The first mountain stage and it wasn’t introduced to me gently. The 3rd stage of my journey, this will be the 15th stage of the 2009 Tour de France and it will be a decisive stage. 6 climbs total (4 cat3, 1 cat2 and 1 cat 1) makes for a demanding grind that will separate the pretenders from contenders. This stage also marked the first time I had been to Switzerland and into the Alps.
Day of Journey:
Stage 3 of 21, May 6th, 2009.
Bike 7h32m (203km)
Bike – 203km
Bike – 203km
Total Distance Biked:
470km (3 stages)
Mountain passes & Hills
Côte du Rafour – 3.7km, 5.1% – Cat3
Col des Etroits – 1.5km, 5% – Cat3
Côte de La Carrière – 6.3km, 4.4% – Cat3
Côte de Prévonloup – 4.5km, 4.7% – Cat3
Col des Mosses – 13.8km, 4% – Cat2
VERBIER – 8.8km, 7.5% – Cat1
Twitter update: “Yesterday, I kicked the ass of Col Des Mosses, saw my first snow, was killing the stage until Verbier, then, bonk-o-rama. 203km 7hr 32m.”
So What Happened?
I began the day quite late from Pontarlier. It was the first night that I slept well, in fact too well and left around 11am. The ride started beautifully, climbing immediately out of Pontarlier, gently at first and then much more aggressively. The route was lined with castles, and beautiful fields of flowers, goats and small farm houses. It was really Swiss. The first climb to the Swiss border got the heart rate up early but it was relatively simple.
When I got to the Border crossing, I wasn’t sure if I needed to get stamped into the country since Switzerland in not an EU member. I got off my bike, snapped some photos and opened the door. Now, imagine my surprise when I enter the border agency to see a round-faced middle aged fellow, dressed in Swiss border digs, listening to the radio, bobbing up and down, snapping his fingers and singing “You ain’t nothing but a hounddog, crying all the time… you ain’t nothi****.” Then he quips and points at my passport “Hello, you want a souvenir?” I could only respond “Uhhh, no…it’s cool.” To which he replied “Ok, then, on you go, welcome to Switzerland.”
And there you have it – I was in Switzerland. The next bit of riding was highlighted by more gentle climbing, then rapid winding descents into Yverdon-des-bains and then more climbing out. It was hot this day and the up and down made for a draining effort, but I felt really strong. Another climb and descent over the Côte de Prévonloup and soon after the Mosses began. This was going to be my first test and I blitzed it. I felt like Marco Pantani, I climbed and climbed switchback after switchback without touching the saddle. I blazed through the steeps and cranked along the flatter sections at nearly 30kph. I really felt incredible. Crossing over the the other side of the river and up again I started to slow but still felt like I had a lot left and before I new it, there I was hammering past the signage at the peak. I turned back grabbed some pics and flew down the otherside. I must had got a little overconfident because one turn snuck up on me a little and I locked up the wheels and skidded to the barrier. I wasn’t close to going over, but it did allow me to remind myself I wasn’t racing for the stage after just collecting maximum KOM points.
The rest of the way was a very fast slight descent with a strong tailwind. Hammering along the gravel side of the highway I was holding between 41 and 43kph. I felt like I was doing an unpaved classics section hearing the pebbles shoot out from under the wheels. I just didn’t wanna think about all the paint chips I was going to have. Upon arriving to Martigny I was averaging about 34kph average and flying through the stage and then it hit, while going through the already pre-decorated tunnel to Verbier saying “Verbier – Tour de France finish 2009”, I bonked out of nowhere. And this was no little crash. Suddenly, I felt nauseous, cold and totally drained. I had no idea it was coming and I had another climb and about 20km to go.
Let me just say this. Cold, sweaty, and desperate for anything, sugary pop, saltly peanuts, EPO shots with an amphetamine chaser. I was very… very… slowly, like 8kph slowly, climbing my way toward Verbier. I really was hitting the desperation wall when I saw the village of my next Couchsurfing host Jane.
When you arrive to a hosts house, it is not great etiquette to arrive in spandex all sweaty and smelly, but I had prepared them for this. What I hadn’t prepared them for, was a stumbling, slightly incoherent cyclist spilling out the words: “man, did that go sideways quickly…sideways, sideways, ….spinning sideways” at the same time as begging for something sweet to drink. After downing all the Cola Cao (chocolate milk) they had, things leveled out and we chilled, talked of travels, art, music, and the mountain life. It was all good. Slept really terribly that night due to feeling like I had a serious dose of heat stroke. So yeah, I was feeling optimistic about going to climb two massive passes the next day – Col de Grand Saint Bernard, and Petite as well.
Picture(s) of the Day: