Well, it's done, and what an epic ride it was too. The major factor in this ride was the heat. I was informed afterwards that the temperature later in the ride when down off the Col du Galibier hit 40 degrees and it felt like it, it was like an oven. The climbs were immense as expected and the descents thrilling, I had expected that it may well be hot, but not that hot!
I'll not bore you with all the route and climb details, the route is well known. As seems to be my lot I saw several incidents, 2 of which weren't very pleasant which always serve to remind me of my own mortality. One guy almost took me off descending the Col du Glandon when he was passing me at great speed when his rear tyre suddenly deflated and he veered all over the road, fortunately he remained vertical and just missed my front wheel.
The next incident was lower down the same descent when a guy in front of me badly overcooked a corner and went all over the road. he seemed Ok, if badly cut up. the last incident I witnessed was on a bend towards the end of the ride when a guy, again at speed, just seemed to go straight on at a corner and ended up crashing heaving into a rock strewn bank. He got up but he was in a heck of a mess too. I think this last guy just lost his concentration due to fatigue but I will never really know, he just didn't seem to turn.
The fist climbs of the day went well. I had originally decided to pace myself very steadily and climb within myself which is exactly what I did. My plan was simple, to climb at a power output well below Sweet Spot if the gradient allowed this and only to go above this output if it was unavoidable because of the gradient. I resolved to try to stick to this plan no matter what the pace of riders around me might be. I was passed by plenty of riders but I did feel very much that I was able to ride much more strongly later in the ride because of this decision.
The final climb of Alpe d'Huez was, as expected, gruesome. It was extremely hot and having already done a huge volume of climbing and about 100 miles it was very demanding. I just plodded on counting the bends and in the end I arrived at the top, I'd made it!
How did I do? I was very pleased with the outcome. I finished in a time of just under 8:51 which, at the age of almost 51, gave me a gold standard finish by a margin 45 minutes. Particularly pleasing was that I also achieved a gold standard time in the age group below mine by margin of 24 minutes and only missed gold in the category below that by 2 minutes.
I guess the question is could I have done better and the answer is given the experience of having ridden it once I probably could, particularly if the heat stayed below say 30 degrees! I think I could have ridden some sections of the climbs a little less conservatively and most importantly I could have been a few kilos lighter which would have made quite a difference.
The other question is would I ride it again and the answer is probably not. I got round safely, the weather was at least fine if very hot, and I got round in a gold standard by a good margin which was a personal objective. To go back I would just be chasing minutes for no good reason, I could imagine doing it purely as a long day tour stopping at cafes and taking photos and videos but to chase a few minutes would be, for me anyway, pointless.
So, it's done!
Oh yes, for any data geeks out there:
Duration: 8:50:58 (8:52:56)
Work: 5756 kJ
TSS: 449.6 (intensity factor 0.725)
Norm Power: 227
Distance: 108.818 m
Power: 0 677 187 watts
Heart Rate: 91 171 149 bpm