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MESMERISED BY LA MARMOTTE

Welcome to the mad ramblings of a Yorkshire lass now living in Staffordshire who thought that La Marmotte would be a cool way to spend a long weekend in the French Alps.
Training started in earnest in late December with the employment of a coach in the form of Richard Simmonds. I am sure the poor guy had no idea what he was letting himself in for when he took me on. I keep telling him that you cant make a silk purse from a sows ear… I have never ridden a European sportive before… Experienced cyclists look at me as though I am mad when I tell them I am doing La Marmotte.
Has it all been a big mistake?
First big weekend is a 10 mile TT on the Levens course on the Saturday, treat followed by the Lakeland Loop sportive on the Sunday…
Accommodation booked for the Saturday night – many thanks to Banerigg Guest House in Grasmere for a lovely B&B stopover.

A small matter of shoehorning both bikes into the car and heading off from Staffordshire on Saturday morning. The weekend bodes well with glorious weather and a 10 mile PB of 25:24. No upsetting the front runners but a major milestone for me. Get back to the car, unpack road bike from boot, reinstate rollers and TT bike and accompanying paraphernalia, cover with nice tartan picnic cloth and wedge in road bike. Everything is now in the right order for unloading the following morning.

Leisurely drive to Banerigg Guest House, quick walk around Grasmere, deflate road bike tyres as the car is in full sunlight and tubes at risk of blowing out. In bed by 9:30.

Sunday morning and the weather is stunning. I am promised by proprietors Angela & Martin that the weather will hold and we are in for a still, hot and sunny day. I will trust their judgement.

I am a little worried about the GPS ability to navigate me to the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel but these fears are unfounded as I get there safely and am registered by about 8:40. Chap next to me (in lovely retro maroon Solo jersey) lends me his track pump as mine chooses this morning to fail

Off and riding and descending the first steep road of the day (Red Bank) only a little over 4 miles in I encounter my first crash, just seconds after passing a “Cyclists – Test your brakes” sign. Three blokes are at the right hand side of the road. Two appear to be extracting the third from the dry stone wall so I slow a little with a shout of “are you OK”. Crash bloke is brushing green mould/moss off his jersey whilst assistants examinine his bike. They seem OK so on I go.

Most of the ride is pretty uneventful, apart from gawping at the stunning scenery. First cake stop of the day is well stocked and well run so a quick loo stop, refill of bottles and shove scone down my face and off I go. I am now in familiar territory having spent many holidays here and I know what is coming in the next 30 or so miles…

I pass the Bowerhouse where I have stayed a few times and into Eskdale Green. I am now on a major energy conservation strategy. Past the railway, the Brookhouse and the Woolpack. The Hard Knott Pass is now imminent…

Arriving at the infamous phone box at the base, the subject of many photos, it is less steep than I thought. However, I know from various trips up there in the VW van that the advertised 30% is an average and the worst is yet to come. Deep breath, bottom gear, out of the saddle. The first bit is actually quite easy and as I hit the middle section for a brief moment I think I might actually make it all the way over.

I then hit the final third where the road jacks sharp left then right. The gradient here is 33%. There is a van behind me (about 8 inches off my back wheel to be precise). I can smell the clutch burning out as it revs continuously. Cramps and loss of nerve mean I unclip before falling over and get off. “Unlucky – only 150m to the summit” comes the cry from a great bloke handing out water on the bend. I have no idea what time he must have installed himself there but hats off to him. I decline the water as my bottles are reasonably well replenished – let those really suffering take it.

Back on again and into the valley and a bit of a headwind. Eat, drink and be merry or something?! No, just eat, drink and survive. The headwind is only slight but a nagging irritation for tired legs. The Wrynose Pass seems slightly more forgiving and I stay on board for this one, cheered on by Mr Solo bike jersey who was parked next to me in the field (thanks once again for use of track pump).

Some sicko obviously decided that, not content with sending us over these climbs that within smelling distance of the finish they would send us over to Blea Tarn. A little 25% of nothing just to make sure we were paying attention. They had kindy stationed the photographer here too…

Finish time 5:05:47 I was aiming for under 6 hours so very pleased with that.

Treat myself to cappuccino and slab of cake at the pub before setting off home. Make it to Charnock Richard services before refuelling self due to risk of falling asleep.

Next stop Mallorca Training Camp with GPM10.

Louise Clowes