Archive by Author

Col de la Madeleine & PROMPT D211

12 Sep
Ascending the Col de la Madeleine

Ascending the Col de la Madeleine

The Col de la Madeleine links the Tarentaise & Maurienne valleys. Even though the panel at the summit reads 2,000m, the real height is 1,993m. The Madeleine has been used in the Tour de France 25 times and also forms part of the Route des Grandes Alpes – a route developed by the Touring club de France to promote cyclo and automobile tourism whilst linking all the valleys of the Alps from north to south.

The southern ascent of the Col de la Madeleine is 19.3km long at an average gradient of 8%. Starting from La Chambre, the climb is very regular – a constant battery of 8-9% through thick woodland. The ski resort of Saint-François-Longchamp provides a brief respite and the woodland clears. From here you can see road winding towards the peak of the Cheval Noir below which the summit of the col is perched.

Last week Phil lead a vehicle supported tour to the Col de la Madeleine. After dropping all but one at the top of the Croix de Fer, the guys descended towards La Chambre via the short climb up the Col du Mollard. From here they started the ascent of the Madeleine and met Phil at the summit. After the descent all but one got in the minibus to start the journey home over the Col du Glandon. The ‘one’- Crawford – decided Phil’s vehicle support was obviously not up to scratch and so decided to ride the whole route. This monstrous ride takes in the Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Mollard, Col de la Madeleine and finally the Col du Glandon before returning to Bourg d’Oisans. A ride of 180km with a total ascent of 6000m! At the summit, Phil also met a Dutch group who were using PROMPT D211 rental bikes. They had also set out on aforementioned route!

PROMPT D211 at the summit of the Madeleine

PROMPT D211 at the summit of the Madeleine

Galibier T-shirt

7 Sep

galibier_tshirt

We have just taken delivery of the brand new Galibier t-shirt. It is 100% cotton and is available in sizes S to XL. It also has a reflective strip on the back to keep you visible during gloomy winter evenings.

Never ridden the Col du Galibier? Join us for the Tour of the Oisans in the first week of October at the hugely discounted rate of £199 per person. The weather is usually fantastic for riding at this time of year and the roads are much less busy. Half-price bike hire is also available for this week.

Mont Ventoux Jerseys & T-shirts

6 Sep

Following the success of the Alpe d’Huez range, we have added a new Ventoux line to the PROMPT collection. The design is exactly the same as before and maybe purchased as either a jersey or t-shirt.

Ventoux Jersey

Ventoux Jersey

Ventoux T shirt

Ventoux T shirt

On Wednesday, Hattie & I drove to Provence to ride the Ventoux for the first time. Starting from Sault, we rode towards Bedoin via the stunning Gorges de la Nesque . Rather than heading straight to the Ventoux, we turned back towards Sault and rode the 10km ‘Col de Flassan’. From the top, we looped back to Bedoin and began to climb. The Bedoin Forest section is notoriously hard. The Inner Ring puts it best; ” For the unprepared the 10% slopes become a series of leg-presses: 50 reps a minute for the next hour. For those in better condition or just equipped with low gearing it becomes a winch-like effort.”

From Chalet Reynard, the gradient eases and the iconic calcified summit of the Ventoux is visible. The climb is like no other for most part the famous passes of the Tour de France cut through the mountains. However the Ventoux goes right over the top giving you a spectacular view of Provence. Although the Ventoux dominates the landscape and the cyclo-tourism of the region, there are plenty of other fabulous roads in the area if you are planning to stay for a few days.

Hattie and Me at the Summit

Hattie and Me at the Summit

Climbing towards the summit after Chalet Reynard

Climbing towards the summit after Chalet Reynard

If you haven’t climbed the Ventoux, what about the More Than 21 Bends Alpe d’Huez & Mont Ventoux Tour where you will tackle all the ascents of the Oisans followed by a trip to Provence to scale the Mont Ventoux.

