La Plagne, like Alpe d’Huez but…
Twenty-one hairpins, longer and tougher than Alpe d’Huez the climb up La Plagne was one I was looking forward to.
In the 40 minutes it took for me to drive to the start at Aime, I had already consumed a 700ml bottle of water. It was another stifling hot day.
Conveniently, near the start of the climb, there was a large car park and a potable tap.
Unlike Alpe d’Huez, the area and road were quiet and there was also a welcome absence of brake and clutch dust in the air to ‘enjoy’.
The 20K climb is to yet another Ski metropolis ghost town (and a former Olympic Games Host).
Unlike Alpe d’Huez, the bends do not refer to past cycling heroes. They are just numbered. Somebody obviously had some foresight by not having to replace some names every now and again (for some reason).
Despite the road only leading to La Plagne with no further destination, the traffic still rushed up the road at an alarming speed. It again made me wonder if there were Strava segments for cars.
If it comes down does it have to up?
In the scorching heat, the 8% gradient start was hard work, but the amazing landscape and poor road surface gave me other things to think about and I settled down.
The first Km marker pops up 17Km to go but confusingly Garmin with the TdF route loaded displays 20Km.
For the next Km this conundrum distracts me until the top of the climb comes into view.
“Ahh yes, I rememeber now “.
The climb finishes above the town at the swanky ski apartments where the well-heeled relax to watch skiers after retail therapy.
Content now I settled back down and counted down the hair pins.
Alarmingly though as the hair pin bend numbers dropped into single digits the gradient decided to go double digits.
It is rare for me to stand when climbing, but the rude 12% interruption to my autopilot 8% and the upcoming shade made me leave the saddle.
It was only 1Km but it was a tough Km, and I was glad of the drop to a seemingly pleasant 8%.
Keep right onto the end of the road
I hauled myself into town at the end of the 17Km, but not the end of the segment.
Above me loomed the apartment block and with it a route of potential cock ups.
It was not a straight road.
There were turn offs and roundabouts.
The segment would be ruined if I made a wrong turn, meaning a re-ride hell.
I have ‘enjoyed’ this scenario once too often already.
Glued to the route map and oblivious to the final 13% joy, I made the final push with the Garmon fan-faring and ‘End of Route’.
A shaded wooden bench to fall onto.
I sat there for a while with my head drooped watching the sweat drip from my bandana and briefly wet the pavement.
After draining my water bottle, I rolled down from the large lodge complex into the shopping area where the green neon SPAR market sign had caught my eye on the way up.
If you want to eat you have to climb
The shop was up a short 20% ramp and second after my aching legs had hauled me up there; it was *u&£ing FERME.
However, all was not lost, as a café in the retail square came to my rescue.
I gladly paid the premium price for a sandwich and coffee and the chance to refill my depleted water bottles.
Refreshed, I raced down in anticipation of swinging this way and that around 21 hairpins.
The dream and reality were, however, slightly different.
In Sean Kelly terms, La Plagne might be a technical descent, which means the road surface is terrible.
But it was more fun than ascending.
Back at the car park, it was 43C and I dared to open the car.
It was like sticking your head into an open oven.
I opened all the doors and sat in the shade exhausted and drank.