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Etape du Tour MondoVelo 2008 - Part 2
By Mark Sharon
Date: 7/15/2008
Etape du Tour MondoVelo 2008 - Part 2

Continued from Part 1

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”

Shakespeare’s Henry V

Some say the Hautacam is a hard mountain – they say its endless changes in grade - at once 6%, then suddenly 13% - destroy the capacity to find a rhythm. While that’s one factor that certainly adds to the difficulty, the fact it comes at the end of a long day in the saddle is another, whilst the pitiless weather this day has added a third. But, and it might be the caffeine and taurine coursing through my veins, or  the prospect that just 14km ahead lies the end of my suffering, I feel rejuvenated as I begin the climb.

It helps to know that I am capable of climbing this beast, and for a while I am actually pleased that the conditions are cool and not in the thirties as they were 48 hours before. As we climb though so returns the rain – or rather a heavy mist. The lower parts are very pretty, with the road winding up through forests and a couple of cute villages. At Artalens-Souin, 10 km (6 mi) from the finish, I come across an unofficial feedstop where I replace the effects of the Red Bull with a can’s worth of cola.

Author on the Hautacam

Etape du Tour - Author on the Hautacam: Photographer Chabot © Mark Sharon 2008

By now I am really aching, especially in the lower back and left shoulder, the latter damaged in a training crash a few weeks before, but this is no time to stop.

Climbing is proving to be a slightly inhibited affair, as we can only use one side of the road for going up. The Hautacam is a cul-de-sac so finishers have to descend by the same road to get to the Arrival Village. It’s not a problem, but I am actually managing to pass some people – just enough to make me feel better about the weather situation which is worsening by the minute.

On the Hautacam

Etape du Tour - Author on the Hautacam: Photographer Chabot © Mark Sharon 2008

Finally a pass across the cattle grate which marks about two kilometres to go. On a good day, you can see for miles, but this day its greyness. Then I see the kilometre arch on the road above, and above that the Finish arch. I am so close to putting the nightmare of the last two years behind me. I dig deeper and drive myself – it’s no attack, but I pick-up speed. Suddenly shrouded in swirling mist is the finishing line – I’m over it. My legs are shaking from the effort as the girls in the pits struggle to remove my transponder then I have it – my finishers medal.

A phone call to my wife and boys ends up with me blubbering with emotion and fatigue – it’s time to head back down. The trouble is now I have stopped I realise that it is actually very cold, and soaked through from the rain and sweat. Nothing I have with me is actually dry either.

I am not the only one in the same state. I have no choice but to set off down, but unlike the descent of the Tourmalet this is a slow affair. I am shivering so much I can’t control the bike properly, plus the road surface and bends are treacherous in the mist. I can’t believe I came down this hill at up to 75km/h (47mph) a couple of days ago now I am creeping down at 25km/h.

I finally reach Artalens-Souin again and decide to pack it in. One of the ladies who had gave me the coke on the way up, rushes over to ask if I am OK – I mumble that I can’t continue. A minute later I am under a blanket and sipping hot sugary tea waiting for the medics. Yes I know it sounds pathetic – but I wasn’t alone. The Protection Civile 4x4 that took me to the village was crammed full of other victims of the cold, and it was followed by two more ambulances.

Meanwhile Maurice and the others have long finished. Maurice completed the course in 7h45m, just behind another of our team Patrick Mora who proved the quickest with 7h43m, a scant 500m between them.

I had my success though, which for me was just finishing before the cut-off time which I managed to beat by a twenty minutes or so. Will the result be enough for me to keep my promise never to put myself through this again? Hmmm…


L’Etape du Tour MondoVelo: Jean-Francois Alcan (Director), Martine Laurent (Press),

Kevin Worster – Cycle Doctor Canary Wharf, : mechanics

Grant Young – Condor Cycles London, : equipment



Frame and Fork: Giant TCR Composite

Headset: Giant

Front brake: Campagnolo Record

Rear brake: Campagnolo Record

Levers: Campagnolo Record Ergopower

Front derailleur: Campagnolo Chorus

Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Record

Cassette: Campagnolo Record 13-26

Chain: Campagnolo Record Narrow

Crankset: Campagnolo Chorus Compact 50-34T

Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Record

Wheels: Campagnolo Neutron

Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 4000S

Bars: ITM 4Ever 44cm (o-o)

Stem: ITM Millenium 4Ever 100mm

Tape/grip: Deda

Pedals: Campagnolo Record Profit

Seat post: Specialized Pavé

Saddle: Specialized Alias

Bottle cage: Tacx Tao

Saddlebag –Topeak Aero Wedge

Toolkit – Topeak Alien XS

Computer: Garmin Edge 705

Water Bottles: Camelbak Podium

Total bike weight: 17.5lbs


Helmet – Rudy Project

Sunglasses – Oakley

Jersey/Bib-Shorts/Socks/Gilet/Gloves – Campagnolo

Shoes – Sidi Genius II

Overshoes - Northwave


Science-in-Sport Go-Gels
Clif Bars



(a can of Red Bull)

Manufacturers’ Websites


The Speech Henry V (Sir Lawrence Olivier) on YouTube

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