Cycling from Lloyd’s of London to the Rendez Vous Reinsurance Conference: Day 7 - "I am a cyclist. I do not get off and walk" *
Today has been one of the most physically demanding days of my life - and that's going some: I've cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats twice with loaded panniers, and that was tough. Today was probably tougher.
We left Grenoble at 7am for Guillestre, 102 miles away ... on the other side of the Col du Lautaret. The summit of the Col du Lautaret is 2,058 meters above sea level, and the road to the top is more than 15 miles long. That is enough for the Col du Lautaret to have been included on the route of Le Tour de France eleven times since 1950, and twice in the last decade. But, for a reason I cannot currently fathom, it's not an "iconic" climb like the Alpe D'Huez, which is literally next door.
Because Alpe D'Huez is iconic, cyclists who've climbed it have strong bragging rights. And when they meet, they compare notes with a keenness that most would not (or could not) display for anything else.
So, while most of the peloton wisely cycled around Alpe D'Huez and up the Col du Lautaret, because that would get them to the hotel in Guillestre in the shortest time and distance possible, a small break away group ** left today's route, cycled 10 miles up Alpe D'Huez, turned round and cycled 10 miles back down, and then continued today's ride by cycling up the Col du Lautaret as well.
I have to take my hat off to these guys, not only because they had the legs to do it, but because some of them have only been cycling since they bought their bikes for this ride in April. I honestly don't know how they did it. (Secretly, I think I understand why they did it - I was tempted; it is an iconic climb after all. And I was very disappointed when I realised last night that I wouldn't be joining them. Still, c'est la vie.)
We've had a series of small accidents today. But nothing too serious. Two riders caught their wheels in a tram line. One came off and suffered bad cuts and bruises. She was especially upset because it made the climb up the Col so much harder. The other rider broke a wheel, which was replaced by the support team so that he could carry on. One rider has broken 3 front wheels, and his front gear mechanism so far. I've no idea how. But it's clearly turning into a very expensive trip for the unlucky few who've been caught out in this way.
Of course, what goes up must come down (we only have to look at the cycles in the insurance market to know that that is true). And the 40 mile ride down from the summit of the Col was a delight. It was also surprisingly hard work, in part because there was a strong and surprisingly hot head wind, and in part because it was broken by a series of short climbs. When your legs have worked hard to get to the top of a mountain, they stiffen up quickly as they rest on the way down. The result: that even these small climbs really (really) hurt. We were all therefore especially pleased to find that the last quarter of a mile up to the hotel was up an incline of at least 14% from a standing start. Even so - it was a truly great day.
Today's distance: 101.61 miles
Total distance so far: 683.52 miles
Today's climbing: 7,263 meters
Total climbing so far: 15, 698 meters
* Tim Moore, French Revolutions - Cycling the Tour de France
** The breakaway group included riders from Barclays Corporate Bank, QBE Europe, Arthur J Gallagher, JLT Re and Apollo (Lloyd's Syndicate). The fastest rider by far was from QBE Europe. The fastest ride along the non-Alpe D'Huez route was also from QBE Europe. I came in third.
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