Stage 20: Albertville to Val Thorens

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 05:45. Transfer: before 1h30, after 2h00. Start time: 08:24. Distance: 131km. Terrain: mountain (4,148 metres climbing). Climbs: one HC (Val Thorens), one Cat 1, one Cat 3. Finish: 18:01. Time in saddle: 8h34. Temp: 18-38C. Drinks: 6 litres (plus 1 litre beer at the end!).

Tarte Tatin: 1 (last night)

Magnum (almond): 1

Suffer scores: John 8/10. Wim 8/10 (probably).

Local lowdown

Albertville, home of the Winter Olympics in 1992. One of the great climbs from here is the Col de la Madelaine but we are not doing that this year. In fact, we rode up a different Col de la Madelaine yesterday. Confusing! Yesterday’s Madeleine was a mere Cat 3 rather than what would have been at least a Cat 1 if not a HC climb, so I’m happy that today we “only” have Val Thorens to conquer – the last of seven visits to the rarefied air above 2,000 metres.

The power of the almond Magnum!

Tale from the Tour

What a fabulous day to (almost) end on. Last night I ate well and slept well. Even though we first had another early start and a coach transfer, I was riding at 8:24am and soon realised that I was on a good day.

Leaving Tignes this morning

The first climb up Cormet de Roseland was a long one at 20km but a truly beautiful one. On the descent after that I realised that I was smiling while riding my bike again – the effort and concentration levels have been so high these past two days that they should be classified as Type 2 fun (i.e. in retrospect) rather than the Type 1 fun of today (i.e. in the moment).

Yesterday I was feeling weak and was slumped over my bike for good parts of the day, whereas today I was feeling strong. Indeed, the team were still setting up the final feedstop as I arrived at it – that has never happened to me before so it was a sign that I was going well.

On the way up the Cormet de Roseland

I’m not sure whether it’s the Tarte Tatin that I had last night that made the difference, or the almond Magnum I had at lunchtime. Probably a bit of both!

Of today’s 130km, 60km comprised categorised climbs, so that’s quite a day to finish the Alpine section. The final feedstop came and although the end was in sight and we might use the expression “and it was all downhill from there”, in reality the last 33km were all uphill to the finish at Val Thorens!

The climb itself was not too bad in that the gradient was typically between 6-8%. It was never really higher than that except for the odd brief dig and occasionally the gradient was lower than that – with even a few bits of downhill. But 33km is a long way.

Halfway up I stopped to refill my water bottles at a fountain, but otherwise kept on going. Temperature varied from 38C at the bottom of that climb to 18C at the top.

High on the hill was this lonely goatherd
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

Waiting for me was a massage for tired legs, beer which barely touched the sides as it slid down and a really good meaty dinner. Before then, I had estimated that I comprised 50% bread, 35% chicken and 15% lasagne, so this has redressed the balance a little!

The amount of climbing still made this a hard day, but mentally I was in a good place, so I’m scoring this less than the two previous stages but a bit more than other ones where I have not had to work quite so hard. Wim arrived just after me, having managed to miss the last feedstop though he was able to have a Coke at a bar halfway up the final climb. I think we had similar days, but I’m writing this on the coach on the way to our hotel in Lyon (ready for a 05:30 transfer to Paris tomorrow morning) and I’m too tired to go and ask him!

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