Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Did the Alpe D' Huez uphill TT

Late Friday I flew to the central French Alps,unpacked the bike and climbed. Fans ran along side me and encouraged me to ride faster. Helicopters flew over head. I was swarmed for autographs.

Um, I did climb. But it was indoors!

Gear West Bike and Triathlon has been holding an open-to-all Virtual Time Trial Series taking place in store on the Tacx Fortius Virtual Reality trainer. Each Time Trial "Event" will run 1 month, at which time they will change courses. The Male and Female winners from each age-group after the month will not only receive a $10 GWB&Tri gift certificate, but have bragging rights all month.

Last month I did Stage One: the Tour of Lombardy. For Stage Two we did the Alpe D' Huez. Well, the first 2.5 miles.

The Alpe d'Huez is one of the great climbs of the Alps, and was first climbed by the Tour de France in 1952 when Fausto Coppi won the stage. The climb to the ski resort has 21 marked hairpins, with the toughest part of the ascent over the first three kilometres and first six hairpins. It is a mountain pasture in the Central French Alps, in the commune of Huez, in the Isère département in the Rhône-Alpes region.

It has quite a history.

Significant stages
1952: Jean Robic attacked at the start of the climb and only Fausto Coppi could stay with him. The two climbed together until Coppi attacked at bend five, four kilometres from the top. He won the stage, the yellow jersey and the Tour.

1977: Lucien van Impe, a Belgian rider leading the climbers' competition, broke clear on the col du Glandon. He gained enough time to threaten the leader, Bernard Thévenet. He was still clear on the Alpe when a car drove into him. The time that van Impe waited for another wheel was enough to keep Thévenet in the lead by eight seconds.

1978: Another Belgian leading the mountains race also came close to taking the yellow jersey. Michel Pollentier also finished alone, but he was caught soon afterwards defrauding a drugs control and was disqualified.

1984: The Tour invited amateurs to take part in the 1980s. The best was Luis Herrera, who lived at 2,000m in Colombia. None of the professionals could follow him. He won alone to the cacophony of broadcasters who had arrived to report his progress.

1986: Bernard Hinault said he would help Greg LeMond win the Tour but appeared to ride otherwise. The two crossed the line arm in arm in an apparent sign of truce.

1997: Marco Pantani, who won on the Alpe two years earlier, attacked three times and only Jan Ullrich could match him. He lasted until 10 km from the summit and Pantani rode on alone to win in what is often quoted as record speed (14.34 MPH).

The total length of the course is 13.2 KM. For this event, wew only did the first 4 KM...and that was bad enough.

In front of me the Tacx computer screen showed a 12.2% max grade with an average grade of 7.5%. My power output maxed in the low 400's range, my average watts started in the low 300's then quickly went backwards and ended inthe upper 200's. I was cooked. With about a mile left in the climb my left calf started to cramp, badly. So I turned the effort into one of just lasting to the finish.

I was sorely disappointed in my overall effort. But what I came away with most was the fact that I had not even completed 1/3 of the ascent. The Tour boys do the whole blasted thing. And that's after a few hours onthe road just getting to the mountain! My speed hovered just under 10 MPH. The pros are in the 13/14 MPH range. Unbeliveable.

In talking with Curt and Gear West owner Kevin O'Connor the Tacx system has just upgraded to version 1.2 which will now allow for Google Earth. What does this mean? Heck, you can download a course via Map My Ride, for example, and ride an upcoming event weeks ahead of time to become familiar with it without ever having to leave home. Quite an advantage in my book. And you will actually get the visual via Google Earth along with the topography readout.

One really cool feature of this trainer is the ability to take your height and weight into account, so light people can fly up the mountains just like they would in real life. Bigger people have to put out bigger watts to climb.

I really appreciate Gear West putting on this series.

This is what the ride looked like to me... scenic views from the classic Tour of Lombardy in Italy.

David on the Tacx

This is what it looks like to "outsiders"

This is a unique opportunity to not only try out the best Virtual Reality Cycling Software available, but also to get a benchmark for your winter fitness, as the Tacx system will also measure your power, heart rate and cadence.

Here's the TT courses:
November 23-December 23: Tour of Lombardy 3.6 mile TT (Italy)
December 26-January 25: Alpe D' Huez uphill TT (2.5 miles)
January 26-February 26: Tour of Flanders TT (8 miles)

In the area? Read more and sign up here.


MHarks said...


Borsch said...

Love it! Wish I didn't live so far away from there!