Monday, July 30, 2012

France Camp Recap. I REALLY did this?????

Wild Poppies in Villard Reculas

I've had the worst case of writers block I think due to shock and awe. Ugh.  Well here I am, finally....back
down to earth. 

 Today I stumbled on my point and shoot camera and remembered I took a few images with it while in France that I have not posted to FB.  Mostly I used my iPhone during my trip. I made the right choice not hauling my big expensive Nikon D700 plus lenses. I really didn't need it. NONE of the photos have post production editing here. They are straight from the camera today. Why mention this?  It's a fine example of how beautiful the Rhone Alps region really is. Simply spectacular.  The air is pure and clean, the views, breathtaking. Everything just seemed intensely vibrant and magnified.
 You just have to be there to experience it.  

I spent 9 days in Villard Reculas, a tiny village just a stones throw
from Alp d'Huez with the main focus-cycling. I got
in 6 days of cycling in total @ France Camp hosted
by Jimmy Riccitello, a guy who I'm so fortunate to call a friend now. Just an incredible host along with his family.  I met some great people. I did
some amazing rides. Climbs of which 45 minutes or more were the norm.

Les Deux-Alpes, Notre-Dame,Croix de Fer,
Alp d' Huez, and The Col du Glandon are a few of the climbs I got to do.

The Summer Road connecting Villard Reculas and Huez

Alp d'Huez as most know is one of the most famous and often used climbs
in the Tour de France. It's about 18 km in length and averages 7.9 percent in grade. There are 22 switch backs with  numbered markers at each switch back. If you ever find yourself  on this HC rated climb, my advice is, DON'T look up at the markers .Just put your head down, find a sustainable effort and grind it out.
 The first time I did this climb, it was at the tail end of a day's effort which included
climbing to another ski area, Les Deux Alpes.   I had no idea what I was getting into at the base of Alp d'Huez that day. All I knew was it was my ticket home. This climb is  
one of only two ways to get back to the chalet. Ok.. the van was an option but I didn't go
to France to ride in a van and I swore unless I was physically puking or lost a leg falling over a steep embankment,I wasn't goin' in the van.  Not even 10 minutes into the climb, I wanted to
 bail and damn it... that van looked REALLY GOOD.  I had no idea I would be climbing for 1:30. Holy CRAP...  And this was using a triple chain. Trust me, there is NO SHAME in using a triple chain on
a carbon fiber climbing road bike especially in the Alps.  Honestly, It just saves your legs so you can
walk let alone attempt  multiple days in a row of riding. The second time I did  this climb was in a time trial
effort with fresh (er) legs and no other other big climbs before hand.  I shaved off 10 minutes. If my Aussie friend, Bruce hadn't challenged me to that goal time, I'd never thought I could. My goal was set and I was damn well gonna try and swing it.  I know
what your thinking...  "she's a stud"  and I am. ( Just kidding)

They're coming!

Of course I can't forget one of the highlights of  this trip.
I was lucky enough to pick the week The Tour would be near by for stage 11
so off we went for a longish climb up 21km up to The Col du Glandon. The last 7km 
were tough and the 5 days of fatigue in my legs were very apparent. By the time I got to the top, I was drenched in sweat with nothing to change into with 3+ hours of standing around waiting
at the top of this mountain. It wasn't freezing but it certainly wasn't tropical weather-like either.  I thought.. no way am I gonna survive up here. I  lucked out after I was spotted sitting in a tight little ball shivering. There just happened to be another American group up there that some of our crew knew and a heavy, waterproof/wind proof jacket was offered up to me. It SAVED my a$$ and I was eternally grateful. I  had to take extreme measures by taking off all my wet cycling clothes  (waist up),
laid them out in the grass/ partial sun to dry out to get my body temp  back up and have something semi
dry for the long decent back down.
Notice how there are NO porta potties up there in that picture and not a tree or bush in sight. Nice huh?
 Beer tent? Oh yeah... Stella Artois was flowing.

I thought the crowd would be 3 deep at least and I was prepared that
I would only get a glimpse of a cyclist or two. Not the case.  I could touch
the cyclists.  It was surreal... really... and the team cars, your toes could easily get run over if
you weren't careful. So as you can imagine, front and center viewing.  I was in awe.
front and center viewing
I picked a spot (by chance) that the cyclists were still climbing but also they could see a small decent before the Croix de Fur so they were eating, drinking or sitting up to zip up slowing them down if just a bit more for optimal viewing.  Lucky me.

I will end by saying this was a trip I will never forget. Even if I
get back there next year ( in the plan) nothing will be like the first time experiencing something
of this caliber. I think my jaw hung open for 95% of the time I was there and I feel
very fortunate to have experienced it first hand.