The second part of my French trilogy is fast approaching, any faster and I’d be over taken, if truth be known. This one is vastly different to the first, which is both comforting and stomach churning.

I wrote about my preparations ahead of Paris-Roubaix. Well I’m pleased to say the blisters on my hands have healed, and that apart, the bike and I survived. Yes, it was a tough, long day in the saddle. I had gone to celebrate a friend’s birthday. No really that was the reason for entering. We met up with another couple of guys wishing to push their riding abilities. Between us we suffered one puncture, not bad given the parcours.

That all seems a long time ago and the next challenge is here – La Marmotte. Not as long as PR, but it will make up for it with the metres gained vertically, all 5,000m of them over 174km! This includes four iconic climbs that are steeped in Tour history, the Glandon, 1,818m, the Télégraph, 1,570, the Galibier, 2,642 and the summit finish on Alpe d’Huez, 1,880. This will be the 30th year the event has been held.

Those are the bare facts. What this equates to is another brutal day of riding! If the weather holds then a great day, as the scenery should be enough to prevent the mind going into apoplexy at the prospect of what it is taking on.

The Pinnacle Evaporite Three and I have upped the mileage and climbing to prepare. Looking back, perhaps not as much climbing as I would have liked but the mileage has been good. Time and weather have not been my allies. There was a 24hr team event held at Goodwood race track with fellow www.cyclosport.org writers as team mates. Riding at night on a closed circuit was an unusual experience and yes, it lashed it down!

The bike has been cleaned, again and I’ve made a few changes to reflect the different terrain. The Cole 24 wheelset has been swapped for my original Mavic Ksyrium Elites complete with a 12-28 cassette, offering a degree of safety given the mountains. I did have a broken spoke before setting off for PR so reverted to the Mavics for peace of mind. The Continental Gatorskins have also gone, replaced by the slightly sleeker GP4000s. Marginal but I’ll take every advantage going.

The second roll of bar tape has been removed to give a slimmer feel on the bars. Personal preparation has been equally thorough. Prior to my team ride at Goodwood the very nice people at SIS had sent through a huge box of energy goodies. Gels, electrolyte powders, recovery drinks and bars, plenty for this ride, indeed the rest of the season. I have a few of my personal favourites, Torq rhubarb and custard gels, very tasty. I have some alternative snacks as a long day riding can reduce most riders to craving something savoury.

The only real issue remaining will be the choice of riding attire. I am hoping the vagaries of the British weather will not transfer to the Rhone-Alps region of France. The current prediction is for sunny conditions with the mercury rising to 29c. That will raise different challenges to those experienced here in the UK. Mostly it’s been a toss-up between long sleeved jerseys or rain coats. I spent last night digging out the sun cream and short sleeve jerseys, currently residing at the bottom of my cycle drawer.

Everything else has been packed ready for the early departure, a rather rude 5am flit along to Folkestone. The plan is to arrive in Alpe d’Huez on Thursday evening, allowing for a leisurely spin, registration and chill on Friday ready for the big day on Saturday.

Plans are great but now I want to put all that detail into action. Roll on Saturday!

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