In hindsight, there were plenty of warning signs all the way along until, far too late, I realised the full horror of my predicament.
Lets start with Res. Old school. He actually has many bikes, not just a Brompton (1). There are no Japanese components on his 30 year old custom built steel frame that he rides today (2). He glues his tubular tyres to his rims (3).
“Let’s ride up the Col de la Colombèire.”(4)
Sure, why not? It sounded vaguely familiar. But hadn’t I already conquered the Belpberg, the most feared peak in Switzerland?
Sadly, this journey would be taking us through France.(5)
“I think it might be a two banana ride (6), we’d better leave at 7am (7).”
I’ll stop counting now, but I still hadn’t twigged and the signs continued….
Dawn breaks; “Don’t worry, we go behind these, the next range is higher.”
What? What is all this writing scrawled on the road? It’s mostly washed out, but then I see, “Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy, Fränck, Andy” and then: “Lance, go home!”.
The penny drops: Col de la Colombèire. The category 1 climb on stage 9 of the 2010 Tour de France. The stage after the rest day, where Cadel lost the yellow jersey with a broken elbow.
So now in delirium I imagine I hear the helicopters circling and the scenery shifts into HD. In my mind’s eye I mentally cut to picturesque chateaux, and Gabriel Gaté recipes. We eat the first banana.
Cycling is all about conserving energy, being comfortable at 98% of the red line, tiny incremental adjustments. The body goes into automatic (survival) mode. Thinking has switched off; but, like a dinosaur, the various peripheral brains take over, acting on whatever signals are coming in.
Twinge in knee, ease power. Shift hand position. Look behind. Stand for 10. Sit and shift down. Command centre to engine room: how are legs? Legs are deciding where to cramp first. Leave legs with indecision. Drink. Pick smooth road marking around drain. Trim front derailleur. Look at forest. Look at peaks. Is that the Matterhorn? Adjust chamois. What is this car doing? Coast because you are not a fixie. Stand. Dodge cracks. Overtake car. Is there a lower gear?
Only other bikes can get this high.
Absolutely amazing experience. However, at the bottom there is a “surprise”.
Res translates “deviation” as changing “Downhill all the way back home” into “We have to go the long way around. There is a lot more up. It’s off the maps I have”.
In desperation we eat our second banana.
Back on the flat, and eventually back into Switzerland, and eventually back home.
Packed the bike that night. Fly out of Geneva and another big ride tomorrow.
A big thanks, Res….
It may have been just another 9 hour bike ride for you, but for me it was: Totally Epic.