PROMPT bikes on Holiday

2 Sep

Below are a few shots of PROMPT bikes on last weeks Alpe d’Huez to Italy tour. We are now approaching the end of the season and so the ex-rental bikes are available to buy as a complete bike (€1200) or frameset (€600). Do not hesitate to contact velo@prompt.cc if interested.

French-Italian Border (Col de Montgenevre)

French-Italian Border (Col de Montgenevre)

Andy on the Col de No-Name (warm-up for the Colle dell'Agnello)

Andy on the Col de No-Name (warm-up for the Colle dell’Agnello)

Chris exhausted atop the Agnel

Chris exhausted atop the Agnel

Andy desperately trying get the whole building into shot!

Andy desperately trying get the whole building into shot!

Prompt & More than 21 bends on the Col d'Izoard

Prompt & More than 21 bends on the Col d’Izoard

Alpine Descents

1 Sep

Descending in the Alps strikes fear into some. However, few things come close to really cutting loose on a descent. Despite the obvious dangers, descending is not as dangerous as it may seem. In general the roads are wide, well-surfaced and allow one to view a long way ahead of oneself (pretty much the exact opposite of English descents!) Providing you are attentive, you shouldn’t encounter any problems of your own making. Here I list my top ten favourite descents in the Alps;

1. Chamrousse 1650 – almost no need to brake for 21km. Fast, sweeping corners followed by long straights (top surface has been removed from the road for resurfacing – hints to next years Tour de France maybe?)

2. Chamrousse 1750 – partly resurfaced last year. Pretty much identical to Chamrousse 1650.

3. Col d’Izoard towards Briancon – perfectly surfaced road with plenty of switchbacks.

4. Col Agnel towards Queyras – similar to the Izoard but fewer switchbacks. Stunning road in the Hautes-Alpes.

5.Lans en Vercors – quiet main road into the Vercors from Grenoble. Fast descent with amazing views of Grenoble. Watch out for the hidden traffic furniture through the villages though.

6. Col de la Croix de Fer – Would be challenging for the first place if it wasn’t for the very steep climb halfway down. Amazing descent and very fast. Descent from Glandon to Grand Maison is my favourite section in the region.

7. Villard Reymond – quiet road off the Col d’Ornon- Fun, technical descent with almost no traffic (don’t take this for granted though as the corners are very sharp!)

8. Sestriere towards Pinerolo – 50km of downhill. ‘Pedaly’ towards the bottom, but will be the quickest 50km of your life!

9. Col d’Ornon towards Bourg d’Oisans- easyish climb rewards you with a great descent. Very fast if you want it to be.

10. Villard Reculas – the best way down from Alpe d’Huez. Turn right at bend 5.5 to descend towards Allemont.

Climbs of Alpe d’Huez to Italy Part 4 -Col d’Izoard

1 Sep

Following the descent of the Col Agnel, you are immediately faced with the Col d’Izoard. From the south, the climb is a misleading 16km at an average of 7%. It is not until you leave the village of Chateau Queyras do you realise how hard the Izoard is. Like so many other climbs, a hairpin signals the start of the real challenge; 9km at 8-9%.

The gentle lower slopes

The gentle lower slopes

The climb is intimidating like no-other. Nearing the summit you enter the barren, lunar landscape of the Casse Déserte. You are surrounded by the iconic sandy eroded rock formation that have played host to numerous iconic Tour de France episodes. From Andy Schleck’s audacious solo-attack to Bernard Thévenet cracking Eddy Merckx, the Izoard has influenced the outcomes of the Tour de France like few others. 2km from the summit, a brief descent leads you to the Coppi & Bobbet memorial – a tribute to the two greats who both crossed the pass alone in the yellow jersey.

The Casse Desserte

The Izoard is the best climb I have ever done. The moment you enter the Casse Déserte, you realise how special this road is. The ascent is hard but the views are stunning – like nothing else in the Alps.

Almost there...

