Massif des Bauges and La Plagne

Saturday’s workout went over the Massif des Bauges, passing through the town where the British family was camping when they were assassinated and in the adjacent valley to where the crime took place and the cyclist was killed too – with five bullets. Very scary because you realise just how random those things can be and how easily they could happen to you if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The workout was with Chris and Richard and so it was guaranteed to be really tough as both are on good form. Chris and I had never been over this circuit and it is a stunningly beautiful area – completely hidden. I’ve been living here since 1994 and have never visited it. It’s definitely on my list of alternative routes now. My legs were not cooperating from the start due to not having recovered yet from the 115km Beaufort workout only two days earlier. This meant that it was going to be a long session. I settled into the slipstream of the others so as to conserve energy for the climb up the Col de Frêne onto the Bauges Massif – knowing that they would appreciate me not falling too far behind on the climb later on. Sure enough the climb started out fast but my legs were never going to keep up the 25km/hr pace that we started the climb with and I had to settle down into my own rhythm. Once recovered from the over-exertion the legs felt fine and allowed a good pace. Riding through the Bauges was a very hilly – up and down – affair and after about 50km my legs were just not responding any more so I let the others go ahead. While we were going along the flatter roads from Albertville before the climb up to the Massif des Bauges we had a guy in a black and white shirt tag along for some draughting. He hung on with us until the start of the big climb. Much later on he caught up and overtook me on the climb up to the Col de Leschaux when Chris and Richard had already vanished in the distance. This kick started me again and I tried to keep up with him otherwise I’d go into complete hibernation mode on the bike. Eventually there was a sign for “Saint Jorioz” and as I believed that we were aiming for an associated col I left the main road and started off up this one instead. I can’t have been completely rational at this stage because I remember asking the black and white shirted guy if he’d seen my two companions, but he had just overtaken me so he couldn’t have. I guess I was more tired than I thought because it’s extremely unusual for me to be this disoriented. Further on I caught up with a porky guy just getting to the top of the climb. He was in blue and yellow and was part of the Thonon vélo club but still going slower than me due to his weight. I asked him if he had seen the other two cyclists but he said no. He then asked me where I was going and I told him I was heading for Albertville so he suggested that I follow him and he’d see me onto the right route. Perhaps Mr Thonon had climbed slowly with his weight but he descended like a demon and was quite hard to follow. His hand signals were first rate too which was pretty good as this descent had many obstacles and surprises. Just recently on the “Haute Route” seven stage Cyclosportive from Geneva to Nice there was another cyclist killed during a descent (other was Time Mégève two years ago) – so you really can’t be too careful – especially when you like speed.

Cycle Path

Arriving at the bottom of the descent and the town of Saint Jorioz there was a roundabout ahead and Thonon, who was behind me, shouted in his best English “left”! Of course he meant “right” so I went the wrong way and missed the entrance to the amazing cycle path. The cycle path goes from Annecy around lake Annecy and almost all the way to Albertville. After bouncing across the kerb my chain bounced off towards the outside but using the front derailleur I was able to flip it back on again without stopping. Three of us had formed a new peloton for the descent but now “black and white shirt” moved ahead a bit and I enjoyed talking to Thonon who turned out to be as friendly as he was helpful. We decided that the missing pair would either be a kilometre ahead or a kilometre behind so we just pressed on along the side of Lake Annecy with about 17km to go to Faverges. Several minutes later there was a hand on my back as Chris and Richard turned up – they had been going like mad trying to catch up. It turns out that Richard had stopped at the corner after that turn off for Saint Jorioz and Chris had gone on to the next corner. Richard saw me arrive and take the turn off but I couldn’t see him waving – so he had to go and collect Chris then they had to come after me. Thonon’s descent had been so spectacular that they had a job catching us up. Not wanting to be outdone they now ramped the speed up on the cycle path (which is quite wide) and we began draughting. Within about a minute we caught “Black and White Shirt” and so had a team of five which got faster and faster. Richard and Chris seemed to be trying to prove something so Thonon got in front and ramped it up again – his weight not hampering him at all on the flat. Richard then got on the front and although all I was doing all this time was draughting it was worrying because it didn’t seem like the legs were going to survive much more of this. Thonon then peeled off at his home and said goodbye as I thanked him and by this time “Black and White” was already dumped miles behind. The hardest part was that there were gates to slow down at and pass through where the minor roads intersected and then major accelerations to get back up to speed. As expected the other two couldn’t keep up that pace and with Thonon gone they calmed down again. My legs recovered and with only draugting that left me plenty of power for dealing with the accelerations. We kept up a high pace all the way back to Albertville and nobody was going to overtake us on the way home at that speed. After the session both Chris and Richard had a go on my bike to feel the Osymetric chainwheel effect. Since Wiggo won the TdF people are being a bit more open minded about it now. I feel a massive difference with it and it really lends itself to good mechanics.

ChiRunning Cure

That morning Richard’s wife had also been in Albertville for a hip xray and she was told she had arthritis. I was suspicious but didn’t want to impose myself – so I asked when the problem had started. Sure enough as I expected it was during a 20k run on tarmac. I tried to explain chi-running as a way to protect the joints but this is difficult with people who are already in the “medical/physio” system because they don’t really listen. Later on, discussing it with his wife she said that in her club they insist on advancing the foot and landing solidly on the heel!!!!!! Spot on then with this diagnosis. I went through a bit of chi-running with her and hope to have at least shown that there are other issues involved and perhaps a clear solution to the problem without involving the medical establishment. On the positive side for me the chi-cycling technique has prevented any lower back trouble from developing during the season. Previous years have seen me develop progressively worsening chronic pain that would take most of the winter to calm down. I had some trouble this year because I was forced to adopt back damaging movements during the Etape simply because I was undertrained for the event – and that took some time to settle afterwards. During the past month the training has been stepped up and with good mechanics being used all the time there are no back problems. Chris has sciatica in both buttocks but won’t listen to anything I say about it so that’s a shame for him. He’d only start to listen if I was cycling faster than him but then if his sciatica worsens that that will certainly happen – I’ll be cycling faster than him.

La Plagne

Today – after one day’s rest, I had a great climb up to La Plagne (2000m) ski station on the bike. The legs recovered much better from Saturday’s workout than from the one two day’s earlier – probably because I couldn’t push so hard. It was a really good session of chi-cycling, working on constant activity of the core. It’s like you turn the belly slightly towards the pedal as you are pushing and the extension is between the chest and the knee – not between the hip and the foot. This really uses the power of the core and it’s linked to that slight internal rotation of the spine. It was a good climb of 1hr 24mins – not the fastest I’ve done by about 5 minutes – but OK for tired legs.

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