On June 5, I competed in my first Alps cyclosportive. A great day of racing – if a slightly bizarre course setup -but as always plenty of room for improvement.
The Time Megève Cyclosportive, now in its 13th year, is the first sportive on the Alpine calendar Like other cyclosportives in the region, it attracts a varied crowd. From British cycling tourists, to serious racers, to people who are just in it to finish (including one tandem team). Yet in response to safety concerns in the wake of the death of a cyclist in 2010, the organizers decided to neutralize the descents, making this race a little different. As the feed zones are generally within the neutralized zones, there is ample opportunity to hang about between the climbs, though most of the serious riders choose to move through pretty quickly in the hope of having company for the final 8km into Megève.
The sportive regularly attracts over 1000 riders across three courses (90km, 120km and 150km) with three female and six male age categories.
The 120km option this year was eventually only about 112km but with 2800m of climbing over three major cols.
The first 11km were neutralized, which made the roll out less stressful for someone without any race experience, like me. But as soon as everyone goes through the first chronometer at the base of the Col des Aravis, things picked up. The nature of the sportive – numerous courses, numerous categories and a mass start – means that the race feels more like an enduro time trial than a road race. And as a woman, I’m generally riding with people against whom I’m not racing. My only real tactic was to stick to moderate pacing over the climbs and if I saw a woman on a hill, be sure to drop her.
The first hill – Col des Aravis – climbs almost 12 km at an average 5 % making it a relatively easy start.
The descent to Thônes was neutralized, as was the fairly long route through the towns to the base of the second timed section.
I already knew the second climb – Col de la Croix Fry – as it’s not too far from Annecy. There are several sections that hit double digits but overall the average is less than 7% for just under 13km. From the summit, there’s a short descent (not neutralized) before one climbs 4km back up the other side of Col des Aravis.
After another neutralized – and fabulous – descent to Flumet – we hit Col des Saisies but via an alternate route without the reassuring bollards that indicate the number of km to the summit and the gradient. In total, the climb was around 13km and I would estimate the gradient at 6%.
One last neutralized descent followed and then I rolled over the final chronometer for the 8km timed return. For me, this was the toughest section of the day. I found myself alone and riding up a false flat into a headwind, desperately seeking someone to share the load but finding only a few stragglers coming off the 90km course and in no position to help out. I powered on to the finish and waited around for my results.
Unfortunately, this year’s women’s field was fairly small and while I was happy with my result (2nd place for the W1 category: women 18 – 39) and my ride, it would have been great to see more female riders out there. Out of the women’s field I came 3rd scratch in the 120km course and just scraped into the top 20 % of total riders (499). And now that my first French race is done, onto the next!