Col du Petit Saint Bernard
A bit of a pain
The last few days had been demanding, so I seized the opportunity to ride a nearby lower gradient climb.
The catch, however, is that at 298Km the Col du Petit Saint Bernard is the longest climb on the 100 list.
Rated at 6/10 with a 4.6% average with a few 7-8% bumps, it was still a demanding ride on a hot day.
The day did not start great.
I woke up with a sharp pain and a locked right shoulder.
Holding the handlebars would not be fun today, I thought.
One thing I have learnt over the years as a solo traveller is being able to sort my aches and pains. Time for the Fix Phil bag of tricks.
First off, some yoga stretches to get things moving, then a massage gun pummelling session (yes, I packed one with me).
Still painful, but moving, but some ibuprofen and a squirt of Voltrarol for good measure and I was ready to PARTY.
(I hope that by confessing this that UCI/WADA will not step in and discount my climb).
Warming up the quads
Fooled by the Tom-tom tricks yet again. I need to get to Seez, which it displays as being only 19 miles away until driving is selected, then it’s 41.
During my drive at 10:30, the car was already at 28C, and I had already finished a 750ml bottle of water.
It felt like I had opened an oven door when I arrived in the town and opened my car door.
My aspirations of a sub-2-hour climb looked in danger. This was going to be a hot one.
I was ready and as I span down the road, I had the inclining that it “Would be nice to lighten the load” and as if by magic, a sign for the local WC caught my eye. Great.
Oh no! One of those stand over a hole jobbies.
A wet shiny floor and wearing hard plastic cleats. What could go wrong? Thankfully, it didn’t, but at least it fired up the quads.
Keeping to the plan
The road was amazingly quiet, and it was a change to spin a 70+ cadence in a reasonable gear up the shallow gradient.
The temptation was to change gear but I resisted as there was still 20Km to go.
As was already on a sub 2 hour time my plan was to keep to the plan.
Near the halfway and the woodland recedes to a wide-open landscape with 13 hairpins. WOW!
In the distance, the snow-covered mountains towered against the blue-sky backdrop and in the distance, the statues of the Guardians and the Hospice awaited my arrival.
The road now zig-zagged under the summit, giving the impression that you were never actually getting any closer, but at last the final hairpin.
My thoughts that the Hospice marked the end of the climb were mistaken as another km remained.
With a concerted effort, I changed gear and pushed hard and sped through the finish line and “Ciao” 1:54:04. I was in Italy.
This was another occasion when I could tell someone that I cycled to another country and allow them to enhance the details in their own minds.
Can’t stop stopping
Although the sun shone brightly, an icy chill would blow through, and a sheltered spot for a coffee gave me the opportunity to gasp in awe at the beautiful landscape.
Eventually, I dragged. myself up to think about descending.
Everywhere was a photo opportunity which made my descending time almost as long as my ascent.
I had to stop time and time again and say to myself, “Look at that”, “Wow”, “Yes take it”.
This was one of those great days to ride this Col, but I knew that on a bad day with so much open space, it would be a completely different story.
Thank you, Col du Petit Saint Bernard.