The Expatries have participated in several past editions of the Time-Megève, for a good reason. The course is set up in such a way that you can choose your distance as you ride, according to your form, or the weather, for example. The event always offers three distances, but the exact route and distances vary from year to year. This edition offered 85/111/144km.
Sudeep and Karsten set off from Paris on Saturday morning in a lovely Audi A3 that took the edge off the looming 600km drive to the Alps. Even with a third passenger, the bikes fit nicely into the car, especially since they (pro tip!) had removed the pedals.
Seven hours later, interrupted by so-so Autogrill sandwiches and terrible coffee (even for French standards), they arrived in Megève , at the excellent Palais des Sports, where they got their dossards – and, as customary for the event, a jersey.
This year, the starting line was in Sallanches, about 10km downhill, so Karsten had booked the hotel there. Since the weather forecast called for rain during the Sunday ride, they settled on the option to leave the car in Megève and ride downhill to Sallanches to the hotel with their bag on their backs.
The race organizers provided baggage transport between start and finish, so this had the advantage that they could shower and change into dry gear right after the race in Megève .
Best laid plans…
It could have been easy. However, on the ride down to the hotel, Sudeep ran into unexpected trouble when his front wheel, a carbon clincher, overheated from excessive braking heat and consequently deformed at the braking strip.
You see, carbon is a terrible heat conductor, and the combined weight of Sudeep and his bag on a 13% curvy descent, the brakes gripped with all his might, led to great heat built-up, and the pressure of the inner tube could push the thin, now malleable, brake strip out. [Not that Sudeep is particularly heavy or wary of 13% descents…but the bag, rider, alpine curves combination while trying to take in the scenery — a whole ‘nother story]
In short: the wheel was hooped. And so was Sudeep. Without a spare wheel there was no chance to do the ride the next morning.
Luckily, this happened practically as they got into Sallanches.
Arriving at the hotel, they got immediate support from the very friendly owner, who phoned around for bike shops that might still be open, but since it was Saturday around 18h30 and this is France, everything was closed.
As a last resort they phoned the race organizer, who told them that normally there should be a mechanic at the starting line in the morning.
It sounded like a slim chance and Sudeep was quite disappointed that his first ride in the Alps was probably not to be. He found a silver lining in realizing that it was better to have the issue in Sallanches, rather than during the race in the middle of some alpine descent, where things could have been so much worse.
And indeed – at just after seven am, Sudeep ventured out and right away found the mechanic, who quickly understood the issue, took off to retrieve a spare wheel from his shop, and let Sudeep use that for the event. Very friendly, all smiles, especially when he learned that Sudeep is American.
This last act in the wheel saga delayed their morning activities (breakfast, check-out) a bit, so that Karsten and Sudeep were some of the last folks to cross the starting line.
The weather was excellent, almost no wind and a mostly clear skies, which allowed stunning views of the mountains all around. The route started with a 20km gentle descent, which probably made it very fast at the front and offered a nice warm up at the back. Then the first climb kicked in, up the col de la Colombiere.
About 16km long with an average of 6.8% it was the first true test of fitness.
Karsten waited on the other side of the col at the first ravito and shortly thereafter Sudeep rolled up – all smiles.
The hills are alive with cyclists…
That pattern was repeated at the next climb – col des Aravis.
A little longer (19km) but also not quite as steep (average 4.6%), it gave Sudeep a chance to take a few selfies.
After the descent to Flumet and the third climb up to Les Saisies (15km/5%), Karsten was told that the last part to complete the 144km route would be closed in 5 minutes, so he decided not to wait for Sudeep, but to move on. Sudeep crested the top a few minutes after the cut-off and had no option but to return to the valley and then to Megève , completing thus the 111km route.
Karsten rode the final loop: down to the valley and back up to Les Saisies via Hauteluce Village, a painful (at that point anyway) 15km/6% climb, making it difficult but not impossible to enjoy the stunning views. He had company from a few other slow cyclists and they cheered each other on, motivating each other all the way up.
Rain clouds were threatening to unload and Karsten didn’t waste any time descending back to Flumet and surviving that frustrating false flat to Megève, thus completing the 144km route.
Shower, dinner and then the ride back to Paris – just as smooth as the trip south, even with now three bikes in the car (remember the pro tip?), as they had rescued a stranded triathlete. Arrival in Paris just after midnight, everyone had a great trip.