Last weekend (23rd - 25th June) some of the members of our Road Racing team packed their cars, vans* and bikes up and headed down to the French Alpes for the Marmotte 2023. This year, the event consisted of 4 possible courses:
Grimpée de l’Alpe - a 13KM time trial up the 21 hairpins of Alpe D’Huez with 1100m of climbing
Marmotte Granfondo - 186KM course with 5530m of climbing
Marmotte Ultrafondo - 235KM course with 6830m of climbing tackling Alpe D’Huez twice
Marmotton - A 2 day event tackling the same course as the normal Granfondo
Our RLSCC team was made up of Gerry Scott, Alex Craig, George Hollingsworth, Jon Appleyard, Spencer Tapia and Ben Dodd. All 6 riders entered the gruelling Marmotte Ultrafondo aiming to tackle the 235 kilometre course. Additionally, rider Ben Dodd entered the Grimpée de l’Alpe time trial on Friday 23rd June.
The Friday time trial began at the bottom of Alpe D’huez at 16:00 hours. 119 riders entered and a group of riders were hitting it hard from the off. The first three kilometres of the climb are at an average gradient of 8.6% and this proved too much for some of the breakaway who quickly fell back. Ben began the climb in the middle of the pack but paced himself well enough to make it up the field as the climb went on. The ride leader was absolutely storming up the French mountainside but Ben looked like he was on for a pretty decent climb by the time he got to corner 18. He made it to the top of the 21 hairpins with a finish time of 56:03, around 10 minutes behind the race leader. This placed him 26th out of the 111 riders who actually completed the course. A finish time most of us would be amazed to have achieved - well done Ben!
Then came the big event on the Sunday. Our RLSCC riders were up bright and early for the 05:00 start down in the town of Le Bourg-d L’Oisans. They were given a 2 hour head-start on the 2000 plus riders in the normal Granfondo. The gruelling course consists of Col de la Croix de Fer (2067m), the Télégraphe (1570m), the Galibier (2645m) and finally the 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez…twice!
The team started out together to tackle the first 10KM as a pack before rider Ben Dodd decided his legs were feeling good and he wanted to hit it a bit harder at his own pace. The rest of the pack rode together for the next 114KM up to the top of Galibier where they waited for some other members of the group to catch up to the top of the climb. This is also where rider Spencer Tapia took the opportunity to do some peaceful yoga with probably the best view in the world as his background!
The main group stayed together for the rest of the course, with the exception of Alex Craig, until the finish straight after their first rep of the Alpe d’Huez climb. This is where they had a break, refilled bottles and gathered themselves together. At this point, riders Jon Appleyard & Spencer Tapia decided to withdraw from the Ultrafondo and finish their day having done the normal distance Granfondo. Gerry Scott & George Hollingsworth however decided they would not be defeated and prepared themselves for the descent down Col de Sarenne before tackling their second rep of Alpe d’Huez. Rider Alex Craig followed in their footsteps, roughly 45 minutes behind them.
Meanwhile Ben Dodd was making his way up the field of riders as the course went on. He was making extremely good time, reaching the bottom of Alpe d’Huez at 12:20 local time even though the road wasn’t planned to be closed to vehicles until 14:00. He made his way up the climb picking off a number of riders further up the road as he found his rhythm. By the time he started his descent ready for his second rep of the climb he had ridden almost 200KM solo. He was on track for a top 5 finish after reaching the base of Col de Sarenne. He then made his final ascent up Alpe d’Huez coming in to the finish line at 15:46 local time giving him an overall course completion time of 10 hours, 45 minutes and 54 seconds. An absolutely monumental effort earning him third place overall in the Ultrafondo event! However, it was discovered the next day that the second place rider had cut the course short and never completed the final full lap meaning Ben ended up finishing in second place. A huge congratulations to him from everyone at the club.
Gerry & George banded together for their final attempt of Alpe d’Huez and helped each other rally to get to the top of the climb with an overall course time of 14 hours and 37 minutes. A big day out for them both but pleased that they were able to cross the finish line together and share in the victory of completing such a mega event.
Our final rider across the line was Alex Craig at 20:20 local time with a course completion time of 15 hours, 19 minutes and 57 seconds. True to character, he was smiling the whole way through the event in every photo and managed to pace both his ascents of Alpe d’Huez excellently with almost the same time up each - a very impressive skill indeed!
All riders enjoyed the pasta party provided by the race organisers and a few beers after to celebrate their victories! The club is very proud of all our fantastic riders and we’re sure they would appreciate some support, so please feel free to head over to their Strava activities below and give them some Kudos. Well done gentlemen!
*There is a story that goes with this mode of transport from some of our riders, ask Gerry more about it if you dare!
Here are a few tips from our riders should you wish to do this event in the future.
Travelling as a group gives you a sense of camaraderie that cannot be beaten!
Don’t trust insurance - they’re always out to get you.
Riding in the Alpes surpassed all expectations. The views are absolutely spectacular every way you look.
Eating well while riding in France is easy – everything tastes amazing and is (largely) really good for you too; making discovering cafes, bars, and restaurants a complete joy.
The weather in the mountains can change. Fast. Which means you can get caught out so be sure to pack layers for on the go.
If you think you have enough gears for the Alpes, you don't.
They don't do podiums for any of the events except the normal granfondo - sorry Ben!
The feed stops were awesome (well the ones that were open when our riders got there, again sorry Ben you’re just too quick). We especially enjoyed the fresh baguettes and cheese!
The Marmotte is absolutely brutal. We’ve never seen so many broken human beings at an event. They were literally lining the road, crawling up the Alpe, collapsing on walls in the shade and in some cases doing a 13 km walk-of-shame with their bikes up to the top! (full discretion, none of us did this).
If you do the Marmotte, you won’t regret it!
Photos provided by Alex Craig, Ben Dodd, Chloe Rees & Gerry Scott