Today was originally scheduled to be a day off, but some risk of poor weather ahead convinced us to set off on the big ride over the col d"izoard and on to the monstrous col d' Agnel, a mere 119kms, some had wisely chosend the day off option and others a shorter 70km option.
The weather dawned fine and all looked to in order for a fantastic day of cycling in the mountains, a slight hick up with Jonah's gears in the first km of the first climb should have been enough to warn us that the day was to be anything other than routine. The first ascent of the Izoard came without incident, in fact it is a stunning climb, incredible summit and was enjoyed by all. Although Jonah's gears continued to misbehave, he was able to reach the top, incident free. Not long after the fast a furious descent we started the long haul up to the 2744m summit of the col d'Agnel, 22km and 6.4%.
About 5km into the climb of the col d'Agnel disaster struck and Jonah's back freehub completely seized. With no vehicle following on the road we had to make a distress call home, which meant a long 3 hour roadside wait, before Jonah could be rescued. Meanwhile the rest of us headed to the summit of the Agnel, some 16km away. Four km from the summit we were held up again with a flat tyre, no real drama, just a 2 minute stop required (thank goodness for CO2 cartridges).
Finally six of us reached the summit of the Agnel, which is incredible, 2744m high, this is the second highest point we will climb to on tour and it is visually stunning. It is even possible to stand here with one foot in France and the other in Italy. After a few photos, it was time to head back down and check on Jonah who we had left in a small village on his own some 90 minutes earlier. We set of in pairs, Brad and Ray leading, all the while expecting demon descender, Gordo to flash by at any minute. We reached the small town and located Jonah, still no sign of Gordo and Kirsty, but 30sec later a text confirmed that Gordo had come a cropper on the descent and our rescue vehicle would now be taking two warriors home. Gordo limped down to the village 10 minutes later and once we were sure the support vehicle was close, the five remaining riders set off for the long haul home over the other, "much more difficult" side of the Izoard, it was going to be a long ride home!
Finally, some two hours after leaving Jonah and Gordo, we all reached the summit of the Izoard for the second time. Cold and a bit weary we set off for the descent back to Briancon. Finally our very long day cam to an end, tomorrow is a rest day and then we are heading off to the legendary L'Alpe d'Huez, hopefully we have put all of our mishaps behind us and we can just focus on the glorious suffering that only cycling in the high mountains can bring.
Brian Bubba Cooke
Exercise Physiologist, coach & cycling tragic for 30 years. Love the freedom, reward and sense of achievement that one can only experience in our amazing sport.