Posts Tagged ‘marmotte’

Tour du Mont Blanc cyclo

Just at home enjoying a couple of days’ Easter R&R following 2 days in the saddle on Friday and Saturday. I received an email from Sport Communication – those friendly but tech-challenged purveyors of tough French cyclosportives – and have been browsing their newest event:

The Tour du Mont Blanc Cyclo - one epic I won't be riding.

The Tour du Mont Blanc Cyclo is:

a new challenge for cyclists in search of high passes. To complete this trial, you will have to ride 330 km, cross 7 passes with summits from 1 400 to 2 469 meters and 8 000 unlevel meters. Le Tour Du Mont Blanc® Cyclo, in one stage, allow cyclists to ride the Mythical Géant des Alpes and the most reputed European summits, by crossing 3 different countries (France, Suisse, Italie), and 3 major regions of the Mont Blanc mountains (Savoie, Valais, Val d’Aoste).

SC have listed the following as requirements for entry:

  • To be awe (sic) the difficulty of the race.
  • To be a confirmed cyclist with a fine experience of long distances.
  • To know how manage the difficulties induced by this kind of race such as climatic conditions, altitude as well as the physical or mental problems emanating from prolonged and intense efforts in altitude.

La Marmotte, by comparison with this epic enduro, is 174km, with 5000m of climbing. That, emphatically, was enough. I am in awe of the difficulty of this kind of race; I do know the mental and physical problems of riding them; and for those reasons, I’m out.

There is a limit to sportives, beyond which (for me) their appeal diminishes. I want a challenge, I want some fast, competitive riding, and I want a scenic route. What I’m not so interested in is getting up at 3am to carbo-load, riding for more than 8 hours, vomiting, painful cramps, and the possibility of riding off the edge of a mountain in the dark. Call me a lightweight – but La Marmotte was my personal limit. I’ve no wish to ride it again, and I’ve no wish to out-do that achievement in the future.


Ride to drink.

Ride to drink.

Post-Marmotte, I’ve enjoyed a month of downtime. I’ve found this period invaluable in recovering both physically and mentally, not so much from the event itself, but from the six-month build-up to it.

January to June of this year, I organised my life around the bike. Now clearly, I like cycling; but, in the weeks after achieving the biggest goal I’ve (so far) set myself on the bike, being free from the mental focus of preparing for the event has been a serious load off. Just having the option of riding, if I feel like it, is a luxury. Being able to drink to excess is, once again, a guilt-free pleasure. The gratuitous eating of cake at office parties – a delirious indulgence.

Predictably, since I returned from France, I’ve been on excellent form, so I’ve certainly been out on the bike – but not mid-week, and not if I didn’t feel like it. Mainly, I’ve been hammering my busted commute bike (nope, still haven’t broken it yet) around town at high speeds. I’ve also been out for a couple of rides with Millsy (who’s heading to the Pyrenees this week following a strong performance in the London Triathlon).

I went out yesterday for a 5-hour solo mission, and again, felt strong. I’ve been refusing all requests to enter further sportives this year, but now I’m not so sure…

La Marmotte 2009

Marmotte route.

Marmotte route.

It is finished. The results are in. Now never mention the M word again!


The Galibier

On the shoulder of the Col du Galibier.

On the shoulder of the Col du Galibier.

Some epic shots of the Col du Galibier from a website called, which has a decent ride report of La Marmotte. When he came to London in January, Joe gave me one clear piece of advice about riding La Marmotte.

Focus on the top of the Galibier. If you think beyond that, you’re screwed. 



A chocolate eclair. Not so healthy for ya...

People have started remarking on my weight. ‘You look quite thin’ etc. There was a point last year when this started, although this year I’ve reached that point earlier on, mainly because I deliberately set out to shave off a few pounds from mid-February.

Last year it wasn’t until after the Mexico trip that I lost weight – and that time I think I went from about 12st to a low of 11st 6 on the Southern Sportive in September. This year, I was less than 12st after Christmas, but I’m already down to 11st 6, if not lower. I need to be more scientific about this, but I think I’ve lost about 3-4 pounds over the last month.

It’s actually been really easy, check out Al’s pro weight-loss techniques:

  • eat just a bit less – if you’re riding 10 hrs a week, there’s no sense in cutting down massively. It’s actually enough to simply not have a second plateful for your evening meal.
  • cut out butter, mayo, bacon sarnies, creamy puddings, cakes, chocolate, crisps.
  • do the occasional ‘fasted’ ride i.e. ride to work without breakfast or do a mid-week session on just a banana – your body will start metabolising fat more efficiently. I find doing a couple of these a week over a 3-week period is enough to kick-start weight-loss.

Why bother? The bottom line is that losing weight = free speed. Climbing is also my strength, and the lighter I am the better I climb. All pro cyclists aim to lose weight gradually over the season, leaving their lowest weight target until they reach peak fitness. I’ve heard this referred to as being ‘on the razor’, the point beyond which a rider actually risks getting ill or, paradoxically, losing form (this happened to Iban Mayo too early in his 2005 tour, I think).

My target weight is to be around 11st for La Marmotte in July.

Epsom +distance

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Rode this one today with Jonny. 54 miles, we did it in 4-5 hrs including a couple of breaks. I felt fine after the short layoff, but ate badly so bonked twice. Had to refuel in Peaslake (chicken samosa, ham sandwich). Really need to remember to eat more in the first 60-90 mins of riding, and not wait until 90 mins before having a banana. Sloppy eating = bonk. Believe.

HRMax once again set to 150, I rode Box Hill at a steady 160, although hit 164 at one point.

It’s good to be back though. This week I booked La Marmotte and the Ventoux – Beaumes de Venise sportive in early June. No better time to remember that I have legs and need to use them.


I’ve become slightly addicted to watching video clips of Lance Armstrong riding the Tour. I like the really blurry ones with bad, tinny house soundtracks. Like this one:

Alpe d’Huez – the finale of La Marmotte. Yep, it’s going to hurt.

La Marmotte

I’ve just added La Marmotte (4 July 2009) to the calendar. No turning back now…

I decided to ride La Marmotte while staying with Joe in September. He’s ridden it before, at least a couple of times, and at his most recent attempt came 80th out of 8000. Top 1% – a truly phenomenal effort. In Joe’s view, La Marmotte – not L’Étape – is the French cyclosportive to do.

Here are a couple of accounts:

So that’s the big target basically – my plan is going to be focussed on this event, although I hope to enter further races / sportives later next summer.