Alpe d’HuZes – Final Notice

This day next week around this time I hope to be ready to start my 3rd climb up the Alpe d’Huez. Deemed physically impossible by those who have a medical degree, I (still) beg to differ. As stated before, I may – or will – have to come to terms with the idea that six climbs will be impossible, but to not try is not an option.

We will leave for France tomorrow morning and I will have some time to run cycle a final test or two. As we do not have Internet in the apartment, this may well be my last post untill after D-Day. We do have Wi-Fi in Le Bourg-d’Oisans and probably around the ‘Alpe d’HuZes area’ too, but that means some Twitter or Facebook posts at best.

So, needing all the help I can get, keep your fingers crossed and I will try to defy science 🙂

The sad thing is that I have actually never felt more capable to complete the challenge. True: I’ve never tried anything this stupid yet and probably I’m pumped full with adrenaline because of the excitement.

But I also know from experience that cycling up a mountain is slightly more challenging than meets the eye. Most profiles – fancy stats on average percentages of a climb – do not do justice to the hard and difficult truth: it WILL hurt.

The Alpe d’Huez is no exception: it may not look all that though – and I have done harder climbs – but an average of 9% over a distance of 13+ kilometers will wear you out. Multiply that by six, add the effort of five descents and then add 50% – you now have a good idea of the effort at hand…

So, the fact that at this stage I’m doing fine as long as I’m cycling in flat terrain doesn’t mean squat. I want my climbing abilities to get back on the level I need. As a result of the healing process still going on, I cannot push myself to that level. I am – under normal circumstances – not the fastest of them all when climbing, but I can keep up the strain for a very long time. Unfortunately, I have a limited amount of time and an incapability of putting myself (my body) under more strain.

One may argue that around 15 hours (05:00 – 20:00) should be more than sufficient to complete the six climbs. Sure: any trained cyclist with climbing experience should be able to climb up the Alpe d’Huez in any time between 1:00h and 1:30h. If it takes you longer than that, the challenge is almost impossible (to complete) to start with.

Assuming you can score an average of 1:15 and do the five descents in 20-25 minutes each (there is a 45 kph speeding limit), that would mean you’re done in about 9,5 hours.

But you need to eat, change cloths and probably you will lose some time along the way for other things you may not even be able to influence yourself. Let alone that you may consider having additional breaks, because 12 hours of cycling is not your usual daily activity. So you can add another 2,5 hours for that easily.

This would mean that you still need only 12 hours… Forget it: remember the 50% I mentioned? Cut that down for some time already accounted for in the above calculation, you still end up being very close to the deadline.

Fortunately, the event itself – being part of it – gives you an additional boost. Probably not in the form of real fuel / energy, but rather on some psychic level that helps you to go further than you would normally be able to. Which is exactly the essence of the challenge: to push yourself further. And there are hundreds of people that actually achieve six climbs during this special day. In fact, between 20% and 25% of the participants do, so there must be some special kind of magic going on.

And I will need that (or a miracle) – I know my team mates and some other lovely people I’ve met during this year of preparation will be there for me, as I will be there for them too. Plus, there will be masses along the road and I know that gives you a boost too.

And yes: to quit is not an option, however I will need to know when to quit if push comes to shove. But it won’t – period.

PS. You can still make a donation to either me or the team as a whole. Heck, make a donation to anyone or any team, but DO IT!