Sir Edmund Hillary once said of Everest, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”, well on Saturday 7th July 2012 four Stratford CC riders took time out from their usual racing schedules and went after their Everest and to conquer individual battles on the way, writes Lloyd Walton.
La Marmotte is regarded as the toughest one-day sportive event in Europe; a 106mile cycle-sportive that takes place once a year in the French Alps with 7,000 participants. It summits 4 mountains with a total of 5,200meters of climbing – the equivalent to nearly 4 Ben Nevis’ on a racing bike.
Each of us went with slightly different goals. Keith Walton and Gerrard Adams to set respectable times and beat their previous attempts, Martin Millington to post a time which would rival some of the top club cyclist from Europe (also his second attempt) and mine to survive the torture on my first go.
Arriving two days early in the stunning mountain town of Alp D’Huez we located our hotel and commenced the carb-load, which is clearly the best thing about endurance cycling, eating until you feel like exploding so you have enough energy for the challenge ahead.
The day before the event we took the opportunity to ride up the final mountain of the ride, Alp D’Huez, a mountain made famous by Le Tour De France. The ascent was an eye opener as to the difficulty we would be facing the next day as we span up the 1,100meter climb which averages a gradient of 8.5%. To say the climb is difficult would be an understatement, and it wasn’t even the toughest one on course. We consoled ourselves by gorging on yet more pasta. Carb-load part two completed we went for an early night full of vivid dreams of the 8+hours of mountain climbs to come.
The day of the event was hot and dry, so as well as the long ascents, fast, technical descents, exhausted cyclists on the road and numerous crashes, we also had to contend with the heat.
Each of us went through very tough personal battles, but were all pleased to finish the course with respectable times. Martin finished in 8hrs 46mins, which was a frankly stunning ride; Keith in 9hrs 37mins; Gerrard in 10hrs 29mins; and myself in 10hrs 28mins. To put those times in perspective the winner (who was a pro cyclist!) completed the course in just over 5hrs 30mins and the slowest, finishing competitor in over 14hrs.
With our flags firmly planted and Everest conquered we are left wondering just one thing – what can we do to top that?
A big thank you to ROTOR UK for use of their team car for the trip!!