TransAlps Day 5: Guillestre – Castallane

By Stephen Feeney

After a few very tough days taking in some of the highest and toughest cols in the Alps, and trying to batter each other in the process as we ‘competed’ in the unofficial King of the Mountains competition, day 5 started off with something of a truce amongst the team.

With complaints of injury, illness and downright unsociable riding (Karl! Craig! And, OK, me too!) we decided to have a steady start to the day and ride up the first climb, the Col De Vars, which started as soon as we left our hotel, as a group.

The day had started with a bit of drama after Si & Bambam, who were last down from their room after breakfast again, realised that they’d arrived too late to load their suitcases into our support vehicles, which were already en route to our next destination. At least they were attractively clad in team attire and the extra time taken on their appearance had been well spent!

TransAlp Day 5 1

Fortunately, in this age of communication, our support crew were soon called back to collect our tardy companions luggage so we could hit the road at a reasonable hour.

With ‘just’ 4,000 meters of climbing and a mere 2 cols to scale, today looked like being a relatively easy day, despite being some 162 km long.

Remarkably, we managed to stay sociable all the way up the climb, enjoying the magnificent scenery and taking the opportunity to take some pictures for the album!

Bambam and Craig setting the tempo

Bambam and Craig setting the tempo

Karl and Craig out of the saddle and looking like they’re ready to attack but they were on their best behaviour here!

Karl and Craig out of the saddle and looking like they’re ready to attack but they were on their best behaviour here!

We even managed to take a few snaps to keep our generous sponsors happy! No prizes for guessing who these impressive ‘guns' belong to!

We even managed to take a few snaps to keep our generous sponsors happy! No prizes for guessing who these impressive ‘guns’ belong to!

TransAlp Day 5 5After cruising over the Col de Vars with an unprecedented lack of aggression, we carried on towards the Col d’Allos but first it was to Barcelonette for lunch. However, we didn’t take it easy all the way there. As we reached the valley road, the team quickly adopted chain gang formation and over the next 15 km or so we swept up many of our challenge colleagues, and a few other cyclists too, so by the time we arrived for lunch, we were a sizeable group!

TransAlp Day 5 6It was much Croque Monsieurs and Coke all round for lunch, apart from Karl with his horse steak, before hitting the road again!

Again, the pace up the climb was steady and we were treated to the rare pleasure of John Myburgh’s company. John had enjoyed setting out before us earlier in the week to give us a target to chase but we had hunted him down before lunch and he was now part of the group which comprised most of the Chronomaster Team, father and son duo Graham & Gareth Balshaw and support crew member deluxe, Tony Lowe.

John Myburgh on the Col d’Allos

John Myburgh on the Col d’Allos

After the climb we regrouped at a café at the bottom of the descent. A group of 6 of us arrived after the main group having been delayed by some tired legs and a puncture.

Just as us late arrivals got comfy and ordered a coffee, we were informed that the rest of the group were heading off so it was a quick stop for us so we could ride back with them

Bambam, who had arrived with us late boys, and at this time really wasn’t enjoying the ride due a growing list of ailments, was not best pleased at this news! But, like the trooper he was all week, he got on his bike and pushed himself through the pain barrier!

I think the photo below was taken as John got the news that this was to be a very short stop just after settling down for a nice rest!

What? But we’ve only just got here!

What? But we’ve only just got here!

We had a sizeable group for the next section of the ride and we had an excellent rotation formation in operation. With short, fast, turns on the front the next 25 miles or so of the ride went swiftly, we even kept formation up a long steady climb! It was just after this that things started getting exciting!

As we crested the decent, John M and I found ourselves at the front of the group, pressing hard over the top of the hill we cranked up the speed on a long straight section of decent and kept it going through the first few bends. John had taken the first few bends at break neck speed but he suddenly remembered he was on a descent and quickly resumed his usual, cautious descending style!

However, some of us, particularly Craig, were beginning to build up a fair amount of momentum and courage on the technical descent and this ended with Craig leading Si, Kris and I down the hill and through the bends at ‘exciting’ speeds.

We regrouped as we reached the main road that would take us most of the way to Castallane. However, rather than cruise to our destination, the urge to push the pace on the rolling roads proved to be too much of a temptation. This led to our sizeable group splitting up and very soon there were men everywhere. We did have some 90 miles or so in our legs at this time!

As we swung by an amazingly bright blue lake, filled with glacial water, to cover the final few miles to the hotel did we;

  1. a) sit back and enjoy the wonderful scenery or
  2. b) engage in full on chain gang pace to the hotel

With full team kit on there was never any doubt about it and the pressure was on!

We cruised into town with Craig taking the honours for the destination town sprint. It was a mighty sprint that Mark Cavendish himself would have been proud of! Alternatively, Craig may have been on the front of the group as we rounded a corner to suddenly be presented with the Town boundary sign thus giving the team sprinters no time to prepare a strategy.

Here are my Strava stats for the ride;

https://www.strava.com/activities/330981978

That evening we enjoyed a well deserved wine or two. In fact it was more like 3, 4, or 5 after discovering that the wine accompanying our evening meal was free of charge and in plentiful supply. An impromptu, boozy night out followed and some of the images are too graphic to be included in this article!

TransAlp Day 5 10

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