Col de Meyrand: Part I
My dad always says “tough ride, tough rider” and although the last ten days of riding in torrential rain were tough, it was putting on wet shoes day after day that really tested my toughness. With no tumble dryer and no sun, our apartment turned into one big drying rack; every handle, railing, and hook was covered in some piece of kit and the area in front of the heaters became prime real estate. Pretty soon, the whole apartment smelled like wet cycling shoes and damp became the new dry. I have no problem motivating myself in bad weather but starting wet, as apposed to getting wet during the ride, is a whole different story.
With a break in the clouds last Sunday, the “carrot” that got me out the door in wet shoes was the Col de Meyrand. I had been wanting to ride the climb for a few weeks and I was finally sure my hamstring could make the trip. The 22km climb was just over an hour away and, forever an optimist, I figured I could make it there and back before the rain.
It looked dry enough to me…
It had been cold all week and, although the sun was peeking through, it was still only 8 degrees. Wearing all the winter kit I own, rain jacket en pocket, and armed with vague directions, I took off toward Meyrand. As I rolled up and over the foothills more than an hour into the ride, I started to noticed the odd rain drop on my cycling computer. I lifted up my sunglasses and saw the sky had clouded over. It wasn’t really raining so I decided to keep going, betting the climb wasn’t too far down the road.
As I descended another long foothill, it started to rain. I popped on my rain jacket and decided to turn around at the bottom, mentally preparing myself for the 35kms back home in the rain. Being the fourth rainy ride in a row, the Col de Meyrand would have to wait for another day. I reached the bottom and just as I was about to make a u-turn, there was the sign. “The Col de Meyrand” was printed in big green beckoning letters. The sign detailed the gradient and distance of 22.4km left to the summit. Without a second’s thought, I rode straight past the sign and up the climb.
The first sign.
About 5 seconds later, the logical part of my brain chimed in to remind me it was raining, 8 degrees, and about 2 hours home. But it was a mountain and the cycling part of my brain was in complete control of my bike. I eagerly climbed and anticipated the signs that came at 1km intervals, detailing the gradient for the next 1000m and how many kilometres were left. The first few signs came and went quickly and, although my toes were beyond frozen and I was riding with clenched fists in my gloves, as a descending cyclist flew past giving me a smile and a nod of approval, I reassured myself of my rash decision.
As if the mountain was reminding me of it’s dominance, the gradient kicked up and so did the rain. Actually, it wasn’t raining anymore, it was pouring. In that moment, I rode through a small community and a flashing green sign told me it was only 6 degrees. The logical part of my brain instantly calculated that the summit was beyond reach. I knew I had to turn around…but just one more kilometre.
Riding on seemed better than the 2 hour trip home that was going to start with a freezing cold 5km descent but I knew continuing would simply be dangerous. Keeping my end of the bargain, at the next gradient sign I sadly swung my bike in the opposite direction but not before a sideways glance at the sign reminding me there was 16km of unfinished business…