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I would be happy to hear experiences from people that have done this or something similar and hear some dos and don'ts.
One of my concerns is the clothing, we ll be starting with temperatures of around 30 to 34C and we ll be descending from quite cold mountain tops. Is a gillet and arm warmers enough?
Then it's the choice of wheels. Should I go with deep tubs (1360g), shallow tubs (around 1150g) or clinchers (1600g)? We 'll have a van moving our stuff from place to place so it wouldn't be a problem to carry a second pair, but it won't be following us. I can have a second tyre and effetto espresso with me. Also I currently have the tubs on the rims with tufo tape, would that hold on the massive descents or I should use proper glue by then?
And then most important part is the training. I am already in a fairly good shape (for February that is..) but it's hard with work and life to schedule multiple long outings. I can't even replicate the climbing because there is nothing like those mountains around here. I plan to take 4-5 days off in the end of April and go do 3-4 consecutive days of 150-180kms routes just to bring the body in a similar condition.
My last concern is the recover. I 've no real experience on proper recovery (apart from stretching and drinking a glass of milk with protein) so any opinions are more than welcome.
I did the Raid first week of June last year and I've done a fair number of pyrenian and alpine trips previously. I reckon:
1. Probably, and you may not even need a gilet and arm arm warmers! However my current desktop background is a picture of my bike in heavy snow taken at the top of the Tourmalet in July. You have a van carrying your stuff - so take a good top with you, warm gloves, fleecy hat and decide on the day each day what you'll need to carry. It'll be pretty obvious though, the weather reports and conditions are forseeable, you're very unlikely to be caught out if you've talked to people and checked the weather each morning.
2. I wouldnt bother with deep sections, but tubs vs clinchers is your choice. Roads are fantastic (at least compared to the UK); I've never had a puncture in France, Belgium, Spain or Italy! I'd suggest ali braking surfaces, as you may be unlucky and get a wet day or days, maybe even descending in fog or mist which means constant braking all the way down for upwards of 30minutes. Personally I just used my training wheels - DT 1.1 rims 28/32 round spokes on 240 hubs. My thinking is that its not a race, I dont need to gain seconds advantage over anyone (or minutes for that matter); I'd rather have the security that if I broke a spoke I can ride on, and fix it easily myself in the evening, and comfort is more important than performance.
3. Just do what you can do. The first and last day have minimal climbing, so its just three days of cols (how hard can it be? ). Remember that you have all day; IMO its best to use it - take in the scenery, stop on the cols, take some pictures, etc, etc, so its not as tough as it sounds, and dont get stressed about it
4. Recovery - stretch and eat loads!
More generally, for the average rider assuming conditions arent ridiculous (excessive heat or cold aside) its not excessively hard. You get up early, do a 2 hours, stop for your hot chocolate and a snack and take in the view, do another couple of hours, have an hour for lunch, knock out the remainder maybe with stop for a coffee on the top of a col or whatever. You roll into the hotel at 4pm, kip for a couple of hours, have a massive dinner and a couple of beers, go to sleep at 9:30 for 10 hours, wake up refreshed - and rinse and repeat! Its not like setting a time on the Marmotte where you end the day shattered, or at least I wouldnt approach it like that.
I had phenomenally crap weather - pouring rain from start to finish and thick mist on most of the cols. I knocked out day 4 in one hit, treating it like a race or event. Its doable, but there's less enjoyment - I cant recall anything from that day apart from keeping my head down, whereas I can remember having a chocolate (in the rain) on the aubisque, dropping off down into argeles for a long lunch (in the rain), etc, etc.
Umm, cant really think of anything else. The route is terrific, apart from the drag into Ax le Thermes, which is as crappy as any cycling I've done - 20 km uphill drag in the rain with a headwind, on a busy main road.
You'll love it (the rest of it - not the ax le therms bit! )
The only reason I was thinking of getting the tubs (apart from being lighter) is that they are more enjoyable to ride, but you are right about the problems that might occur.
I am really looking forward to it!
astranoc wrote:And then most important part is the training. I am already in a fairly good shape (for February that is..) but it's hard with work and life to schedule multiple long outings. I can't even replicate the climbing because there is nothing like those mountains around here. I plan to take 4-5 days off in the end of April and go do 3-4 consecutive days of 150-180kms routes just to bring the body in a similar condition.
Last year I didn't do a lot of climbing for 2-3 months, but I did high-resistance training (riding 53:11 on the flat, or the hardest gear you can push smoothly on an easy incline). That helped me a lot in developing strength, and once I went back to the Alps I climbed better than before. I did twice a week 3-4 intervals with around 10-15min each, in the neighbourhood of 80-85% max hearth rate, just to give you an idea.