In his preparation for la Marmotte, Wiebe went on altitude training in his own bedroom. Now he reports on the result. How did he fare during this legendary granfondo?
Dress rehearsal: Cobbles ride
A previous article I wrote a week after the last night in the altitude tent. To be precise, this was first Pentecost this year, and the day of the Cobbles ride. To prepare properly, I had opted for a week of rest. Some cycling, but no more than commuting and participating in the summer evening competition in Tilburg. Before the Cobbles ride, I had taken almost three full days of rest, ate and drank well. No alcohol or staying up late, but relaxing and going to bed early.
Going to the Marmotte full of confidence
Judge for yourself, my Strava data didn't lie, and my Garmin agreed. Never before had I completed a 100-mile ride solo faster. When I participated in Milan San-Remo in 2019, I rode slightly faster, but that was largely in a 200-strong peloton. During the Cobbles ride, I covered 164 kilometres within 5 hours with an average power of 266 watts, and for those who want to know, this was normalised power.
But apart from the numbers, the best result from this ride was the feeling. I was still able to give full throttle after four hours of pounding through. I definitely did not go to the limit, the whole ride actually. During the ride, I was also able to take my recovery moments. You shouldn't compare this to what a pro does, of course. A pro cyclist's bike is a bit bigger than an avid cycling tourist like me. Still, an average power output of 3.4 watts per kilogram of body weight is quite nice over this distance.
Popping in the alps
What matters, of course, is how the Marmotte went. Well, that was quite an adventure! There was a 185-kilometre ride with 5433 altimeters on the menu this year. With some 7000 starters, I'm sure I wouldn't be last, but I also knew from the start that I wouldn't be first. When you are 186cm tall and weigh almost 80 kilos, it is safe to assume that such a pocket climber of 155cm and 55 kilos rides up a climb a lot faster and easier. I was under no illusions and mainly went for the experience and the first participation. The knowledge and experience from the final rehearsal in the Cobbles ride gave me enough confidence that I could cross the finish line.
About the Col de la Croix-de-Fer
And then comes the start. Slow down, you think in your head. Well forget that, because there was crazy hard riding leading up to the Col de la Croix-de-Fer. Speeds of over 50km/h meant we were at the foot of the climb within half an hour. Finding rest on the climb worked pretty well. I had resolved to keep riding around 250 watts until the top, and I managed to keep that up well. Climbing with a wattage meter is a lot easier when you know where your limits are.
The Croix-de-Fer is a climb of almost 30 kilometres long with a 1,494-metre altitude gain and a summit higher than the infamous 2,000 metres hey. But once at the top, I still felt as fresh as a daisy and was looking forward to the next climb. Extraordinary how easily I reached the top, it felt like I was recovering during the climb. A good amount of young red blood cells certainly helped.