Cycling the Marmotte Granfondo

Congratulations to the four Cuckfield dads who braved the gruelling Marmotte Granfondo to raise money to buy a portable defibrillator machine for the village. Now safely back home, Paddy Westbury (inset above) gives his account of the ride – heralded as the toughest one day cycle event in Europe.


By Paddy Westbury

In the past I’ve run a number of marathons and I’ve cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End and from London to Paris in 24 hours in the pouring rain, but they were nothing compared to a mere 100 miles in the Alps! The Col du Telegraphe and Galibier combine at over 7,000ft of vertical assent in 20 miles, so that’s about 20 times up Ditchling Beacon. But in reality it’s nothing like that – if only it were that easy!

On my journey to the airport, my jolly cabbie asked me what I had in the enormous bag and where I was going. When I explained, he told me a cyclist had died in an accident on Alp d Huez the day before. I was already nervous and that did nothing for my confidence! Driving to the resort I got my first experience of the famous Alp D’Huez climb. Unfeasibly steep, especially at the base, and busy with traffic and cyclists, it made me feel sick and want to go home! This was nothing like I had imagined and so hot too.

Our hosts said it was better from a bike, so, upon arrival I spun about half way down and back up to ease my fears. It proved there is nothing in southern England or the UK that can prepare you for the Alps. I now understand why all the Pros live in southern Europe! To get a feel for the area, we cycled on the balcony road that runs around the cliff about 3000ft above the valley. The whole place was buzzing, Nine thousand serious cyclists from all over the world descending on one small alpine village. The atmosphere was electric. After a tense and sleepless night and an early breakfast, we made our way to the start in the valley below Alp D’Huez.

Read full article on pages 32/33.