Following the spirit of Sir Edmund Hillary, who reportedly responded to questions of why he wanted to climb Mount Everest with “Because it’s there,” Bruno Pollet set off in July to be the first person to climb the Col du Tourmalet on an ElliptiGO Arc.
“I had previously climbed the Tourmalet with a conventional bike and also ‘biked and ran’ to the top a couple of times,” Pollet explained. “But that was more than 15 years ago. I remembered it was quite difficult and fun.
“Two months ago, a few dedicated GOers managed to climb the Tourmalet on their long-stride ElliptiGO bikes, so I asked myself, ‘Why not test the Arc on it?’ I thought it would be quite the challenge.”
Indeed. Col du Tourmalet is the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrenees and a frequent test of cyclists in the Tour de France.
Pollet has enjoyed biking, hiking and running for 30 years. But the years of running took a toll, and injuries began piling up. In one foot, Pollet has what he describes as “foot support issues due to a small fracture which cannot heal.”
In 2012, he bought an ElliptiGO 8S so he could continue “running” but without the impact. He was one of the ElliptiGO trailblazers in Europe, and he has been instrumental as a brand ambassador in demonstrating and promoting ElliptiGO bikes as well as leading a growing community of riders.
In 2014, he recruited Beate Vogt, the owner of SOBHI Sport, the local running-specialty shop. Together, they have made SOBHI one of the leading ElliptiGO dealers in France. Pollet also introduced Damien Douvry to the power of cross-training on ElliptiGO bikes. That move has paid dividends for Douvry, who is defending champion of the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 2016 and two-time defending champion of the ElliptiGO European Championships.
Pollet rides every day for both commuting and shopping, mostly small rides for a daily total of 15 miles or more.
Occasionally, just for fun, he’ll go on a ride of 200km or more. In January of this year, he rode 300km (186 miles) and followed that a month later with a 240km (149 miles) ride through the western part of France.
While he enjoys those long rides through the Bordeaux region, the gravitational lure of the mountain keeps pulling at Pollet. For the past two years, he has participated in the ElliptiGO European Championships, climbing Mont Revard (1562m / 5125 feet), and you can look for him to compete again this year.
To conquer Tourmalet, Pollet rode his Arc 23km (14.3 miles) of total ascent with 1460 meters (4790 feet) of elevation. The relentless climb averages 7.4% grade, but near the summit, some portions of the pass exceed 10%.
Even with his previous experience up the pass, Pollet admitted the ride was tougher than he expected.
“It was very hot that day,” he said. “At the start, the temperature was 37C (98F). There was also some moderate headwind. I rode in the late afternoon and dusk. With the night coming and the higher altitude, the temperature was getting cooler, but that also reinforced the descending breeze, slowing down my progress.
“It was getting very intense just to go forward as I was nearing the top. The road was very quiet. It felt like it was just me, the Arc and the mountains most of the time. I saw a couple of cyclists descending. As we passed each other, they congratulated me on my climbing. I needed it since I was approaching the hardest part after La Mongie.
“Finally, I managed to reach the highest point of the road. It was one of the most difficult rides I have ever done.”
Not one to rest long, Pollet already has plans for his next big adventures, including riding up three famed passes in the French Alps in the same day and riding from him home in La Rochelle, France, to Albi, a distance of 500km (310 miles) “to spend some time with friends of the ElliptiGO community.”