Almost there…

Climbs of Alpe d’Huez to Italy Part 3 – Colle dell’Agnello

31 Aug

The Col Agnel or Colle dell’Agnello links France with Italy. At 2744m, it is the 3rd highest pass in the Alps after the Stelvio and the Iseran. Leaving Pinerolo, we split the route of Stage 18 of the 2011 Tour de France (Pinerolo – Col du Galibier) over 2 days . The Italian ascent of the Agnel is very hard with the final 10km averaging 9.5%. There are ramps of 14% and lengthy sections of 11-12%.The lower slopes are gentle but still provide enough resistance to sap energy from the legs. The climb seems to go on for ever – leaving Pinerolo, you will climb 2400m upon reaching the summit.

Halfway through the interminable final 10km

Halfway through the interminable final 10km

Looking down on the gentle lower slopes of the Agnel

Looking down on the gentle lower slopes of the Agnel

It is by far the hardest climb I have ever done but its difficulty made it all the more worthwhile. A year in the Alps has taken the edge off reaching the summit of most Cols, however the Agnel was different. The thrill of conquering a mountain pass was rekindled and I soon forgot the impossibly difficult last 10km. It is a stunning climb and must be one of the hardest climbs in the Alps.

Exhaustion atop the Col Agnel

Exhaustion atop the Col Agnel

More exhaustion...

More exhaustion…

Climbs of Alpe d’Huez to Italy Part 2 – Sestriere

30 Aug

9556167448_6948446eac_b

Following the ascent of Montgenèvre, we continued into Italy via the Colle di Sestriere. The ride is similar to the northen ascent of the Galibier with one col(le) split into two separate climbs. From Cesana Torinese, the climb is 12km long at an average of 6%. As the averages suggest, it is fast and rolling with a couple of steeper pitches upon approach to the ski station. The scenery is stunning with snow-capped mountains and a ravine on your right hand side.

9553373705_ea680a0f45_b

Sestriere was one of the host towns for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games and on the descent towards Pinerolo, you pass the enormous ski jumps which are still in use. The descent is over 50km and very fast. On the descent you have the possibility of following stage 17 of the 2011 Tour de France by climbing the Colle di Pra Martino. Whilst the climb itself is pleasant, the plummet down the other side makes it really worthwhile. This is where Thomas Voeckler bunny-hopped into a driveway. The descent is very steep and the road surface poor. It twists and turns through tiny villages and the poor surface is hidden by the trees. However despite all of this, it is great fun and a worthwhile detour.

Vincenzo Nibali spooted testing his form before the  Vuelta

Vincenzo Nibali spotted testing his form before the Vuelta

Climbs of Alpe d’Huez to Italy Part 1 – Montgenèvre

28 Aug
Phil & me on the Col de Montgenevre

Phil & me on the Col de Montgenevre

Last week on the Alpe d’Huez to Italy tour, I climbed some new cols. I will blog each one of these cols with some pictures from the tour. The ski resort of Montgenèvre forms the border between France and Italy. From Briançon the climb is 11km long and averages 4.5%. It is a lovely climb and is never too taxing. The descent towards the Colle di Sestriere is fast and flowing on a great road surface. However there are some long avalanche tunnels as shown below.

Tunnels on the descent of Montgenevre

Tunnels on the descent of Montgenevre

Café du Cycliste

27 Aug

9579489334_094d98d7e7_b
Lucienne Jersey

Last week on the Alpe d’Huez to Italy tour, Café du Cycliste shorts/jerseys were worn by Phil & I everyday. From freezing rain on the Col du Galibier to >30°C on the Colle di Sestriere, the jerseys and shorts performed impeccably. We rode for more than 5 hours each day and so clothing choice was vital. The jerseys are made from the finest quality Italian fabrics and so keep your both warm on descents and cool on the ascents. The bibshorts are understated yet superbly comfortable. They feature a “cytech” pad – renowned as the best on the market. The riding was made so much easier and enjoyable by not having to worry about being too warm or too cold!

