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Alpe D’Huez Triathlon 2023

Wow just wow. Where to start….due to covid, injury and other factors this has taken me four years to get to the start line.

David (Hinch) and I took a gamble with this one and turned the trip into a bit of a French Alps cycling holiday. Due to the timing of David’s Extreme Norseman event (just 10 days after Alpe D’Huez!) we did the riding pre event! Most people taper - not us, that’d be boring and when in Rome as they say you’ve got to make the most of it!! We did just that. Few photos below of us on the magnificent cols (mountain passes) we climbed and enjoyed. They do not stop giving! A must do for any passionate roadie.

The pre-event warm up rides

Day 1 - La Toussuire. A ski resort in winter and cyclist play ground in Summer. 12.1km climb with an average gradient of 7%.

Day 2 - Col du Chaussy (via the 30 hairpins over 3km of Montvernier) & Col de Madeline. The photos says it all and Madeline is a beast! 20km of constant climbing with an average gradient of 8%.

Day 3 - The mighty Col de La Croix de Fer (28km climb with an average gradient 5.5%) via Col du Mollard descending Col Du Glandon back to base. Simply awesome day with views to die for.

Those rides were all started from our base at St Jean de Maurienne.

Time to get into event mode…

Now that we’d given the legs a spin out lol it was time to move on to Alpe D’Huez a 90 minute drive away to meet up with Becky Kirvan-Rogers and the rest of the KR family to get into race mode. We had a rest day on Wednesday to register & rack the bikes before the main event. Albeit we racked mine minus its front wheel following a tyre blow out on route. Tim KR to the rescue!

Alpe D’Huez Triathlon is billed as one of the most beautiful and challenging races in the world. A real bucket list experience for us all. Bring it on….

The swim

The start is held in Lac du Verney reservoir at an altitude of 2,300 feet, home to the most powerful hydroelectric power plant in France. Fortunately they turn it off for the race. The 2.2km swim was fresh 🥶 with water temps at just 14.5 degrees Celsius. I get cold easily so was somewhat apprehensive for this.

The organisers started to let athletes in 10 minutes prior to the start time. I was in no rush to get in and noticed that some athletes who entered the water earlier swam over to the opposite bank to get out and rest on exposed rocks. Not knowing if this was to save energy or just experienced athletes knowing it was cold I left it until the last minute which worked just fine for me. I settled into the middle of the pack and just did my thing having a solid swim that, for me I was happy with. I was out of the water in AG 21st and now super motivated to do my best work on the bike….

The bike

This event is ideally suited for the stronger cyclists with a total distance of 115km and over 10k feet of clinging including three mountain passes finishing up the famous 21 switchbacks of the climb to Alpe D’Huez.

Basically I was going in my happy place throughout.

The ride out of transition was chaos as the men started their swim 15 minutes after the women so front runners were exiting the water the same time as I did. Either way it meant for some speedy (legal spaced of course) riding at the start around them during the opening 20k of flat smooth roads, ideal to get the legs spinning & warmed up. We then hit the first col which took a good hour to summit with my plan of managing my HR, pulling back if I saw it creeping up. I felt strong throughout and was passing quite a few females which was great for my confidence as in my mind I still had work to do post swim to improve my race position.

The first time I checked my bike computer to see how long I’d been riding for was after four hours! Sign of a good time and by that point I was almost at the top of the second col with only a descent and the infamous Alpe D’Huez left to do. Knowing this ride was coming to an end I actually felt a real tinge of sadness! I refocused back to the race and my now dialled in (following a lot of trial and error!) nutrition strategy by taking on a gel at the bottom with one gel left as a treat for the last few bends.

The climb and support did not disappoint. It was warm at the bottom but felt cooler the higher up we got as temperatures dropped ascending into the ski resort. I monitored my HR keeping the legs spinning utilising the bigger cassette fitted prior to the event and it was perfect for me. I played games with myself that I was only allowed into the big ring if the gradient was red on my Wahoo and one ring down for amber gradients. Sounds silly writing it now but gave me stuff to think about, a way of pushing and not get lazy. Either way it worked as I felt strong for the last 10 bends and PR’d them all (it was my 4th time doing the climb) and a testament to a solid quality build of long, sometimes hard rides. Subsequent post race analysis showed I’d moved up to a very pleasing 9th in my age group. Question now was, is there enough strength for the run?

The run

I was confident going into this after getting a PB at LCW Wales the month before but this wasn’t just any run, it’s a three lap course round the majestic Alpe D’Huez resort at an altitude of 5,900 feet over 22km. A hilly trail run on uneven ground including a section down the airport runway which was steeper than steep! I felt good coming off the bike and just ran knowing the HR number that I can hold and stuck to it. Legs felt strong too as I’ve been working on my S&C this season and it’s been a game changer. Some climbs were steep so I “walked with purpose” up those and made sure I opened up on the descents. It was hot and humid so I threw water over myself every opportunity I got and was pleased with how I performed at altitude following bad experiences previously.

I finished the event 6th in my age group, made up more places on the run and was just 13 minutes off the podium with an overall time of 8 hours 53 minutes.

I would say this was one of the best events I’ve competed in and one of my proudest too. It was different, I like that!

As always it was a pleasure to have shared it with my OTCF team mates. Steve’s coaching worked yet again, even if I was wondering what he was doing sending me out on loads of very slow runs prior to then event. Appears his methods do really work!

Next stop Belgium for the 🇬🇧 Middle Distance European Champs August bank holiday weekend and Ironman Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 the weekend after in September to complete my 2023 season. Bring it on!!

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