Alpine Goldmine - 53x11 Mckay

After being picked up from uni on Friday, the next day I was off to France for 9 days of gurning around some alps.

On Saturday morning my chilled vibe was rudely interrupted by an overweight bike box at the airport bag drop. After shedding pedals, protein bars and drink mix into my hand luggage I had reached BA’s sufficient race weight. Hopefully I wouldn’t be worrying about this on the return flight; I should come back a lot leaner in several ways.

From Heathrow a short flight to Lyon was followed by a drive to Vaujany where we registered for the following day’s granfondo ( A beautiful dinner of supermarche delights followed overlooking the misty mountain scenery in  Oz en Oisans where we were staying for the week.

Day 1 – Vaujany Granfondo: 185km

The next morning we awoke at the crack of dawn for the Vaujany but still managed to miss the official start. We chased to the line to que our timing-chips against an oncoming peloton and spent the next half hour riding through-and-off to the bottom of the first climb in order to try and catch up with some of the field. After riding full gas up the Col de la Morte, we rode the Col du Ornon and Col du Sarenne steadily slower. The final climb up to Vaujany dragged endlessly. It seemed that a 39 was probably too big for these climbs, I rolled around at 60 rpm in the inescapable heat of the sun.

My official time was 06:51:32 over the 175km course, which placed me 83rd overall. Considering we’d missed the start – key to getting in a quick group, I was fairly pleased, although my pacing strategy certainly could be improved. I only saw one guy passing me in the entire ride, not counting stopping at feed stations.

Day 2 – La Bérarde & Col de Sarenne: 134km





After a much needed lie-in, we cruised up to a little chalet at the end of a twisting alpine road at la Bérarde; the most scenic caff stop I’ve ever had. After a brew and jabon-fromage sandwhich (an almost exclusive stop-choice for the week), we rode the Col de Sarenne. The patchy road surface was broken up with the names of the pro’s, written on by fans of the Dauphine which had passed up just a few weeks before. Ominous clouds began to spit with rain and we decided “yates you can” have two cafe stops in one ride. We sheltered in Alpe d’huez and warmed up over hot chocolates whilst the showers passed before finally dropping down to the bottom of the valley and riding the final climb back to the chalet.

Day 3 – La Toussuire, les Lacets de Montvernier & Col du Glandon: 98km

With a rainy afternoon forecast, another early start was needed. We drove up to the top of the Croix de Fer and did a gorgeous loop via Saint-Jaunne-de-Maurenne for a shop-stop and back up the Glandon. We also went up the iconic 17 hairpins of les Lacets de Montvernier which featured in the Tour in 2015. The early start payed off as we didn’t get wet apart from a slightly sweaty effort up the Glandon.

Day 4 – Col du Glandon, Col du Mallard & Croix de Fer: 166km

I arranged to meet up with my team mate Hamish Carrick for the day and ended up riding a similar loop to the day before but in reverse. Rain hit after descending the Glandon so we sheltered in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne over coffee and baguettes.



Once fully caffeinated we drove hard up the Col du Mollard, climbing for a solid 90 minutes non-stop. After descending down the other side we briefly stopped with a donkey at the bottom of the Croix de Fer. Now the weather really turned prompting me to reach for my emergency Kendle Mint Cake and stuff a newspaper up my gilet. Once I hit the final climb back up to Oz the sugar kicked in and I warmed up, arriving wet but happy.

To my horror, I immediately learned that Nathan had crashed on his ride that morning. Whilst descending his front tyre hit a small rock and exploded, sending him flying into a rock face at full pelt. The result was not pretty…


View this post on Instagram

Road to 2018 starts here

A post shared by nathan_1985 (@nathan_1985) on Jun 29, 2017 at 3:12am PDT

Day 5 – Rest day exploring: 39 km

Wednesday morning was spent visiting Nathan in hospital. We drove down to Grenoble, en route retrieving Nathan’s bike from the local gendarmerie, to the bleak concrete block where he was hooked up to antibiotics. The weather in the mountains was stormy but the atmosphere was sunnier at the hospital in several ways as we tried to lift Nathan’s spirits. Despite an obvious end to his holiday and time off the bike ahead, he was positive and gracious. I went out in the rain that afternoon, exploring misty twisting lanes.

Day 6 – Col de la Morte, Col d’Ornon & Oulles: 140km

With the rain clouds out of the picture, Hamish tempted me with a longer ride to help embed the tanlines. Tan level seemed to correlate well to form; I seemed to go better on each climb of the day, culminating in a cheeky strava KOM on one of the Oulles climb segments.

Day 7 – Alpe d’huez/Marmotte registration: 68km

The registration for Sunday’s Marmotte Granfondo was taking place at the top of Alpe d’huez which gave us the perfect excuse to recce the final climb with a churn up the infamous 21 hairpins. After some queuing, waiting around and galette munching our preparation for tomorrow was complete.

Day 8 – Marmotte Granfondo Alpes: 208km

Horrifically early o’clock, forcing down breakfast, stumbling up to the van with the bikes and a drive down the valley. Then a ride into Bourg d’Oisans for the start along with 9000 other lycra-clad humans. I set off way too hard, smashing up the Col du Glandon with endless French lean-beans. The following descent was gratefully neutralised; it was wet, gravely and generally pretty sketchy. I managed to find a fairly strong group to ride along the valley with, however most seemed content just to sit in. I was eager to push on and at one point broke away with one other (the cameraman in the video below).

I pushed on up the Col du Télégraphe with the fastest in the group but after stopping to refill my bottles at the summit, found myself exposed in the wind on the rolling descent. However, once on the next climb I found I was catching up and dropping those who’d left me earlier. I felt the benefits of having done plenty of long rides before as I felt strong rolling through with a handful of riders after the fast descent. I stopped at the bottom of Alpe d’huez for a quick snack and then emptied the tank up the climb to finish in a time of 06:28:57 (87th fastest on the day).




The quickest way home was a 25km ride, but I didn’t feel too bad after a complimentary pasta and coke at the finish line.

All in all I had a great week; beautiful roads, stunning alpine scenery, great company and a much improved tan. Moreover, I was well under the weight limit at Lyon airport on Monday morning!

Total: 1038km in 43 hours