Saturday 19 July 2008

Who is Jerome Coppel anyway? Tour d’Enfer Minus 1

One hard climb!

Another incredibly beautiful day dawned on the French-Swiss border again today and after a cheerful breakfast we looked at a possible course to ride in the morning. Will put together a 42 km route that included the brutal Category 1 climb up to Le Saleve that was used in this year’s Dauphiné Liberé race. After working out a route on a mapping website, he downloaded it to my GPS bike computer and showed me how to navigate with it. I have used the GPS for about a year and never used this function before but was impressed with how easy it was to use.

Brett and I headed down the road around 11 am, into the bright morning sunshine and soon found ourselves climbing the famous road, known also as the Col de la Croisette. We passed some lovely villages, well-tended and with elaborate flowers everywhere but the beauty of the scene was soon eclipsed by the extremely hard climb ahead. The GPS showed a series of tight hairpin turns and sure enough we soon were grinding our way along up them. I was glad that I had installed the new 28 tooth cassette since I was really using it today. And my new Look cleats were working well too, so it was just a matter of trying to keep up with Brett, which was no easy feat. At least the cyclist struggling behind me soon disappeared from view as I continued to open up the gap on him. The climb is apparently is the shortest Category 1 due to its extreme steepness.

Getting to the particularly steep sections, we saw that the road was painted over and over again with the name of a pro rider, Jerome Coppel. His family must have been very enthusiastic on that day since it was written everywhere. He turned 21 this year and joined the team Française de Jeux. You can read about him and even join his fan club at his website.

We reached the village at the top of the climb and took a well-deserved break, admiring the views of the massif that included the famous Mont Blanc. It was a gorgeous day and the scenery was breathtaking. We soon turned to the right and rode along the ridge, with views to the left of the snow-capped mountains and to the right the Jura and the broad valley leading to it. The road was in excellent condition and we stopped to watch paragliders, or cows and even chatted with a charming French lady walking her spaniel along the road.

Turning towards the Jura we passed a fantastic four-star hotel that looked like a castle and soon had an enjoyable descent down into the valley, although by not paying quite enough attention to the GPS we missed a turn and had to backtrack a bit. Then we followed the GPS exactly and it led us into a highway construction site and someone drove down to tell us to get out. I still have to find out what a “chantier” is but I will not go into one again!

Without any further detours, we soon found our way back to the start, exactly as indicated by the GPS. It was one of the most spectacular rides imaginable, although less than 50 kms, and we had some excellent climbing practice, adding some 1100 vertical meters to our tally this year.

It was party time as the participants of the Tour d’Enfer assembled for a big barbecue at Will’s and we all had the chance to meet each other for the first time. There are eighteen riders, including two Canadians from Canada, and two from the Geneva area, three Germans, Americans from Washington State and Washington DC and Berlin, and an Australian, also residing in Geneva. Everyone had a great time enjoying Doreen and Will’s hospitality, and after we discussed logistics and admired our new cycling jerseys, I was given, as Chief Disorganizer of the Tour, a book on the Route des Grande Alpes as well as a custom-made model of my Tarmac. This was incredibly thoughtful and I am looking forward to a great ten days riding with everyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where is Leslie? No reports from the Tour d 'Enfer?? There must be some computers there somewhere.