The wife closed the door as she set off on her 'ladies' night out. kids all tucked up in bed and pizza heating nicely in the oven I sat there, beer in hand, smug in the knowledge that I'd clocked 100 miles round the Isle of Wight and back earlier in the day and now I had a (rare) free few hours to settle down and learn a thing or two about the road between Pau to Col du Tourmalet.
I was joining Cyclefilm and sportive rider Mike Cotty for the 18th edition of the L'Etape du Tour, and queen's stage of the Tour de France. 174km over the Col de Marie Blanque and Col du Soulor before the monster Col du Tourmalet itself. 4000m of climbing all in... and not for the faint hearted.
Now, I have to confess, I'm not riding the L'Etape this year but wonderful memories of last year's Marmotte still linger restlessly in my mind. The first I really knew about the course intricacies last year was the night before in Bourg as the bar showed a quick route recce. Not quite the preparation for what I was about to ride! I like gradients going up but I still felt ill prepared on the day. Knowledge definitely IS power!
Learn the route and enjoy the ride - there's absolutely no bluffing in the mountains!
So... out Mike pedaled from Pau and on to the first climb, then the second. Wonderful scenery and very informative stuff being shared both by Mike (even up gradient incredibly) and Chris Balfour from Pyractif in the support van (the benefit of local knowledge). Words of wisdom I know I'd definitely benefit from on the day if I was there on the day. So in an informative sense it was well... informative in a way, but this DVD is more than simply information as it shows the Pyrenees at their best. The sun shone and everything looked fantastic, even making me seriously think about shirking my paternal duties for a few days around the 18th July. There is no better place to ride than in the mountains. But to ride well and ride safe in the mountains you need a little more than the ability to cock a leg over a bike.
The Col du Tourmalet is the icon of the Pyrenees and the mountain top finish will be the high spot of the 2010 Tour. It has appeared in the Tour de France more than any other climb – only being omitted a dozen or so times. The Etape is taking us over the steep side from Bareges of course. As legendary as the scenery is spectacular. Eddy Merckx once said “It’s the most legendary Col in the Pyrénées. I always succeeded here because it was long enough to make my adversaries suffer”. Mike likes low gearing and advocates a compact; so nice to hear that as I couldn't have finished the Marmotte without it last year. No grinding kneecaps into the ground on the way up. You can't muscle up this climb. The views were stunning. I wanted to be there, riding the 'Assasin'. Mike continued talking giving all the necessary info...8% at the top... last bit of burn before we reach the summit... give it everything. Cue the music! Don't Dream it - Do it!!
Not only is this a fantastic insight into the route, it actually, come to think of it, is a master class in how to ride in general. Mike is quick, make no bones about that. He knows his stuff and preparation is obviously a major part in his cycling. Prevention of muscle fatigue plays a huge factor in what he is saying - something we could all do with understanding and implementing. Where to eat, drink and slip a gilet on all seems rather obvious but how often do we get caught in the moment behind someone's wheel and forget. Staying out of the sun, wind and rain all affect how you will climb that last monster. In the saddle, out of the saddle, road surfaces, pack mentality, how the sun flickers through the trees - he and Chris are all over it. Oh, and watch out for that cattle grid on the way down the Marie Blanque as that looks like a nightmare!
Mike gives it a 9 out of 10 - "a crackin' stage!" and "get a recce in!"
Dedicated to the spirit of cycling! Also dedicated to the spirit of Cannondale (obviously!).
83 + 30 minutes of invaluable cycling information. Ultimately watchable and quite the advertising bonanza for both the Etape and the Pyrenees in general. I've booked a trip off the back of it and now have a Garmin 705. How did that happen?
Colour | Pal | Zone Free | Great
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Make and model: Cyclefilm The Road to Tourmalet DVD
Size tested: n/a
Did you enjoy using the product? Hugely
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 36 Height: 185cm Weight: 80 kg
I usually ride: Enigma Eulogy My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,