Cycling Crazy Stage 5 - "Use Sunscreen"

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Cycling Crazy correspondent Phil Julian has now finished his Marmotte experience but is already thinking about Marmotte 2010. With this in mind, he calls on cycling buddy and fellow Marmotteer Matt Eastwood, who gives his top Marmotte tips. Matt completed the 2009 edition in a sub 8 hour time, so he knows a thing or two. Phil also reveals his Carmichael inspired training regime for 2010, which is great advice for time starved Sportivers everywhere.

If you're new to the column, pick up Phil's Cycling Crazy thread here: Prologue, Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4

Cycling Crazy Stage 5 - ‘Use Sunscreen'

Rick Perry e-mailed me at It was Rick and his mates cheering riders from the bar just before the line at La Marmotte. Rick says "To be honest cheering the other finishers home after getting changed and some food down me was one of the best parts of my weekend. I will be there again this year to see if I can better my time and then get as many people as I can to cheer from the same bar".

Perhaps a ‘Cycling Crazy' flag can mark the spot and we can all gather there after for a beer or two?

Have you made friends with your turbo in the last four weeks? Whilst me and mine are not ‘all luvved up', I am beginning to appreciate him/her more. In a vain attempt to venture onto the road the other Sunday, I got to the hill at the edge of the village and couldn't stand on it, let alone ride up it. At about the same time, a few miles away, an old mate was falling off and breaking a hip. Here's to a speedy recovery Mike French.

In the past I've commuted to work through the winter a couple of times a week. A 50 mile round trip means dark both ways and to be honest last winter's ice, fog and everyday near misses dampened my enthusiasm more than a little bit for this time around. The upside is I'm still here to write this but the downside is, in terms of volume - it's meant less time on the bike.

Dr. Chris Carmichael has come to my rescue as my garage based Directeur Sportif and entraineur. I bought his book, ‘The Time Crunched Cyclist' which maintains that if you follow the plan, you can be "Fit, Fast and Powerful in 6 hours a week". I'd recommend it to you if your training time's restricted and if you tend to be a bit undisciplined (like me) and haven't got a coach who can keep you on the straight and narrow. The good doctor's methods have certainly helped Lance, so I've put my trust in him too.

A quick and dirty summing up of the training regime is that there are four plans, tailored to your goals, each lasts 11 weeks, and they're adaptable if you find you've got more time than you thought. For me and for some of you, that'll be as the weather improves and the days lengthen. The plans predict a peak in fitness during week 8 with the remaining three weeks of the 11 aimed at maintaining what you've got.

The 60-90 minute interval sessions are ideal for the turbo and do-able with a heart monitor but even better I think using a Power Meter. You can rent or buy one, and if you're time crunched like me it makes perfect sense to know what you're doing and how much of it you're doing, if you want to improve. As the young fit one says, "Do the same and you'll stay the same".

Will it work? In just about 8 weeks time I've got my first road race for nearly fifteen years- fingers crossed!!

Matt's Marmotte Mantra

York Cycleworks' rider Matt Eastwood e-mailed phil@cycling with some memories of his Marmotte experience. A first timer in 2007, finishing in the top 500 in under 8 hours, he can clearly ‘walk the walk'. Matt has some do's and don'ts tips for riding La Marmotte.


There's a myriad of training information and possibilities for preparing for something like the Marmotte, just put it in a search engine and away you go. I did one UK sportive as preparation. The number of times I've ridden over 100 miles doesn't go into double figures. I figured if I could do a hilly 5 hours solo and average 18mph, then I'd be okay for 8 hours a bit slower... I figure riding up hill is riding up hill, the more you do it the better you can get at it. There's probably some scientific research that goes against what I just said, but it works for me. The more I do something, the better I get at it. (You can use this as an excuse to do other stuff too...!)

Every weekend for 10 weeks before the Marmotte I was doing 5 hour hilly solo rides. These long rides gave me a good idea of how much I need to eat and drink and what I feel like when I'm about to blow, and how to rectify it. No more sprinting for the top when you're training for a Sportive.

The 5 P's, Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, or something...

I looked at the course profile every day. It was on my fridge and on my computer at work. I broke the route down into 3 distinct sections, the summits of the Glandon, the Galibier and the finish at Alpe D'Huez .I calculated my goal timings for the summits of each climb and the length of time it would take to ride each section to do my target time of 8 hours.

I worked out how much I was going to need to eat and drink for each section. I figured once I'd reached the Galibier summit I was pretty much going to finish, even if I blew so badly I had to walk the Alp, I would finish. This was a mistake and disrespectful. I won't do it again. You haven't finished until you've finished. You can pat yourself on the back and breathe a sigh of relief once you've reached the top of the Galibier, but it's not over. At best you've probably still got over 2 hours of riding left, more than one of which is up the Alp. Alpe D'Huez is a monster, it's hard with fresh legs. After 100 miles it's a different kind of suffering altogether.


