Going For Gold: Marmotte Hochkönig

Bugs BunnyBottom line of this post is that I have set that ‘one more, just this one, I promise‘ target for 2017: the Marmotte Hochkönig in Austria.

But first, I should apologize on behalf of the rebel, as it has been a while.

Those of you more or less frequently visiting this blog – I’m not judging, but I can’t even… – may have started to wonder if the rebel is still alive.

Well, I can assure you: he is. It’s just that he didn’t feel like there was anything noteworthy to write a new post about…

While the spoiler at the beginning of this post may leave you quiver in anticipating of learning what I’m up to, let me give you first time visitors the chance to walk away right now: just navigate away from this page and spare yourself wasting more time of your already busy lives.

You’re gone? Good, the rest of you hard core minions: please do continue to read…

I will spare you the details of how I’ve spent the last 5, 6 months trying to prepare (indoors) for what I’ve planned for this year. Suffice it to say, I have advanced to ‘National Champion’ with Virtualtraining  and ‘World Class’ level will follow shortly.

This in itself would be a great conclusion of my career – I could walk out, content that I have made it this far. But, before I actually retire, I have set a target for 2017: the Marmotte Hochkönig in Austria (info page here).

Look Marmotte Hochkonig

While most cyclists dream of participating in the ‘original’ Marmotte Alps, I do not. First of all, it is (near) impossible to get a spot in that event, without the obligation to buy a ‘full package’ with a third party. Meaning that you will easily have to pay anywhere north of 500 Euro for basically one day of cycling…

Secondly, I have ‘been there, done that’, meaning that I have climbed the Croix de Fer/Glandon, the Télégraphe/Galibier and Alpe d’Huez – the latter no less than 9 times…

So, I was looking for something else and since a couple of years, the series has been extended with Gran Fondos in Schotland, Italy (Sestriere) and the Pyrenees.

Since I’ve been meaning to go back to the ‘Berchtesgaden area’ ever since our trip there in 2012, and the Marmotte Hochkönig is taking place ‘around the corner’ from there, I saw an opportunity to combine the two.

As my age group* perfectly reflects my average grades during my 15 years in high school, I’m happy that for a gold medal, I ‘only’ need to complete this challenge within 9:05.

As it’s just 167 km, this sounds like a piece of cake, right?

Oh wait, there is some climbing involved…

Including the Dientner Sattel from both ends, the steep final of the Filzensattel, the Griessenpass and a killer climb out of Mühlbach to the finish at the Arthurhaus, the elevation gain in the Marmotte Hochkönig amounts to 3,462 meters.

Still, compared to the 7:55 the young guns (18-29) have to complete it, I guess my task is an easy one. The Marmotte finish at the Arthurhaus

Yeah right C., keep kidding yourself… Despite my efforts, even following training plans – a novelty for me – with Today’s Plan, I have not been able to substantially enhance my climbing abilities.

You are welcome to try and hold my wheel on a flat course, preferably with a nice head wind (don’t worry, I’ll do all the pulling 🙂 ) and I do just fine as long as the incline does not exceed 6% by much.

When simulating climbing on my Tacx Neo, I can set it to a resistance that requires me to push between 280 and 300 Watts – I can maintain that for a long time and my virtual climbing speed is ‘satisfactory’, corresponding to ~16-18 kph on a 6% incline.

However, I do not have to shift gears, I can chose my own pace (RPM) and there are no fluctuations as there would be outside, like wind and changes in grade. If I were to hold the same speed / incline ratio outdoors, I would easily need to push between 30 and 60 Watts more, to overcome those influences, including rolling resistance.

Sadly, as I grow older, this is becoming increasingly harder, to a point where it actually is no longer possible. Or, perhaps it would be, but I suppose I would need to radically change my training approach and I’m not really up – or in – to that.

Besides, while 6% is challenging enough in itself, most climbs are not even and will throw (much) steeper sections at you and more frequently than I like. Also, you have to keep in mind that these mountain climbs are typically longer than 10 kilometers, which is quite different from the short(-ish) hills you might find in your backyard.

And when grades exceed 10%, the real struggle starts, as the Watts needed to sustain a reasonable pace – i.e. where I do not topple over, do not have to get off my bike to catch my breath and where I do not need to keep grinding below 40 RPM – are no longer within my power.

Pun intended…

Anyway, my weird fascination with the mountains has always been more about the fantastic, breathtaking, surroundings and views – I would move to any region with high mountains in a heartbeat, given the chance or the opportunity.

Flying up those long, winding climbs, speeding through the hairpins, is something completely different though. Nevertheless, I feel I have a good chance to complete the Marmotte Hochkönig in ‘gold medal time’.

What do you think?

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*F – duh…