All Great Cyclists Used to be Fifty-Nine

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01/12/2006| 0 comments
by Paul Rogen
Grinding past Tom Simpson's resting spot. Photo copyright
Grinding past Tom Simpson's resting spot. Photo copyright

All Great Cyclists Used to be Fifty-Nine

It has been a year since I concluded that all great cyclists are fifty-nine.

I climbed over fifteen category 1 or Hors-Categorie climbs.   In no particular order I spun up the Col de
la Croix Fry , Col de Peyresourde,
Cormet de Roselend , Col d?Aubisque, Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier and a passel of more minor ups. You get the idea; if it was there, I climbed it on my bike, often shepherding a group of fellow riders for Thomson Bike Tours.   My best day was probably a reconnaissance ride with my good French pal, Eric de St Maurice up Telegraph and Galibier at a good pace.  Two massif climbs sandwiched around the sweet mountain
village of
.  Eric is just half my age and usually twice as fast.   After a furious struggle, we topped out in total fog and wind with visibility of less than 10 meters .  I felt just plain great, like a world beater.   Eric went forward down to Bourg d? Oisans and I turned and retreated back to get the car.   I felt I really understood this climb and could confidently lead a group of Thomson Bike Tour clients later in the week.   This proved to be the toughest ride of the year.   The descent, I mean.   It was so cold and foggy, and I was forced to pull in the brakes to insure I did not fly off into the ether to not be found for days.   Within five minutes, my hands were frozen blocks and quit working; no grab left.  I needed to pull one hand and then the other back and tuck behind my knee for 10 seconds to gain some relief.   The problem was that it was so steep I needed both brakes to keep my speed in check.   A classic dilemma without a solution except to hang on and suffer.  I was nearly done in but got very focused as if my life depended on it and wound my way back through the endless switchbacks until I emerged out of the fog and gained a bit of warmth.   I stopped and tucked both hands under my armpits and screamed until I got full feeling and strength back.   Then I took off and flew at 50- 60 km per hour down the valley and through Valloire and up over the hump and down Telegraph to reach the car just at darkness.  



A few days later I skipped Alp d?Huez as I had done that in 2004 and was heading for Ventoux the next day.   I still put in my standard 80- 90 kilometers but felt I needed to save a bit for Eddy the next day.   I absolutely could not skip Ventoux.   Even Walter Mitty cyclists need to keep vows on public challenges.


From Grenoble, where we were staying (actually Eybens, but who ever heard of Eybens?) it was a good long transfer down to
.  The Tour de France riders were taking the day


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