Epic Camp France 2011 – Day 8 – Survival

I’ll be brief. Longer blogs about the camp, the experience and the event of the last eight days will follow, but for now I want to get something up and go out and celebrate camp completion.

We had one, single task today – ride from Annecy to Lyon. 175km taking in the Col du Grand Colombier which John assured us would be the toughest climb we’d face all week. Get over that and the job was done, bar for another 800m of climbing and a long drag to Lyon.

Once again I slept well – a bad sign for performance as it indicates just how tired I am. At least all I had to get up for was breakfast before the ride. I ate well, no point holding back, I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t be going hungry. There was nothing leisurely about this breakfast, we were on the road by 8:30.

The pace started quite gently, but wanting the day over Scott took a huge pull on front and ensured we reached the climb quickly. A drinks stop which one or two campers took advantage of to get a head start and the climbing began. It started hard and continued that way for the next 9km; typically around 8-11% in grade, with one or two brutal little pitches up at 13%. Once the worst of it was over there was a reprieve before one final hard pitch up.

Descending the other side demonstrated we’d had the easier task with several kilometres at 19% and 15%, not that much fun going down, but better than coming up. The descent was a welcome break from hard work, but it didn’t take long to reach the bottom of the next climb. John had assured us he’d hardly noticed the climbing in the car; on the bike I was well aware of the 6-8% gradients we were on. The thought of an imminent lunch stop pulled me along.

For the first time on camp I loaded up on sugar at lunch. A snickers, rice puddings, crepes with nutella; I’d felt a little weak earlier and a gel had picked me up, I was craving sugar. It did the trick and I felt great on the final short ascent. From that point it was a long down hill leading to an even longer drag to Lyon.

We regrouped on the flat with 55km to go; a rolling road and a headwind faced us. John took the initial pull before peeling off for me, I wasn’t feeling it, but figured I could hurt for a few kilometres. Rob De Pinto lost a spoke and the group broke up, I eased up whilst I waited to hear the plan. With the support crew on hand, we continued rolling, but Steven came to the front.

Fifty kilometres to go and he raised the pace. This was survival. Surges hurt, responding to changes in pace and gradient hurt; if you wanted to get back to Lyon quickly you better hold on. I stuck in there, held my place and counted down the kilometres. Every town or slight rise was a relief as the pace eased off, the long flats could be a nightmare. All I cared about was getting the Lyon.

The group fragmented and a bunch of six of us made it to the edge of town. A few stopped for fluids whilst Steven, Rob Palmer and I continued on to the hotel. The last few kilometres flew by; knowing you’ve completed camp makes a big difference. We reached the hotel, congratulated each other and in minutes started packing our bikes. Sooner it’s done, sooner you can relax.

Epic Camp heads into Lyon in a matter of minutes. Time to chill out and celebrate the achievement. I’ve enjoyed every camp I’ve done, but I think this is the hardest I’ve pushed myself; It’s been rewarding to see that I could train this hard. And of course I did get to wear the Green Jersey for a day.