Haute Route 2021 – Stage 4 – GC 132 Alpe d'Huez
Right foot pedal down, left foot pedal down.
15.5km – 1,150m – Alpe d'Huez
Stage position: 160
GC position: 132
A time trial is a straightforward thing: start at the start, go as fast as you can on your own, until you get to the finish. The famous advice (from Chris Boardman, I think?) is that you need to keep asking yourself: “Can I sustain this pace until the end?” If the answer is yes, you’re not going hard enough. If the answer is no, you’re going too fast. You need the answer to be an excruciating “I don’t know”.
That’s the theory. In the middle of a stage race it’s further complicated by also not wanting to burn all your matches before the next stages. It seems that I’m not that great at making this calculation!
Both this year and the 2017 edition had the same time trial course: straight up the 21 bends of Alpe d’Huez. Steeped in cycling history the numbered corners each have a plaque with one of the riders who have graced it. It’s also in the middle of my cycling history, being the first real mountain I climbed, and the home to the Marmotte that I’ve raced and loved three times now.
That also meant I had something direct to compare myself with, which has been difficult so far. I planned to take it easy at 230W and gently increase if it felt ok. My legs seemed to have other ideas, and autopiloted up to 250W whenever I looked away from the bike computer (at the incredible scenery!). After a while I just let it go, and as it was feeling good I felt better and better about sustaining that for longer. An occasional attempt to push above 260W answered the fundamental question with a solid “no”.
By the top I was ahead of my 2017 time by a total of 50 seconds, pushing an average of only 3W higher than last time. Both attempts were my worst placing of the week about 30 places lower than I was in the other stages. Perhaps that shows I’m not judging it right and should push harder, or perhaps it saves me some energy for the longer stages where I can gain more time?
A fun, but short, day out on the bike. I had time in the afternoon for an excellent tartelette aux fraises.