La Marmotte

20 06 2011

So what is la Marmotte?      Well of course it is a small furry animal, a groundhog, a burrowing rodent.

The other, la Marmotte, is what we are more interested in. It is a cycle sportive, generally regarded as the hardest one day cycling event in Europe.  On 2nd July, 5 members of the club, Tony Hayley, Gav Collier, Rob Valentine, David Ireland and myself, plus Paul Mooney whom I work with, will join some 7,000 cyclists on the start line in Bourg D’Oisans.

Some 107 lung-bursting miles in the scorching heat and rarefied air of the Alps await. We’ll climb over 15,000 feet (over half the height of Everest) up three giant cols finishing at the top of the infamous Alpe D’Huez– with ascents as long as 20 miles, and thigh-burning gradients of up to 16 per cent  we will stay rooted to our saddles for up to 10 hours.

With only 2 weeks until we go, all the hard work is now behind us, and there is little more we can do but relax, and carbo load, for what will be our toughest day in the saddle.

So what has my training involved?

For me, training began in January, with the club tempo rides. At this stage 50miles on the flat Cheshire roads felt like hard work, but after being dropped on the first couple of rides, I began to find my fitness picking up come February.       Late February and early March saw us do a number of reliability rides, with Gav more often than not setting the pace.    I found these to be really good training, as although they are meant to be a relaxed training ride, more often than not they ended up a 3hr+ road race and finding myself working hard for the entire ride.

At the end of March came the Cheshire Cat Sportive, the first test of the season. Conditions were near perfect and Gav, Tony and I all came in well under 6hrs, so the early season training rides were certainly paying dividends.

April saw the changing of the clocks and the opportunity to get some rides in during the week. At this stage I still focus on my endurance and tend to avoid the hills.   Also in Apri  l came the club trip to Majorca, an excellent week of cycling in the sunshine and the first chance of the year to get some real climbing in.  The 10km climb of La Calobra at 8% gradient  reminded me how hard the alpine climbs will be, and a scary thought that the Marmotte would be equivalent to climbing this 7 times!

In May and June, my training has been pretty structured with 2 mid week rides lasting around 1.5-2hrs, one hilly and one flat plus a long, hilly ride, 4 – 5hrs on a Sunday morning. We entered the Polka Dot Challenge at the beginning of June, 104 miles and 3000m+ of climbing. A good test of how our fitness was progressing and I think we all felt a little more confident in our fitness after finishing the ride, this year I was pleased to finish 30mins faster than when I rode it last year.

According to my Garmin, I have now clocked up over 2,500 miles on the bike since the start of the year, and I feel fitter than ever.  Whether this enough to get me around the Marmotte in decent shape, and without walking up Alpe D’Huez, only time will tell?  – Ed Chatwin.


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