Summer Challenge: Marmotte & The Etape du Tour

2013 is, in case the cycling world has somehow passed you by in the last 18 months, the centennial year of the Tour de France. The race itself is thus celebrating that fact, so I thought why not do something similar? I didn’t have any particularly crazy plans, and at first, I simply wanted to do the Etape,  hoping it would be on the Ventoux. Unfortunately, with the 220km run up to the mountain, it was quickly clear that that stage wouldn’t be the Etape, which, I should explain, is the mass participation sportive ride that ASO put on on one of the stages of the Tour for amateurs to try.  Instead, this stage was the unheralded Annecy-Semnoz stage – relatively short at 125km, and in a year heavy on nostalgic history, strangely vacant of attachment to the Tour. It was the final summit finish of the 2013 race however, and evidently the plan is that it will be christened into the race with some last ditch glory hunting antics.

However it then turned out that the Marmotte, the ‘world’s hardest sportive’ that takes place nearby in the alps over the same tortuous route each year, was taking place the day before the Etape. So, to cut a long story short,I’ll be attempting (attempting being the critical word here) to do both on consecutive days. On paper, this is harder then anything those slackers on the real Tour will be up to – they don’t have to do two summit finishes consecutively. Tsk tsk.

As a result, I’ll be tackling these two routes:

 marmotteetape2013This means taking in 304.5km of road, 4 HC Category Mountains, 2 1st Category Mountains, a single Cat 2 and 3 category 3 hills, about 5000m of vertical ascent on the Marmotte and 3000m on the Etape.To put that into perspective, the Tour peloton will do only 7 HC Mountains in 3 weeks…

Obviously there’s a bit of fear here, as its quite  a task to complete the Marmotte, let alone go out the next day. My experience of climbing in the Alps isn’t much – I did the 2011 Etape act one from Modane to Alpe d’Huez, a paltry 109km, albeit over 3 of the 4 climbs that constitute the Marmotte. That day, the Telegraphe was easy, the Galibier got rough at the top, and I’m disappointed to say I finally succumbed to my bottom gear of 39×27 on the last two kilometres of Alpe d’Huez in the 40 degree heat. I didn’t stop for water (for some reason the feed station was half way up the Alpe – who stops on the Alpe!?) and thus got to the finish a tad dehydrated, which resulted in some very heavy legs the next day.profilalpedhuez

My concerns are thus mainly about being able to recover by the next day, which is why I’ve been trying to do consecutive hard rides using too big a gear to simulate riding up big hills. Similarly, my gear choice is a concern – do I add a 28 or 29 to the rear cassette? My 27 tooth has literally only been used on the Alpe, but will an extra climb on that day mean I need it earlier, and if so, will i need another one after that? I don’t really want a compact, so for the moment, it looks like I might just be struggling up in 39×27. Of course, there are times to chase for Gold, Silver and Bronze awards, but there’s a big difference between climbing at speed and climbing to get to the top. Hopefully the latter will kick in at Annecy….

Anyway, I’m going to update this with some training and equipment choices as the last couple of weeks tick by, hopefully with some sun to make training possible!

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