23% WTF?

After a day of being alone, it was great to meet up with David, Jared, and Braith. Over the next 24 hours, Sufferlandrians from all over the world would unite in Aigle for a week of suffering. In the morning, I introduced the crew to the hotel’s simple, but amazing breakfast. Little did we know, the sausage and cheese would repeat on us later on the ride.

David gave me the official Sufferlandria Training Camp kit, complete with a slick aero fit national team jersey. Central to the entire camp, Jared would have to miss our first ride as a slight miscommunication resulted in his cycling shoes being left behind in Melbourne, his home town.

We rolled out the door to some stunning weather, but after spending a day in the mountains, I ensured to keep myself warm, armed with my trusty arm warmers. At first I had thought we’d have a few kilometers to warm-up the legs before hitting the climbs, but I was very wrong. Within the first 500 meters we were on a 4% grade. Surrounded by stunning vineyards, and the constant reminder of the Alps, we were in cycling heaven.

Checking the route

We pushed through the small wine town of Yvorne before making a hard right that turned straight up the face of the climb. Within minutes, we were attacking a grade of over 16%, which had us quickly approaching the tree line and away from the warmth of the sun.

Ten kilometers in we reached Corbeyrier, where a minor navigational mistake get us taking the unforgiving road up Bois de Laun, a climb that averages 18%, with four separate occasions getting above 20%. The steepest part of the climb spiked to a grade of 23%,  yes 23%. And David was on standard cranks on his rented bike.

Braith, who I just met for the first time, is an ex-body builder. At first glance, he clearly looks like a power athlete. You’d never expect him to climb mountains. But his powerful body consistently put out 300+ watts as we pressed on up the climb leaving David and I dead as our chase was in vein.

Braith & David at 1350 metres of elevation

We soon found ourselves at just over 1300 meters of elevation with the climb continuing over a simply massive mountain. Something didn’t seem right. We never anticipated the climb to go this far, so we made the call to check our navigation. Standing upon the edge of a stunning view back to Lake Geneve, we realized we have done over 400 meters of unplanned climbing. So much for the easy welcome ride. The ride had continually pushed my heart above 175 bpm for long periods of time.

View to Lake Geneve
View to Lake Geneve

Attempting to correct our mistake, we descended back to Corbeyrier to refill our bottles in one of the natural springs scattered throughout the region, before heading up the planned route to Boveau. It was a lesser aggressive climb to a small chateau and hotel that overlooked the stunning Rhone Valley below. Now, exhausted from ascending over 1200 meters in elevation, our legs needed flatter ground. We made exhilarating descent down the twisty roads back to Aigle before following the roads along the Rhone River to an up river industrial park.

With just under 50 kilometers in the leg and 1200 meters of elevation, we made the decision to retire for lunch, making it just over 4000 meters of elevation gain in my first 24 hours on the ground. Ouch.



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