Thursday, July 7, 2011

Climbing to the top

Does it seem like we are all doing a lot of climbing these days? There is usually no coasting downhill in our personal or business life, but always many mountains to cross. I’ve been doing my share of climbing lately so a little diversion is welcome.

The Tour de France has just begun. It is a favorite event as the competition is a metaphor for the extreme effort it takes to conquer life’s challenges; in this case the lofty peaks of the Pyrenees and the Alps. Competitive cycling appears to be an individual event, but the importance of a strong team is paramount!

Stage 19 on July 22nd will be crazy! I cycled this route several times, but never in one day! The riders will first go over a category 1 climb and then tackle an absolute brute up the north route over the “beyond” category Col du Galibier! There is a short downhill before they start the 21 hairpins to the finish of the iconic Alpe d’Huez. Three years ago there were almost a million fans on the mountain!

The Tour de France organization is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the addition of the Col du Galibier as a race route. The road in 1911 was rocky, dirt and very treacherous. The times I have ridden over the Galibier were nothing short of a suffer fest. The weather in the morning can be clear, warm and glorious, but by the afternoon it can be freezing rain at the summit!

“Are we close to the summit?”

I’m on a road heading down toward Bourg d’Oisans at the base of the mythical Alpe d’Huez.

L’Alpe d’Huez is 13.8 kilometers long with an average gradient of 7.9%. If you have never watched a cycling race in your life, this is the one to see! Give this stage a look on Versus or NBC. You will not believe how many people are on the side of the road during the race! Trust me on this one.

May all your mountains be conquered! They say it builds character. I’ll go with that.

***2008 was the last year they included L’Alpe d’Huez in the Tour de France. This 2 minute video clip really shows what the monster is like!

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