Hey everybody. I did it! I made it to the end of this crazy race and covered the 169 km and nearly 4000 meters of vertical gain. It wasn't pretty, I was slow, it took me over 10 hours, but I made it! What an event. The organization is very impressive. The start was not as tight as I expected. Close to 1000 riders per wave, fifteen waves. It has to be well run if you don't want to have big problems when you have that many riders.
A few numbers: 12993 riders took the start. More than 2000 of the 15000 registered didn't show up. Of those that were at the starting line, almost one in five didn't finish.
Hydration: they had 85000 liters of water, 12000 liters of sparkling water, and 11000 liters of energy drinks. Temperature hit 39 Celsius. So I definitely drank my share of that. Food was a little disappointing. No nice french meal, no baguette, cheese or wine... ;-) just bars, cake, cookies, oranges and bananas.
I took my time and really paced myself. And it was still immensely hard. There was a catégorie 4 col to start things out, then we had three catégorie 1, and one hors catégorie. The organizers say it was the hardest étape since 1993. The pros did this ride on July 17th in half my time!
The pain intense in the 20% bits of the Plateau des Glières climb. So many riders walked those steep sections that I couldn't get by and had to walk too. The last climb, the Col de la Colombière, if not that bad on it's own, is brutal after all the climbing of that day. It seems like it will never end. For the last few kilometers of that climb, it really is mind over matter. But what a beautiful day. Beautiful setting. Unforgettable experience.