Above & below are a few shots and Phil & I in some of the items

Green Violet Jersey & Josephine BibshortsViolet  Vin Jersey & Josephine Bibshorts

Image

Rupert Hartley Prints

25 Aug

Rupert Hartley Prints

Col de Sarenne IV – Rupert Hartley (England)

Leica M6; Tri-X 35mm

How about an Alpe d’Huez summit finish via the eastern ascent of the Col de Sarenne (21.2km at 6%). It is arguably a sterner test than the Alpe and could be made more exciting with a plummet down the 21 bends for a stage finish into Bourg d’Oisans!

Image

Rupert Hartley Prints

15 Aug

Rupert Hartley Prints

Col de Sarenne III – Rupert Hartley (England)

Leica M6; Tri-X 35mm

Fact 3 – 12,244 people opposed the TdF passing over the Col de Sarenne this year. The Sarenne is home to rare flora and fauna and there were fears that the Tour would devastate the area.

Image

Rupert Hartley Prints

8 Aug

Rupert Hartley Prints

Col de Sarenne II – Rupert Hartley (England)

Leica M6; Tri-X 35mm

Fact 2 – The speed limit for the Col de Sarenne is 20km/h. According to Strava, Laurens ten Dam (Belkin) managed the descent at 47.9km/h during stage 18 of the 2013 Tour de France.

Image

Rupert Hartley Prints

2 Aug

Rupert Hartley Prints

Col de Sarenne I – Rupert Hartley (England)

Leica M6; Tri-X 35mm

Fact 1 – The Col de Sarenne forms part of the longest black ski run in the world at 16km long. La piste de Sarenne connects Le Pic Blanc at 3300m with Alpe d”Huez at 1860m.

Rupert Hartley Prints

2 Aug

Rupert Hartley is a London based editorial and commercial photographer. His works have featured in publications such as the Sunday Times and Vanity Fair. To celebrate the inclusion of the Col de Sarenne in the 100th edition of the Tour de France, Rupert has produced a series of four individual signed prints. Each prints will be run as a limited edition of 50.

Over the next 4 days, I will post an image of each print along with a snippet about the Sarenne itself. The prints are stunning and really capture the deserted feel of the pass.

bone-shaker issue #12

31 Jul

The new issue of bone-shaker has arrived. bone-shaker magazine offers a different perspective to the normal cycling magazine/reportage. There are no adverts, no articles about professional cycling and most certainly no “best bike under £XXX…”. The magazine has numerous contributors all detailing the wacky & wonderful things that may be done with bicycles.

Favourite articles in this issue include;

  • Lake-jumping – “Derek enjoys putting on his wetsuit and the feeling of a crash landing in a chilly lake” – need I say more?
  • Roads were not built for cars – a historical outlook on the importance of bicycles throughout the last couple of centuries.
  • Railbiking – another historical look at pedal-powered rail vehicles and concluding with modern-day designs.

This is just my selection of articles from bone-shaker #12. The articles are so numerous and diverse there is surely something for all tastes!!

Rouleur Issue 40

30 Jul

rouleur

The new issue of Rouleur is now in stock.

The issue covers the shocking conditions at Milan-Sanremo with interviews from breakaway riders Lars Bak and Filippo Fortin. The report also notes the pain endured by the neutral service mechanics who spent the whole day helping the riders dress and eat whilst perched on the end of a motorbike.

On a more cheerful note, the issue also reports on the lucrative post-Tour Criterium racing. Stars of the Tour are paid huge appearance fees to race with often suspiciously predictable results. Crowds are numerous and fuelled by copious amounts of beer & frites.

A favourite article of mine was the life of a doping control officer – stories include intimidation, aggressive dogs and barging in on affairs.

There are, of course, plenty more articles, reports and photos to keep you going until the next issue is published in early November.

Image

Eddy Merckx Toy

29 Jul

Eddy Merckx Toy

Feeling lonely on long rides? Need a partner who will always be there? How about the Rouleur Eddy Merckx Toy…?

Guaranteed never to bonk or ride you into a pothole, he really is the perfect training companion.

