On Sunday 19th of May, stage 15 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia will make a foray into the French Alps. The race was scheduled to tackle two climbs up which I soared (or was it suffered?) as part of my adventures in The Breakaway
: Mont Cenis and the Col du Galibier. However, as of Saturday the 18th it appeared that heavy summit-snow and a risk of avalanches had resulted in both these climbs being withdrawn from the day’s itinerary.
Had these climbs still been included then hopefully none of the riders in the Giro would have been as confused as I was by Cenis, nor as challenged by the Galibier.
Mont Cenis – 2081 metres
Mont Cenis is the lesser of the two stage 15 climbs – even I didn’t find it overly taxing, at least not in comparison to the monsters, such as the Galibier, that lurked nearby. Here’s an extract from the day of my Cenis ascent:
|Where Am I?
It was a good while before I snapped back into consciousness (disturbed by a car coming down the mountain or by the salty sting of sweat) only to realise that I had no idea where I was. I knew we were on a cycling trip (the bicycle beneath me and the hot sun above were dead giveaways) and a while later I concluded that I was probably in France. As to which climb I was riding up … frankly, I had no idea. I racked my brain, recited the name of every climb I could think of, including those I was sure hadn’t made it on to our schedule, not even our long, long list, but nothing seemed to fit. After a good deal of cognitive crawling, all I could muster was that this mountain had a lake at the summit. A lake, a lake, a lake …? What’s French for lake? Lac. Lac, lac, lac … ? A minute or so later Lac du Mont Cenis sprang to mind, and only then (okay, so it took another couple of minutes) did I get it. Had my brain been starved of oxygen or was I subconsciously missing Rain Man Drew’s running commentary? One thing was for sure, there was no way he would have forgotten what climb we were riding.
With the realisation of my location came another flash of inspiration: on remembering that it was supposed to be a rest day, I sat back in the saddle and dropped into second gear. A leisurely look around and I smiled, inwardly, and outwardly to Drew, hoping in vain to elicit a mirror reaction. I relaxed my shoulders, took a few deep breaths and a few deeper slugs of electrolyte drink. Life really wasn’t so bad after all; life really was pretty bloody good.
From there my addled mind set to work on an adaptation of a Blondie song, a bastardised ear worm that lodged itself inside my head, no way I would ever forget its lyrics or the climb, even if I actively attempted to do so.
Cenis Cenis, oh with your lake so blue,
Cenis Cenis, I’ve got a crush on you,
Cenis Cenis, I’m so in love with you, whoa.
Oh when we climb it always feels so nice,
And when we descend it seems like paradise.
Cenis Cenis I’m so in love with you, whoa.
Col du Galibier – 2642 metres
The Giro was scheduled to be riding up the Galibier from the opposite side to the one I tackled, starting from the Col du Telegraphe rather than the Col du Lautaret. No matter which way you ride it, this climb is an absolute monster. Here’s an extract from the day of my Galibier ascent:
After the relatively dull, long, straight slog up the valley, the Col du Galibier (follow the signposts
|Atop The Galibier
and turn right at the top of the Lautaret) did its utmost to differ, no holds barred in its attempts to impress. The narrow, single-track road looked like a crazy curl of grey hair that had flipped free in the wind and landed in random fashion around the head of the old grand peak. And as much as it impressed, the Galibier was a col intent on instilling fear, perhaps as revenge for the disrespect we’d displayed to its less impressive sister. Without a safety barrier in sight, the tarmac edge dropped off and into freefall, not even a grass verge to distract from that petrifying prospect.
With the first pedal strokes came a sense of being in the presence of greatness. This was a road we assumed to know well, a legend of whose name we required no reminder. Unlike Cenis, I was not about to get halfway up the Galibier and pause to wrestle with a mental blank. All the climbs we’d chosen were A-list names, but the Galibier was a sure-fire contender for hors-catégorie superstar status.