Beaufort Deviation

Very tough workout today – 123km and 3100m climbing. Was in the saddle for 5hrs 49mins and was surprised to average above 20kph for this one.

The start from Aime to Moutiers and then on to Albertville was against an unusually strong headwind ripping up the valley. It’s tough training alone against a relentless headwind. When someone overtook me about 10 km before Albertville I used him to pace me the rest of the way into town. I didn’t ride close enough to slipstream but kept a constant 3 to 5 meters behind. Just psychologically this makes a big difference. I didn’t want to be a hero and take a turn in front because I had to conserve energy for the climbing ahead – but enjoyed the increased pace. We were experiencing a cold front after all the rain (snow) and thunder of the previous few days so I had on a cold weather training jacket and felt fine. At Albertville I peeled off and started the 46km climb to the Cormet de Roselend. Previous attempts have always had my legs in deep pain by the time the steep climb up to the Roselend dam starts – just after Beaufort – but today there was none of this so despite a poor week last week the training in general must be paying off.

Beaufort Village (I live on the other side of those mountains)
The fun and games all started just after Beaufort. It’s a long straight moderate gradient up a glaciated valley to get the the foot of the big climb – but today the road was completely sealed off to all public – I tried to pass but couldn’t – they sealed it off thoroughly.  This meant a deviation which looked like it was climbing up a very different and very steep mountain for a very long way – and that was right. It was slightly worrying because there was no indication how long the deviation was. In the end it was about 500m climbing over 10km. Had it not been spectacular, sheltered and sunny I might have bailed out because I’d started this trip rather late – about 2:35pm so that the air could warm with the sun – but hadn’t anticipated this glitch. The “glitch” suddenly took on another allure when I started the descent back down from the deviation towards the main route because the back wheel felt unusually squirely on the turns and so I stopped to check it. Sure enough a puncture – the first in over 6000km with those tyres. It might have been due to me changing back from a race tyre and catching the inner tube or something. I stopped in the middle of nowhere and replaced the tube – checking with my fingers first that there was nothing sharp in the inside of the tyre. To my great surprise the 27gram carbon pump I’ve carried on the bike for over a year was utterly useless – couldn’t blow up anything with it. Unfortunately I hate hand pumps so much that I’d never actually tried it out! That was a silly move indeed.

Near the Cormet de Roselend
There were a couple of houses here in the hills but very quiet and not too promising regarding potential help. I walked up to one and around the side to find a door open and a workshop inside with two young men. One had an air compressor right beside him and took my wheel and inflated it to 110psi in seconds! It was so lucky that it seemed almost weird. I did not expect to get out of that one so easily. Payback however was not long in coming. Fate had timed it so that only a few minutes into this descent a bee would hit my forehead – deflected from the helmet and shove its arse down between my sunglasses and head. Naturally the bee stung me square between the eyes and then got free and flew off. There was an almost anaesthetic numbness right down to the tip of my nose from that sting but nothing worse. 
The climb up to the Cormet was fine but I was in the granny gear quite early on. Normally I find myself crawling up there with legs in significant pain the entire way – but today was different. Despite the extra climbing already I was able to hold a more acceptable if somewhat slow climbing pace – but with no deep pain – only tiredness. At the top of the Cormet (2000m Altitude) I swallowed the last drop from my two water bottles. In fact I cycled almost 6hrs and burned over 8000 calories just drinking one litre altogether – but felt fine. I ate a protein/energy bar and it had a great effect during the descent –  the energy and clarity returning to my head quickly. This was all I’d eaten. The drink had some energy/protein powder mixed in to it too though. The new “La Plagne” club shorts were excellent – no bum pain! Don’t know how that works because the padding is not as thick as on any of the other shorts and I’d expected them to be worse – but they are much better. I’d mistakenly brought arm warmers instead of leggings for the descent from the Cormet. Undeterred I squeezed the arm warmers over my legs because this was going to be cold – fast, no sun, high altitude and late. During the descent due to a mixture of cold and pressure my left hand went dead a couple of times – and the feet were pretty cold. It’s a long way down, especially when you are tired and cold, but you just have to keep on going because you know it’s much warmer in the valley below. I could feel the warm air as usual after the last turn down towards Bourg St Maurice – but it took until cycling uphill to Macot about 13km further on until I felt warm again. Thankfully Christiane had cajoled me into taking LED lights on the bike and as it was about 9:15pm when arriving at the house they had been used for the last 20 minutes and I was very glad to have them. 
Resting now for a few days probably – but will have to see how to make it to the race on the Ventoux on Saturday without arriving there exhausted in advance.

View from Cormet de Roselend  over Beaufort

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