We woke today to drizzling rain, the morning we are to descend Alpe d’Huez. ‘’It’s unfair’’ we all thought. After the hard climbs of yesterday we were all looking forward to a fast descent back down the mountain, but it was not to be. So we all put on our wet gear and as much warm clothing as we had and started down the mountain.
It was to be a very slow descent, and on the brakes the whole way down. Now climbing a mountain is tough at the best of times, but holding the brakes in the cold and wet is almost as tough. My fingers were numb, and I was shivering and feeling cold almost from the start.
But the descent is steep, and that becomes even more noticeable when going down than when climbing up. It is especially noticeable at some of the switchbacks which seem to hang out from the side of the mountain with little or nothing really to stop you if you miss the turn … that has a way of ensuring you concentrate.
Fortunately we reached the base of the mountain safe and sound, but wet and cold. ‘’Time for another hot chocolate’’, I thought, but not to be, we went right at the roundabout and headed off for our first grouping spot at Vizille another thirty (30) kilometres further on. It was a great feeling as we rode as fast as we could along the very long and gentle down slope, I was feeling warm again as the sun started to come through and the drizzle stopped.
As has happened o often on this trip, we were in for another surprise with a long and hard day. This time not only the distance at 143 kms, but also some confusion regarding the route, and the stress of trying to ride as fast as we could to be able to see the Tour de France cross out route just outside Apremont. We were well behind time, and so needed to ride harder and faster, and then we came to the next major climb, St Pancrasse … it was not going to be possible to get over this climb in time. The fast group had gone ahead of us and were well up the road, so our group leader identified another route on the flat and he felt we could still make the time to see le tour. So we turned around and off we went again. After an hour or so Gwendale and Daniele our tour guides, realised we could not make the time, so we slowed down. I was exhausted anyhow but kept going, just wanting to get to the end.
Sometimes things work out, and sometimes not, but one thing for sure was evident today, and it was the effort our tour guides went to for us. We are fortunate indeed to have Enricho, Daniele, Gwendale and Jerome, and while many were disappointed not to see le tour, it was outside of everyone’s control to meet the timeframes and distance required. The planning had not been practical and the four (4) guides were at their limits trying to hold to an unrealistic schedule.
There’s a parallel for me in what I do as a project manager. Planning needs to be realistic, simple and practical.
I arrived into Aix les Bains, tired but happy at my effort for the day. It was a very long day, and the thought of the rest day tomorrow made me all the more happy to arrive at the hotel.
I want to acknowledge the efforts of the four (4) guides today, they tried but despite their efforts things did not work out as they would have liked…. grazie and mercie.
Tonight I can go to bed with my only thought … how do I get my washing done tomorrow?