Ben Hardisty writes…
Thirty degrees, glorious sunshine and no little humidity greeted us on this fantastic journey on two wheels around the French Alps. This was in fact the same route used by the ‘La Marmotte’ event which is to run only a week later than our trip.
Parking up at Bourg d’Oisans in the shadow of Alpe d’Huez but under clear skies the mood was excitable but nervous. Double checking that we had everything (Paul:”has anyone got a pump?”) we set off north (clockwise) on the valley road before turning right to head up towards the Col du Glandon via Lac du Verney. Before long the sun rose higher putting our sun block 30 to the test.
By this point we were out of the trees and cycling through open mountain meadows. In a quite surreal moment our path was blocked for a few minutes by a huge flock of sheep crossing the road, the shepherd assured us there were over 900 of them, it certainly held up what little traffic there was.
Col du Glandon was duly reached with a photo shoot (the first of many) and then it was the short ride up to Col de Croix de Fer at 2000m. A fast descent was followed by a long stretch of rolling spectacular scenery, through gorges and over bridges, before finally arriving in St-Jean-de-Maurienne where lunch was served in the Carrefour carpark.
After over eating on bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes, coca cola, red bull and pastries we headed off for the next challenge, the climb up to Col de Telegraphe (via St-Michel-de-Maurienne). This was quite tough in the midday heat, a 12k climb at around 8-9%. But refreshed with strawberries carried by Amadeo we made the short descent into lovely Valloire. An excellent stopping off point this town except for the fact that there was a quad bike festival going on.
After dunking our heads to cool off and eating the last of our provisions we started the ascent of the ‘big one’, the Col du Galibier, a 20km climb with a variety of gradients. This was the part of the ride that we most feared and it didn’t disappoint. A gruelling climb, at 2600m high enough for riders to suffer from lack of oxygen on the upper section. But there is a lovely moment when you turn through the final hairpin and there is a view to the summit now not far away.
A final photo opportunity awaited before it got too cold and we hit the fast and very bumpy descent. By the time we reached Col du Lautaret our hands/arms had suffered, but it had at least warmed up at the lower altitude. For some reason I had assumed it was now a simple short ride back to Bourg from there, but no, we had more descent and lots of dimly lit tunnels to negotiate before the return trip was complete, and of course another spectacular gorge.
The plan had been to climb up Alpe d’Huez but as we were already late for the family BBQ this idea was abandoned, besides which we already had 100+ miles and 4000m of climbing in our legs.
Many thanks to my brother David and my new cycling buddies Paul and Amadeo for a great day out.