Telegraph-Galibier on "Stand-in Simon"

We returned to the French Alps, specifically to St-Jean-de-Maurienne, with one thing on our to do list. I was going to ride Col du Galibier via Col du Telegraphe.

There is some history to this, but as it turns out, the fact that I'd only ridden Galibier from Lauteret (which isn't the proper side according to KKB) doesn't factor much in this story.

The real story is getting to the alps to ride the Cols without a bike in working order. That's where "Stand-in Simon" the Scott bike comes in.

Apart from a cryptic post on Facebook, I haven't really written much about the mishap with my beloved Jens. Jens is my Trek Madone. He is of course named after Jens Voigt. He is of course purple. He is of course tough (he survived being cleaned up by a car better than I did).

Long story short, Jens is cracked and unrideable because stuff moved around while in transit in the back of our hire van.

So I googled bike hire in the area we were staying and found Sport 2000. I didn't hold a lot of hope of getting a bike that fitted me, least of all from a chain store. But we had to try.

We were in luck, kind of. I could get a 52cm Scott Speedster running Shimano 105, alloy frame of course. A far cry from my beautiful carbon Jens, and a size too big. On the plus side, it had an extra couple of cogs on the back, with a 28 to my current 25. With a few adjustments and my Selle Italia ladies seat, it would do the job.

"I think I'll call him Simon", I said to KKB, pointing out a huge poster in the shop of Simon Gerrans in his Australian champion jersey, astride his own Orica Green Edge Scott.

The next morning we had breakfast early and drove to the bottom of the climb. The only thing standing between me and the Galibier was my body, which hadn't fully recovered from Roth yet. In particular, my right hip was extremely stiff and sore.

I know, call the Wambulance. I was in the French Alps, about to ride Telegraphe-Galibier - one of the most iconic climbs of the Tour de France. This was the climb that set up Cadel Evans' tour win last year, and I was riding it on the seventh anniversary of Amy Gilletts fatal accident.

HTFU, AP!! So off I went on Simon the Scott.

From just outside St-Michele-de-Maurienne where the climb starts, you can see the Fort du Telegraphe above. It seems like its right there... but also seem so tiny, perching up there on that cliff...

While the destination seems a little foreboding, the ride up is really quite pleasant. Sure, its uphill without much respite for 12 ks, but you wind your way up through a very green forest. The scenery, when you glimpse it through the trees, is really quite spectacular.

After just under an hour and half, I arrived at Telegraphe. With 12 ks out of 30 ks climbing, I was not even halfway there. I had stopped and stretched a couple of times already. My right hamstring was burning and I could easily have just stopped for fear of doing some real damage.

KKB wasn't going to let that happen. After a couple of snaps with the Telegraphe sign, he said he'd meet me in Valloire, which is at the bottom of a short descent... Before the big climb begins.

Valloire is a pretty town. Like many of the cycling Meccas it's a ski village in winter. No real time to look around for me, just some food from my pockets and a refill for my water bottle from the water fountain and I pulled out to start the beast.

I hadn't even left Valloire yet and the gradient was brutal! I didn't have the legs for 18ks of this... Help! But then I remembered KKBs advice that this was one of the worst bits and it flattens out a bit after that. So I just rode it out, making very good use of that 28 on the back.

The outlook changes completely during this climb. No forest, just open country, plenty of which is pastoral fields. Today was a warm day so the sun kicked in too. Not so much it was hot, just really pleasant riding weather.

I met KKB again about 8ks from the top at a little cafe. This time I stopped, but just for a soft drink (Orangina - it's weird, orange fizzy drink with the fruit's pulp!) and a couple of Nurofens. Why I hadn't popped a couple of these puppies earlier I'll never know.

From here it kicks up again until the summit but the views are amazing.

This is a famous Tour de France climb and there are reminders written on the road all the way up. After enduring seemingly thousands of 'ANDY' and 'FRANK' from last year, finally there was a 'VOIGTE'. Spelled incorrectly and all.

"That's for us Simon, we can take that, since you're a stand-in for Jens".

Not long after this I pulled over for another stretch, and a photo, and just ayer a couple of motorcyclists pulled into the same area. Stand-in Simon, as he was now known, was laying down just off the road.

After the usual bonjour, apology for speaking very little French, and a mime about how beautiful the view was, one of the motorcyclists gestured to ask if he could pick up Simon. He did and marveled at how light it was, and oohed and aaahed.

Explaining that Simon was just a rental bike and wasn't as flash as most of the other bikes whizzing up the climb would have required interpretive dance skills that are way beyond my abilities, so I smiled and nodded and thanked them. But it gave me pause for thought. We get so caught up with the latest this and the lightest that with our bikes.

But to be honest, Stand-in Simon was doing great. I don't know how long it's been since Scott made Speedsters, but for old, middle to bottom end of the range componentry, the gear changes were seamless. Everything turned over like clockwork - in fact some of the bikes that passed me sounded like they needed a lot more work than Stand-in Simon.

I think the extra couple of gears on the back were compenating some for any extra weight Simon had over Jens. But all in all, I honestly had no complaints. You often hear about how renting a bike isn't the same as riding your own - of course it's not - but if Stand-in Simon is anything to judge by, renting a bike isn't as bad an option as I'd previously thought.

After a couple of photos, one selfie and one taken by my new friend, it was off for the last 6kms.

I still can't believe how clear these photos are. I was rewarded for my perseverence and for taking a chance on rented Stand-in Simon with a clear day. If the views on the way up were good, the view from the top was just priceless. Unfortunately, the only one I can access to post here is of me and Stand-in Simon at the sign that denotes the summit...

Telegraphe-Galibier done.

No comments:

Post a Comment