Approaching from Mieussy, it’s 14km (8.7mi) with an average gradient of 6.7%. While anything under 7% sounds great at this point, the average means little here since Ramaz is irregular. At first you’re climbing at 8% through grassy hills, and after 2km or so you start cruising at 2% for over a km. Oh, this isn’t so bad. Then the climb gets real, pitching at 9% and even 10% for long stretches as you climb up the cliff’s edge.
As I climbed, I felt pretty lousy physically. The day was warm but overcast with a cool breeze and I had a mix of fever-like sweat and chills going. I tried to focus more on the views and the scenery rather than how I felt. Just keep pedaling… About 8 or 9km into the climb, you reach a tunnel that’s built into the side of the cliff and open to the right side. While facing straight the views aren’t impressive, but when you look backwards, the view is pretty incredible. I went to take my camera out to take a picture and nearly fell off my bike doing so. Right at this point, the road pitches drastically going from 7.5% to 11.5%. My gearing was off and I nearly went down. Sadly no photo.
After 1hr14min, I reached the top having averaged 185 watts. Nothing special, but I was definitely happy to be at the top. There, I quickly connected with Ian in the support van and got directions to Morzine before starting my descent. I flew down and after about 10 minutes caught the girls. We made our way to Morzine, and ultimately to our chalet — I rode with my phone in one hand, staring at Google Maps for the last 5k. We rolled in around 2:30pm.
RUN (Part I)
By 4:00pm a few of us set out towards Lake Montriond for our swim. My plan was to run the 10km prior to swimming so that I’d be done for the day post swim. About 200m into the run (basically straight uphill to the lake) I started to feel nauseous and my head hurt. By the time I made it to the lake, I was walking and almost doubled over. I sat down for about 15 minutes before trying to run again. When I did, it didn’t last long. I did a mix of running and walking to bring my total to about 4km. My stomach was a mess, so I decided to get the swim done and finish the run later.
Lac de Montriond is stunning. It’s set in a valley between two massive cliffs. As terrible as I was feeling, I was still able to enjoy the beauty — pretty hard not to. I got my wetsuit on and waded into the water. A few others, all having already done the full 10km run, got in the water just before me, so I followed their path swimming straight down the center of the lake. Apparently it was about 1.5km to the other side, so we’d be doing an out and back to complete the 3km swim.
I settled into a rhythm and started to feel a good bit better. There’s something about swimming that I find really soothing. I think it’s the combination of the quiet and the consistent rhythm of the strokes. The fact that the water was pretty cold helped relax me too. I weirdly love cold water.
After a little under 30 minutes I reached the other side of the lake. I turned around, but not before a couple guys fishing shouted at me in French, likely telling me to stop scaring the fish off. The sun was now low in the sky - it was probably about 6pm - and sighting was a bit of a challenge. I relaxed and took each stroke with ease, eventually getting back to where I started.
RUN (Part II)
As the others loaded into the van (lucky bastards), I got my run gear back on and started on the trail that circled the lake. I felt much better and quickly got through 4km or so, aided by some Rhianna from my iPhone. With just under 2km left to hit the 10km requirement, I set off downhill, back to the chalet.
When my watch finally beeped at the 10km mark I felt a huge sigh of relief. Today was a tough one. While I never considered giving up, I thought completing both the swim and run might keep me out pretty late. Having everything done by 6:30pm felt like a gift.
ZOFRAN + DINNER
Before swimming, I had chat with Lou. He could tell I was feeling lousy and said I looked pretty yellow. Prior to the camp, Lou was prescribed Zofran, a medication that treats nausea, for altitude sickness. He offered me some and I gave it some thought. I'm typically one to avoid medication but was pretty worried that I'd be unable to stomach any food at dinner. I ended up taking the pill and felt a lot better.
After showering, I came up for dinner and was greeted by servers with champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The Brown Bear Lodge was not messing around. They even had vegan snacks for me and had made me a vegan stew for dinner. I devoured all and was very pleased to have had an appetite again.
John gave a rundown of the next day — at least 4 hrs 3min of training, which could include a birthday set of 100 x 100m in the pool for those keen — and then it was off to bed.