300 COLS IN 30 DAYS
At the beginning of this month, Phil Deeker, a pyrotechnician from Salisbury, Wiltshire set off to conquer 300 cols in 30 days.
Phil's plan is to attack these cols over three routes across the Alps, Pyrenees and Cevennes, all routes established by the 'Club Des Cent Cols.' His motivation behind the 4,100kms and total 71,000 metre climb? MAG (Mines Advisory Group), a group who provide conflict-affected areas with a chance of a better future.
CW takes a look at Phil’s diary as he completes the first section of his ride ...
I started with a beautiful steady climb up the Col de Fontbelle only to find it very cold at the top. After 36km of typical smooth French tarmac on the way down I was well on my way to the next col. Corobin, which I climbed several times last year and for some reason really like, is a 9km climb where you arrive first to the Pierre Bass ecol then look up to the real top. After 4km of the kind of hairpins that all cyclists fantasise about (loads of them and not too steep) I’m at the top.
It’s 6.30am and I’m straight into a 9km climb up to Col St Raphael. There’s a stunning silence as I watch the sun rise over the mountains and the first real day of heat and sun seemed set to materialise.
I enjoyed a game of shadow play as my shadow, in the morning sun, rode most of the way up the col beside me and I admired the relaxed riding position and the rhythmic pedaling style. Great rider!
Magical moment of the day: Meeting a herd of bell-ringing cattle ambling up the road with their cow-herd and slowly cycling through them.
I took the road which led me back inland and into one of the big cols of the day, Col de Vence. Back to the silence, the big skies, monster views and rhythmic pedaling. I felt good and ‘danced’ the last 4km of this steady 7% gradient. What a great feeling.
An hour or so later I hit my first ‘Coup de Blues’. It had to happen soon and was probably due to a lack of sleep or a blood sugar drop. Luckily, a retired Dutch couple appeared on the scene just in time to cheer the spirits. They had cycled 12,000 miles from Cairo to Cape Town last year and Kees, the husband, said that when people were amazed that he had pedaled so far (at the ripe old age of 65) he said that it’s not the 1,000’s of km that’s the problem it’s the 20cms between your left ear and your right that’s the difficult part!
After Moustiers Ste Marie the road to Ste Croix fights its way up onto the plateau which, last year, had me gasping for breath. It’s a 2km staircase at an average 16% gradient with 4 ‘chevrons’ on the Michelin map and there’s not even a col at the top! Today I ‘danced’ it most of the way and only broke into a sweat for the last few bends. It’s good to see the body is holding up so well.
The reward at the top was greater than any col sign for me. To the right stood the great Mont Ventoux, which was probably about 50 miles away, but even at this distance it still dominates the whole area.