I got to the start an hour before the off, to get a good position in my pen. I was only just warm enough. By that I mean I was only shivering a bit. When I do it again I will go to a charity shop and buy some tracksuit bottoms and a ski jacket for the ride to the start and the hour standing around that followed and remove them 5 minutes before the off. You could also try the Tyvek paper suits available from DIY stores for keeping the wind and cold out on your ride to the start. With a few pre cuts you can rip it off without too much trouble.

It's all downhill from here

Time spent descending is payback time, usually the top part of a descent is steep and technical, lower down the gradient slackens and the road straightens out. These lower slopes are a good place to eat and drink.

Slacken your shoes off on the descents, when it's safe to do so. It lets the blood get back to your delicate little pinkies and should stave off hot foot later on (How I wish I'd done this). You should really be able to slacken your shoes without looking at your feet. My 3 year old niece (Hi Charlotte) knows where her feet are without looking for them, you should too.

The top technical section of a descent is actually the safest part, particularly when it's hairpin after hairpin, you can see over the edge and see the shape of the corner. Look for the entry and exit points. The high speed sweeping blind corners are where you can really get it wrong. There's one particular corner that stands out in my mind on the descent of the Glandon, which sweeps round to the left but tightens up into a blind exit, with an adverse camber which drops away into some trees. Have fun on the descents, but know when to back off.

Eyes and Teeth

Do speed up for the on route official photographers when climbing. I know you're not meant to, but what the hell, chances are these are going to be the only images you'll have to show family and friends of you riding like a Tour star, so speed up, suck your tummy and cheeks in and if you really feel like showboating, get it on the big plate.
(Matt's note - You will pay dearly for this, but you will have cool photos!)

Concentrate, you're there to have fun and achieve something, but you can't finish if you're being sped to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. If you're riding on your own or in a small group up a mountain you can let your mind wander. If you're charging off the Glandon at 50 mph, you need to be focused on the job in hand, not admiring the Rapha socks of the guy next to you.


Don't stand about all night fixing other people's bikes. Spend the day before eating, drinking water, eating some more and putting your feet up. That said, it's nice to help people, particularly less experienced guys and girls. They really appreciate it. I spent a couple of hours helping guys put bikes back together and trimming gears, but know when to stop. If someone turns up with a bike that isn't safe or they're trying to fit a saddle they've never ridden, 12 hours before the start, you owe it to yourself to shake your head and walk away. You don't want to be sharing the road with that guy.

Pride comes before...

Ignore your ego - Go compact, my ego wouldn't let me use a compact so I got around on 39x27, which was actually ok until the last climb, but I swear when I do it again I'm going for a 36x27 as my bottom gear.

Premature Evaluation

Don't set off too fast, I passed a lot of people who had passed me early on. Have courage, allow yourself to ease off and drop out of a group if it's too hard, or you'll pay for it later on.

Three's a crowd, 20 is a peloton

Get in a group for the valley roads between the bottom of the Glandon and the foot of the Telegraphe, and from where the Galibier descent starts levelling out to Bourg. If you're not in one, don't keep flogging on your own. A group (driven by some burly Belgians) will catch you anyway, so you may as well take it easy, eat and drink and then get in the draft of the group.

Burn a few matches

I promised myself (and family) I wasn't going to risk life and limb on the descents; after all you're not going for a stage win... but I had great fun catching a group coming down the technical part of the Galibier and then sitting on them all the way to Bourg and the foot of the Alp. I did one turn, but the Belgians (they're everywhere) seemed to enjoy driving the group, so who was I to stop them! That descent is one of my best memories and still gives me goose bumps when I think about it today.

I've got some unfinished road racing business to attend to, but I'll be back to battle with La Marmotte. Most of all have fun and enjoy the ride. The memories alone will keep you going for years. Good luck.

Thanks Matt, for this insight into a successful first Marmotte ridden in 7-58-13 for 440th place and a gold standard. What he hasn't told you is that just before the start of his campaign he'd been knocked off by a car, in hospital for a month, and unable to walk unaided for six months, let alone ride! That certainly makes Matt ‘cycling crazy'.

The only thing I can add to Matt's advice today is ‘Use Sunscreen'. I used factor 50 but missed a strip of about an inch below the shorts line and the burn mark is still there. It's the only advice Baz Lurhmann gives in his song about life, which just might cheer you up in this cold grey spell. Check it out below then smile, and go ride your bike.