I woke up to a stunning morning. The storms from yesterday continued during the night and washed the roads clean. The last of the dark clouds were being blown out, far away from our route today. You could tell it was going to be a scorcher! I woke up feeling great which was a total surprise — I felt I slept quite lightly, waking up a few times I could feel my body and muscles were warm, almost hot, recovering and repairing itself. I didn’t feel too hungry at breakfast, a quick bowl of muslei, fruit and a crossaint and I was ready to go!
The mood of the Fireflies this morning was one of combined excitement and fear. The route today was the same statistics as yesterday, however all of the climbing was in the first 60kms. Three big climbs to tackle and then a smaller one to finish. I felt strong, but could definitely feel the effects of the Colombiere in my legs.
It was already 24 degrees at 8.30am in the morning. Ouch! Our first Col was only 8kms, a great little warm up. That was a relatively gentle 6-7% for most of the way and out of my group I managed to claim QOM/KOM (how could I not?).
The next climb was the Col des Saisies - a neat 16kms averaging between 5-8% the whole way! I decided to give this one a go. I rode it with a Belgium rider who was 53 years old, and we chatted about the Giro and various other things. That’s the thing I love about cycling. When you meet strangers on the road and you instantly have a passion to talk about: a love of two wheels and the mountains.
There were times on that climb where my legs were starting to fatigue. I definitely did not consume enough calories in the morning - I could feel I was in deficit. I knew this would make the afternoon a real struggle, because once you’re in deficit you cannot really claw those calories back. From then onwards it’s all about managing your energy and trying to get those 300 calories an hour in to the system as efficiently as possible.
The descent off the Saisies was absolutely stunning and the conditions made it my favourite descent of the day. Sweeping, open bends allow you to fully take the road. The descent and the rush it gave me reminded me that the pain of climbing was worth it!
Another coffee and cake stop before our ascent of the Cormet de Roselend — one of the most spectacular ascents I’ve done. We climbed up through the green trees where it felt like a rain forest, so tropical with butterflies and waterfalls surrounding us. We broke above the trees and the mountains opened up with jagged mountain rocks on either side and panoramic views that made you feel giddy with excitement. No photo could do these views justice. It was magical up there. A few whispy clouds against a stunning baby blue sky. We rode up to the lake and around it, stopping for lunch at one of the small restaurants over looking the lake. (We only had to wait an hour for our omelettes! I think half the group was totally ‘hangry’ by that stage! But once they arrived, it proved worth the wait, made with their local cheese. YUM!)
The final 7kms to the top of the Roselend was a piece of cake. We tootled up in groups just admiring the view and the gorgeous weather. Still feeling the effects of the morning, I kept eating all afternoon. We descended a wonderful 20kms down the other side into the Bourg. From there it was a gradual climb of 8kms out of the valley, and in the scorching sun at 5.30pm it was a real battle! My head felt as if it were exploding from the heat. One of the guys found a fountain in a small little village and we all stopped to dunk our heads and caps in the ice cold flowing tap. It was heaven!
Finally, we rode the last 22km to the hotel. We all made it back in one piece, and earned the right to ignore tomorrow’s promise of more climbing in exchange for dinner (and some ice for my sore muscles!).