Tour de France & Birthday

23 Jul

Bourg d’Oisans was spoilt this year by the Tour de France. Not only did it host the double climb of Alpe d’Huez, it was the “village départ” for the next day. My 21st birthday coincided with the Alpe d’Huez stage. I walked to bend 18 and watched the riders come past twice.

Image

 

It really is amazing how easy they make it look! Amador & Castroviejo from team Movistar were holding a fairly animated conversation as they came past with no apparent difficulty!

Image

The départ on the 19th was great as we were able to see all the riders up close. Most were on the home trainers before the start in preparation for the fearsome route north towards Le Grand- Bornand. The route included 5 cols including the Glandon and the Madeleine

Forgotten Climbs of the Oisans: Part 2 – Maronne

22 Jul

Situated to the east of the Alpe d’Huez, Maronne is a satellite station for the main resort. The ascent is narrow and winding with some steep sections.

The climb starts at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. You climb the first 5 bends until you reach La Garde-en-Oisans. The first few bends of the Alpe are notoriously punishing and must be approached with caution.

At La Garde you turn right and pass over the Sarenne river before continuing climbing to the village of Armentier. The gradients here are misleading; the climb does not appear hard as it is a straight road surrounded by trees and thus there is little perspective of how steep it really is! Looking back at the profile, there are some sections of 14%!!

Image

A left turn in Armentier en Haut leads you on to the Climb to Maronne – 5km at 7%. The climb is covered by pine forest and so offers plenty of shade unlike its more famous neighbour.

DSCF0406

The climb is not as hard as the averages suggest with some flatter sections offering some respite. The climb finishes at 1500m altitude with some great views over Huez village and the 21 bends. The climb can be made part of the Traverse d’Oisans or you can just descend back into Bourg via the same route.

DSCF0405

Strava – http://app.strava.com/segments/4254338 (note the KOM)

Next up – Col du Sabot

PROMPT Customer Diaries – Part 1

12 Jul

Bo Biering & Tonny Nielsen (Denmark)

Image

Tonny and Bo hired the Prompt bikes for 3 days. For the first day they followed the route planned by the Tour de France 2013 over the Alpe d’Huez and Col de Sarenne. They were amazed that the Tour was going to go down such a small, poorly surfaced road! The second day they had a rest and toured Allemont before having one last go up the Alpe on their final day. They both hope for Contador to win the Tour de France!

 

Forgotten Climbs of the Oisans: Part 1 – Villard Reymond

9 Jul

In the week leading up to the Marmotte, riding in the Oisans is hectic. The roads are busy with cars and cyclists. However most ignore the lesser-known ascents in favour of Alpe d’Huez and co. Whilst the smaller climbs may lack the prestige of their neighbours, they provide some of the steepest, most beautiful rides in the area.

The climb to Villard Reymond is hard – 9km at 8.5% from La Pallaud. The climb twists and turns up the side of a ravine under the cover of pine trees until opening onto a mountain plain at 1610m altitude.

DSCF0343

The gradient is never constant – short ramps are followed by brief periods of rest. The first 2km offer a nice introduction. You begin climbing straight away however the gradients are not too severe. The middle section is really tough; the hairpins had me prodding at the levers in the faint hope that there was still another gear. The final 1.5km proved easier as I wound through fields towards the village.

DSCF0344

Above the fields soar two 3000m peaks – Le Grand Pic d’Ornon and Le Grand Renaud. The village has 37 inhabitants and is famous for its production of Génépi – alpine plants that are used for the production of liqueurs such as Chartreuse and Absinthe. Once at the top you have the option of continuing to Villard Notre-Dame and descending back into the valley through a succession of long unlit tunnels. However the road joining the two villages is poor and is better ridden by mountain bike. I prefer to avoid the tunnels and enjoy the technical ride back down. Below is a picture of Hattie at the top modelling her Alpe d’Huez cycling jersey and waterbottle.

DSCF0351

Strava – http://app.strava.com/segments/1677004

Next up – The climb of Maronne (and hopefully a Strava KOM!!!!)