Marmotte 2010 - Race Day - Part I
We’d had an early night to make sure we’d rested and could have an unrushed start to race day without panic. Rituals were performed: getting the race kit ready, checking the bikes over, getting energy bars and gels planned, and arranging support stops with Lucas. Morning was bright with a chill in the air.
A great morning for porridge, the food of champions! We coasted into Bourg to the back of the group waiting to set off, numbers from 4000 to 7500+ ! You only ever see the hundred or so riders that are within your “zone”, even on the ride, but just knowing that over 7500 riders are setting off is quite intimidating. I felt like a wildebeest, an insignificant part of a huge seething mass of purpose, no knowledge of anything beyond my local group yet all reacting and moving at speed with apparent ease.
The initial run to the foot of the Glandon was welcomed, a chance to settle down, ease into the ride and mentally prepare for the ultimate cyclo-sportive. People chatted, a multi-verse of languages and body-types, every bike present from top of the line super steeds to Taiwan built shopping mall specials. Everyone bedecked in their chosen tribal war paint for the day, brand and team allegiances, country and hero colours, local shops and cycle clubs.
Banter was struck up with strangers, Harbs seemed too enamoured with some bloke, I think he forgot this was against the clock, not a ride around the park. We climbed the zig-zags of the dam wall that marks the start of the ascent, and for me, the start of the days effort. The earlier reconnaissance gave me an idea of what pace I needed, and the chat was slowing me down. I set off to get up to speed, but Harbs missed the acceleration (he blames me, but I don’t think it would have made any difference when I left him, it was the last I saw of him!) The climb up the Glandon was harder than the other day, but the pace was higher, and the tension in the quads was expected. Gaining the small village that marks the short flat and descent was a relief. The race was now truly under way, the legs warmed up, the mind set. Passing the second dam wall into the high pastures was almost pleasant and familiar. The sun was shining, people at the side of the road cheering and waving, the first summit of the day clearly visible in the distance. So far, so good.
The water station at the top of the Glandon was a bit chaotic. For “reasons of safety” timing was to be stopped at the top of the Glandon, and restarted in Saint- Etienne-de-Cuines, the town at the bottom of the descent off the mountain. As a result, everyone seemed to be taking their time milling about the tents and tables and generally just hanging about. I knew there was plenty of mountain water about so just by-passed the crowd and set off. Even though official timing was “suspended”, I wanted to know my own real time and didn’t want to waste time stuck in crowds. The descent was fast and messy. Unlucky souls with punctures littered the verges, I must have passed dozens of riders in various stages of stripping their bikes down. I preyed to whatever deity was around that I would be fortunate enough to avoid a flat, especially on a fast descent. I have no idea why so many people got a flat. The road seemed clean and didn’t have much debris. I crossed my fingers and rode on. As the descent levelled off and we entered the town, the road had speed bumps, strips of elevated asphalt intended to slap the suspension of cars and slow them down. This caused many unsecured items to be ejected from pockets and holders! Water bottles, arm warmers, cameras! All manner of detritus littered the streets as suspecting riders hit the bumps too hard and jostled their rations and cargo out of pockets into the road. A wayward bottle rolled in front of me, I’m sure pure psychic energy willed the potential killer into the gutter before I reached it, my first real dodgy moment and my first race descent survived.