Firstly, many thanks for the training program in the lead-up to L’Etape. I feel that it was good preparation, much better than I have had in the lead up to previous events. Interestingly, about 4 weeks prior to the day I changed from the shorter to the longer event. I didn’t really want to change the program too much at that late stage, so just worked harder and more intensely on each ergo session, and ramped up the intensity of the on-the-road sessions as well.
So, how did the 170km go? It was a cracking day, much better than the 2017 edition (who could forget that one!!). As I was a bit concerned that I mightn’t have enough endurance in the legs, I consciously went quite conservatively throughout – the goal was to finish, not to collapse in a sobbing heap half way up to Perisher! Col de Beloka was certainly a challenge (but then I don’t know of anyone who wouldn’t have the same feelings!) and was conquered with persistence and brute strength, again drawing on the comments you made during the various ergo sessions about paying attention to form, changing hand positions etc. Although it was tough, I was happy with how I “grovelled” to the top – passed more riders going up than those who passed me.
I really concentrated on spinning out the legs over the next 30 km or so, knowing full well that a 27 km hill climb was on the horizon. And then the road turned up! Again, I made a conscious effort to maintain a sustainable rhythm, focusing on holding a “stable” heart rate around 150 bpm (my max is 178), with a cadence varying from 50-75 rpm depending on gradient. It was going to be a long 2 hours. As with Beloka, I also managed to overtake more riders than those who overtook me, indicating that I wasn’t travelling too badly. This was a great mental boost, believe me. Towards the top of the climb I did start to cramp periodically, but not so severe that I had to stop and stretch – I was able to ride through it.
Nutritionally I think I managed things pretty well. During training I’d taken on board your suggestion of eating dates as event food, so was well accustomed to those. I also had a couple of bars and had plenty of SIS re-hydration tablets to put in my bottles. Given the effort, and the last-minute decision to do the long event, I reckon that I was going to cramp regardless, so was quietly pleased that cramps didn’t stop me dead. There were plenty of others in far worse shape than me.
And then the sweet, sweet descent! It made all the climbing and suffering worth it. What a great section of the ride, including the tailwind to help get up the couple of pinches on the way home. I must admit that I was glad to get off the bike at the end but was totally satisfied with how it all went. So, what did the numbers show? I set myself a target of 7 hours moving time – stopped the clock at 7:00.33, so was pretty much on the money. Overall time including stops at drink stations was around the
7:40 mark, as I was riding with a couple of mates and we’d made a pact to complete the epic journey together.
So, did I enjoy it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Probably. The soreness and stiffness are rapidly subsiding, leaving the good memories and an incredible sense of achievement. Did I enjoy the event? Absolutely! Who wouldn’t – closed roads, crystal clear day, great temperature, good company and camaraderie, and riding through some of the most picturesque countryside this great country of ours has to offer. Happy days!!