Before you wonder what I am doing writing when I should be enjoying France, I’ll tell you that I’m on the Hotel’s laptop, in front of a picture window looking out on the ski lift of Serre Chevalier. M is relaxing with a book after a breakfast of baguette with ham and emmental, freshly baked croissant au chocolat, fresh fruit and cappucino.
Properly caffeinated and well rested, I can go on a bit more about yesterday’s ride. We started out at 8am, a group of mixed ability and a wide range of ages. The Col D’izoard is medium in length by Alps standards, and we rose through 2% and 3% grades at its foot. By the time it crept to 5% I was lamenting the 15 (20?) extra pounds I am carrying and the group broke into 2 distinct packs…with me on my own in the middle.
The weather was perfect…cool but sunny. We continued to climb through absolutely beautiful backdrops and the grade continued to kick up. After 90 minutes of climbing, at the end of my endurance, I made the ill advised decision to take a mouthful of powergel…chocolate. If I’d known I was only 10 minutes from the top I might have held off. Instead I took the sickly sweet goop in my mouth, rolled to a stop, and smoothly vomited. It was quite efficient and discrete…welcome even.
The final 10 minutes was a breeze and I arrived at the top to find that the early group had fled. After taking some photos of the cairn marking the 2360m summit and uniting with the second group, our little group descended in pouring rain and frigid temperature down the 25k slope for a needed cappucino in Brunisard.
From there we travelled on to Guillestre, where Roland and I were run almost into a ditch by the well-meaning gendarmes responsible for running interference for the oncoming publicity caravan for the Tour stage. We shivered by the side of the road for the next 45 minutes while the Tour’s version of a parade zoomed by launching keychains, laundry soap and pretzels at the crowd by the roadside. With my lamentably rusty but adequate French I was able to con our way into a local families car to warm up.
Once the caravan passed we continued on to the city centre of Guillestre for another cappucino and lunch while we awaited the riders. Credit Agricoles Simon Gerrans (the stage winner) was just jumping the gap to the breakaway as they streamed past…it all happened in about 30s and was thrilling.
On the ride from Guillestre through Briancon and on to Serre Chevalier I learned that you don’t have to be climbing famous Cols to find challenging ascents in the Alps.
It was by far the most epic, challenging day on the bike and thoroughly rewarding (the high-altitude upchuck a possible exception).