Ride 2: Col d'Izoard Encore
Once everyone recovered from the Agnel ride, it was onto planning the next adventure. Rain was threatening the afternoon, and since we just had a negative experience with that, we opted to get out early and stay close to home. On the plus side, close to home in Briancon means you can begin an epic climb 5 miles out the door. So it was decided, we would tackle Col d’Izoard, twice: up down turn around and do it again. This Col is another HC; meaning ‘beyond categorization’ (aka - really freaken’ hard). Each side is a HC. Sounds fun right? One ‘High Climb’ is difficult enough… doing 2 back to back is what crazy people do. 3 of the 5 cyclists joined for this day’s ride. One needed a break and the other had come down with food poisoning (don’t eat street Chinese food in France, just FYI).
After my vacation go to breakfast bowl of oats, milk, fruit, coconut, dried fruit, nuts and salt, I kitted up. This time I made sure to pack my kit full of extras: vest, arm warmers, cap, along with a sandwich and gummies. The ride plan was only 44 miles. Back home in Ohio a 44 mile ride barely calls for a snack let along pockets full of snacks and gear. The mountains are a different beast. Temps, as we learned yesterday, can change drastically and your body burns through much more fuel at altitude (I'll write more on the energy demands later). After a quick spin through town we were at the base of the climb. Again, I hit it hard. This would be only a slightly shorter effort than the Agnel: 11.7 miles at 6% average grade. Within the first few miles Luke started to pull away. Marty followed. I was content to not try and catch up to them. I was getting good at looking at my power numbers and heart rate and knew what kind of effort I could sustain for this type of climb. I settled in to a pace I was comfortable with. This first half is relatively straight with a few winding curves around the mountain. Then it passes through a small town of Cervieres which basically marks the halfway point. The last portion is full of steeper switchbacks. I was glad to have saved some stamina for this portion!! My choice to ride at my own pace in the beginning paid off in the end as I caught and overtook one of the men in our group. I was having so much fun with this climb and my legs were feeling strong and ready. I was only switched to my small ring for about a mile of this climb towards the end when I started to fatigue.
The toughest part was a building maybe 1k from the top where I thought ‘this is it!’ but then kept looking up and saw the actual top. It looks close. Not so bad… then you notice you have to completely wind around the mountain to reach that point. 1k can seem like a daunting distance in these situations. Luke was waiting at the top, camera ready to capture us slowpokes as we finished. I paused to put on my arm warmers and vest even though it was sunny and mild out; not taking chances today! It was decided that we should descend before taking a proper pit stop so down we went. It was a fun descent! I was in my drops and really trying to work on my descending skills while riding out here. I placed 4th/ 502 on the climb and 73rd/405 on the descend…. Not hard to see where I have skill and where I lack it!! At the bottom, we paused for sandwiches. Not going to lie, I was hungry. Then it was a literal U-turn back up the side we just descended. Immediately I was feeling super fatigued. I went into my small ring pretty soon into the climb and just did what I could to keep going up. Luke decided to enjoy this side and rode with me. While I wasn’t thrilled to feel so tired, it was a nice chance to not focus on riding hard, but to take in the scenery. I had my phone out and tried to capture the writing on the road surface and views from winding along the mountain. The backside was a bit shorter and steeper; 8.8 miles at 7%. Once at the top, again, we paused to chat with a group on a cycling tour. They had full support for their trip and were loading up a SKODA car with equipment, taking photos, and having snacks as we chatted with them. It was a very broken conversation; English and French word mash. We were offered sparkling water and dried apricots which was the fanciest snack I’ve had while riding up a mountain! Extra clothes back on and down we went. It was the easiest 13 miles into town and back home ever!
Back home I cooked a large meal of roasted vegetables to fuel up. We spent the rest of the day resting up our tired climbing legs for the infamous Alpe d’Huez ride the next day.