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05-07-2023 | Guy Moritz

L’Alsacienne: a race against the clock

Earlier this year, in an overconfident mood, I signed up for the Tour des Stations Superfondo. Consequently, training became a necessity, and I decided to use a serious training schedule via JOIN for the first time. To monitor my progress, I also set some goals. Inspired by the enjoyable and informative CycloWorld podcast about the Vosges Mountains, I registered for the L'Alsacienne. My aim was to complete the longest distance of 195 km with 4850 meters of elevation.

© L'Alsacienne

Sunny and warm

On Friday, we drove to Kruth and settled into our Airbnb house in Oderen, approximately eight kilometers away from the starting point. The weather was fantastic, with summer conditions and an expected temperature rise to 35 degrees on Sunday. We made sure to apply plenty of sunscreen.

On Saturday morning, under a clear blue sky, we went for a warm-up ride to loosen up our legs. Afterward, we headed to the starting number distribution point, which went smoothly. However, the giveaways were a bit underwhelming, consisting only of a pair of socks (of good quality). Nevertheless, we explored the modest finish village, which comprised about five stands. We then returned to our accommodation to buy groceries for a responsible evening meal and attach the start numbers to our bikes and the CylcoWorld fan shirt (what could go wrong).

Cut-off time

To complete the longest distance, there was a cut-off time of 14:30 at the checkpoint, just over 143 km into the race. Therefore, maintaining an average speed of 21 km/hour would be sufficient. Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. with the start scheduled for 07:30 a.m. This gave us enough time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. After quickly checking our bikes, loading up with gels, bars, and snacks in our back pockets, we set off towards the start at Lac de Kruth-Wildenstein.


Due to the high number of participants (2500), the start was a bit chaotic as we funneled onto a not-too-wide ring road. This created a lengthy starting box. Accompanied by music, I rolled over the start line ten minutes later. The first three kilometers offered a slight downhill course, followed by the Col d'Oderen, the Col du Page, and the Col de Bussang. These were gradual climbs without extreme gradients, making for a pleasant start. After covering over 35 km, the challenging two-stage climb of Geishouse (average 8.6% and max 19%) began, followed by the Col du Haag (average 8% and max 11%). This was where the real test began, with double-digit gradients pushing my limits. After climbing for over four kilometers, I reached the first feed station and took a moment to recover. However, the entrance, which also served as an exit, was narrow and resulted in some chaos. While the feed stations themselves had enough supplies, they were not extravagant. Water was available, but there were no sports drinks, bars, or gels.

Col du Haag

After refilling my water bottles, I continued cycling towards the top of the 6-kilometer-long Col du Haag. This climb demanded a significant amount of energy, but the breathtaking panorama at the summit made it worthwhile. The descent that followed, on a wide road, was a joy to ride. Afterward, there were two more manageable climbs, the Col du Bannstein and the Col du Firstplan. Between these climbs, a water station was set up—a necessity given the soaring temperatures. Time-wise, I was on track, which provided some reassurance. As the temperature climbed above 30 degrees Celsius, I still had two more demanding climbs to conquer before reaching the split for the longest distance.

First up was the Petit Ballon, which stretched for just under eight kilometers with an average gradient of 7.9% and a maximum of 20%. This irregular climb proved to be quite challenging, with my speed frequently dropping to around 10 km/hour. The term "petit" was far from clear to me during this climb. As time passed, the cycling became increasingly arduous. After approximately 50 minutes, I reached the top and immediately dove into the full-speed descent. At the 110 km mark, halfway down the descent, I encountered the second feed station. It had been quite depleted, with several containers empty. I managed to refill my bottles and grabbed a banana and some slices of sausage. Since I had enough food in my back pockets, I swiftly resumed my journey. The descent was followed by the last climb before the junction, the Platzerwasel, spanning over 7 km with an average gradient of 8.3%. This climb was no easy task either, and my legs were gradually losing strength. I joined a group of cyclists, and it became evident that everyone had expended a significant amount of energy. Together, we reached the top and had about five more kilometers of rolling road ahead before descending towards the junction.

© L'Alsacienne

Race against the clock

Time continued to tick, and it was around 2:15 p.m. when we began the descent toward Lac de Kruth, where the junction was located. Realizing that reaching the cut-off time was no longer realistic, I decided not to take unnecessary risks during the descent. One kilometer before the fork, a sign indicated that the course was fermée for the 195 km route. Guided by traffic controllers, I turned left, and a little later, I crossed the finish line. As Johan Cruijff always said, every disadvantage has its advantage, and in this case, I was able to enjoy a well-deserved recovery beer at 15:00.

© L'Alsacienne

Summary: L'Alsacienne was a fantastic gran fondo! The course offered both challenges and beauty, with generally good road conditions. The organization was satisfactory, with traffic controllers stationed at every intersection to ensure smooth flow. The first climb even had car-free sections. One area for improvement is the feed stations, which could have been more extensive and strategically located.

It was a truly memorable day of cycling, and perhaps next year, I will take on the 195 km route again!

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