Haute Route – Stage 2 – GC 105 Pra Loup to Col du Granon
A good day of following a pacing strategy, staying slower than felt necessary and ending up being faster than the competition
127km – 3,700m – Col de Vars, Col d'Izoard, Col du Granon
Stage position: 103
GC position: 105
Today was great. I felt strong from start to finish, followed the pacing plan almost exactly and picked up a couple of places in the rankings, after expecting to lose ground.
The route today was over three climbs, all pretty steep, and similar lengths of 1-1.5 hours. The descents were all neutralised, making it easy to stay safe and giving plenty of time to enjoy the views without losing time!
Right from the start I tried to hold back and not push above threshold at all. In the peloton that formed for the first ten-or-so kilometres of the valley that was difficult, with the surges and slowing, surges and slowing that come from being anywhere but the first few rows of a big group. But once we hit the real climb it was easy to choose to slow down, let people pass me, and fix on my all-day sustainable pace.
Early on quite a lot of riders came past, but just let them go, the coach told me! The first climb was a straightforward hour of a consistent effort that didn’t feel like it took too much energy – one in the bank. It was already warm but nothing too much.
A quick water stop and I started the descent with a couple of Scottish riders, one of whom seems to be a bit of a descending specialist! It’s so easy to descend when following someone so obviously competent, with a good line, nothing too risky and taking care of those behind by pointing at holes in the road. He was moaning about so many of the descents being un-timed – if he was racing he’d pick up a lot of time there.
The second climb was hotter as the day warmed up, but again the pacing worked and it never felt too hard. Izoard is a big open climb, going through lots of gently sloping farmland, without much tree cover before reaching the top of the treeline anyway. I kept eating, kept drinking, (kept sweating!). Near the top we were passed by a family on electric bikes, whirring their way past us at quite a pace. We wondered what they would do when the battery ran out…
Almost by accident I made very good use of the untimed descent. At the top, after the timing mat, I stopped for coffee. Café Pod have been following us around with a van full of coffee machines and Spotify playlists full of bangers to keep everyone going! With a couple of drinks, a good photo opportunity and plenty of snacking the better part of an hour went by. It was hot enough not to stiffen up, and meant I was well recovered by the time we actually moved on.
Sneaky boy taking hours in the untimed segments 😜
The untimed section was long, including the descent and then a run through the town of Briançon, where I was staying that night, before heading up to the Col du Granon. This is a brutal climb, with very little (beyond the now-familiar long Alpine views!) to redeem it. It’s steep, really steep. I was very glad to have changed to a really easy gear before coming out here. This was the first place I saw some people really broken by the climb, in the way that happens at the end of the Marmotte. Still, I made it up and kept the same pacing as I was told to!
The way down we had plenty of time to stop for photos, another good thing about untimed descents! Good massage and a nod of approval from the coach. Two down, five to go, and tomorrow we head to Alpe d’Huez.