“Well that was unpleasant. New levels of pain and suffering were experienced this weekend in Switzerland. Oh Maratonna, Oh Marmotte, Oh etape you are just mildly annoying children in comparison to this heartless beast.
125km, 5000m vertical ascent, and 44 degree heat. No wonder they could only find 650 fools to take part in this monster ride.
From the start in Verbier the road blasts north. No gentle intro, no warm up, just up up up. At the top a tunnel; “Welcome to hell” reads the sign, as Brian Johnsons band of minstrels belt out their tunes from within the dimly lit mountain. This could be fun I thought.
Wrong. We descend 5 km, quick, over what feels like a slip sliding sea of oily marbles. Thank christalp that’s over, it can’t get worse than that.
Wrong. The next 11 hours consist of crawling up dusty cols, sun stabbing at your back before plummeting in to the next of six valleys the course traverses over an increasingly suicidal series of drops.
Roots, rocks, ravines thrown at us, make a mockery of Hadleigh farms efforts. Unable to prep for this (I only bought an mtb last year and Epping is no training ground) I lost time again and again limping, tumbling, rolling earthward as locals flew past bouncing over the scree and rocks, their technique an art. By the end I was getting better but having promised my daughter I would see her again, knuckles again whitened as the brakes were squeezed, fear flushing though my pulverized brain.
In this race there is not a second to relax. Either the physical effort of climbing or the mental trauma of coming down piled pressure on pressure, again and again. Time on the road helped me pull back time on each climb, passing row on row of burly veterans and wasted yoofs only to then…
…nothing prepares you for what is to come. 15km from the end, with the Matterhorn looming over, the road rises then disappears.
A scree of loose, frost blasted shale cascades down the mountain from the ridge 1000m ahead. Feet slip, six inches a step up and over the desperate demented souls heave their wilted carcasses and fractured frames. Lungs, shrivelled tongues like dogs slurping up any oxygen in this 3000m high cauldron of the damned.
But we did it. Somehow. Many didn’t and if there was a viable alternative maybe I too would have climbed into the voiture balai. Instead past dam and through glacial blue water I rode to the finish.
Would I do this again? Maybe.
Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. I am seriously proud I finished and would like to thank Simon sincerely for getting me into this.
So to conclude, almost, with the words of Peter Cook
“from being dead you learn how to be alive…” some will know the next line.”
We are a group of London-based cyclists, who get together for races and training rides. We have a website forum as our virtual clubhouse, and instead of regular weekly club rides from a set place we arrange to meet up for mountain bike, road or cyclocross rides, races and time trials from a variety of venues. We also meet up socially every month.