Back many years ago my love affair with the Tour de France started with the epic battles played out on the brutal climbs between the all time greats of the sport. Okay so EPO was rife but the battles were no less intense.
Perhaps the daddy of them all for me is Mont Ventoux, iconic and standing alone in Provence but with the exception of the Tourmalet, all the other mountains which have captivated me have been in the Alps. The Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, Izoard and the Madeleine.
None have perhaps meant as much to me as the Madeleine and for that I must thank David Millar. His description of pure torture and pain, riding the 25kms to almost 2,000m above sea level, really struck a cord with me so back in 2013 it was my main aim.
Back then I failed to make the full ascent, due to the damage inflicted on the road during the Winter season, (it was partially covered by snow too). That actually was a blessed relief as I had been totally unprepared for my first summer in the high mountains. I knew it would be hard, but I had failed to appreciate just how hard.
So fast forward 3 years and with the Dauphine coming over the Madeleine from La Chambre, I had to arrive early and go and complete what I had failed to do in 2013.
It was quite different this time though. I have now ridden higher when I successfully tackled the Iseran back in 2014, so I knew what was coming. It was colder than in 2013 so even though I was climbing I had to layer up as a cold wind channeled down the pass, picking up cool air from the snow lying thick on the sides of the road.
About 2kms from the top the road hits a 10% average gradient, which is a real kick you know where, after a long climb. There are more brutal climbs but at 25kms this one is not be taken lightly and with a time limit in place before the road was shut, and I would not be able to get back to my car, then the pressure was on.
I made it back in good time though and watching Bardet, Contador, Froome and Porte seemingly playing on this climb showed me just how good these pro’s are. I am happy just to get up it, slowly.