As riders gathered at the Rider Village this morning for Stage Two of the Alpine Challenge it was a more relaxed mood than yesterday. The cyclists got in their sports massages at the side of the lake, Purple Harry gave dirty bikes a thorough once over and the mechanics made last minute fixes. This was all in preparation for the 112.9kms in the saddle with 2201m of climbing. At 9am the riders started rolling out, led by the Skoda Lead Cars, motorbike outriders and Ride Captains. The route swept around Lake Annecy and east into the mountains. The weather couldn’t have been more different than the day before; bright blue skies, with few clouds.
Blue skies over the mountain-tops
Out of the Rider Village it was a long, steady climb, waking sore legs from the previous days riding. They cycled through the menacing shadows of the mountains – a constant reminder of what was to be – but with stunning views of the sun reflecting off Lake Annecy. From the lake the riders cycled through a valley and towards the first Col of the day, Col de Bluffy, which proved itself a mere hump compared to what was to come. Once over the Col, it was through the picturesque town of Thônes and the real climbing began towards Col des Aravis. This Col has been used 39 times on the Tour de France and its steep switchbacks made it the perfect place for the Timed Climb Section.
The riders are navigated by the Skoda Lead Car through the picturesque towns en-route
The route took riders up further and the sound of Cow Bells rang soothingly through the air. Looking up, the riders were engulfed by mountains carpeted with Alpine forests. Looking down, the lush green valley was peppered with characterful chalets. Around each corner came more climbing and any relief provided by a slight downhill was quickly cancelled out by yet more ascent. The town of La Clusaz saw school children give the riders encouraging cheers, just in time for the Timed Climb at 31kms. Before this, the peloton regrouped at the top of La Clusaz and pushed on to ear-popping altitude and colder climates.
Jenny Foreman extended her lead in Stage Two and wears the Pink Jersey in Stage Three
Lawrence Hall, riding his first HotChillee event, says: “Today isn’t as hard as yesterday. The Timed Climb section was hard work and with 3kms to go I thought to myself ‘this is going to hurt’. It was a great relief to see the 1km to go flag. The event is well-organised. It provides a good mix of short, sharp bursts of pain, but other than the timed sections, it’s a really sociable ride. I’d do it again.”
The 1km to go flag appeared and riders placed themselves within the peloton, ready to fight for their spot in the 6km timed section of the race. Felix Barker, the 19-year-old Chain Reaction Cycles supported rider, assumed his position and went off from the start, flying up the climb. Felix crossed the line first in a time of 00:16:43. In second place was Dave Dent (00:17:45) and the 1988 World Champion, Maurizio Fondriest (00:18:30). Felix now has a lead of over 4 minutes and will keep the Red Jersey for Stage Three.
Felix Barker has a lead of over 4 minutes and wears the Red Jersey
The women’s race is much closer, with Jenny Foreman and Kara Chesworth battling it out on the road. Jenny Foreman has had the Pink Jersey since winning The Prologue, but lost 30 seconds to Kara on Stage One, bringing her lead to just over 30 seconds. However, Jenny attacked from the start of the Timed Climb and has now gained a margin of 1 minute 10 seconds. In the Team category, Team Chain Reaction Cycles has kept hold of the Best Team position, followed by Davisons Solicitors and CycloSure.
After the Timed Climb, Jenny said: “I knew it was tight and I knew Kara had the chance of winning so I needed to lose her from the very start. I kicked hard from the flag indicating there was 1km to go before the race section. It was painful, but it paid off.”
At the summit of Col des Aravis, the riders had a welcome water stop and gathered their thoughts. It was then a flowing downhill of switchbacks, giving riders the chance to descend in style with the tip of Mont Blanc visible through the clear blue skies. The route weaved through Flumet and back up to Crest-Voland for lunch.
Group Four at the summit of Col des Aravis
It was downhill from lunch, punctuated by a short climb 10kms into the afternoon’s riding and then an undulating 50kms back to Annecy. The riders hit the lake from the southern point and cycled along the shore, a welcomed scene and one that told the riders they were almost done. The final sting in the tail was a climb taking riders away from the lake, but it wasn’t long until they were back down and in the Rider Village relaxing with friends and family.
Tomorrow is the third and final stage of the Alpine Challenge 2013. The course is 103kms long with an ascent of 1939m taking on Col de L’Epine and Col de la Croix Fry.
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