Monday, 25 August 2014

Now We're Back

So that's it for this year's Alpine trip.

It seems the right time to start a new blog, covering riding back in the UK. There was only really one thing I could call it. Thanks to Angela, you can follow the continuing story at Fatman Returns.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Where We Stayed

We stayed in two locations this year. Most of the time we were based at Cycling Ascents in Bourg d'Oisans. Kevin and Delphine have set up the perfect location for cyclists. Kevin has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the rides in the area, and is no slouch in the weekly Alpe d'Huez time trial. As well as a modern, well laid out, bed and breakfast establishment, there is secure bike storage and space to do maintenance as well as a bike stand and tools. Breakfast is a communal and typically French affair and a great chance to talk with the fellow cyclists also staying there.

The location, on the outskirts of Bourg d'Oisans is perfect. It's easy to get into town for shopping or dinner, and the local roads offer an excellent warm up before riding up Alpe d'Huez, which starts just outside the town.

All in all, highly recommended!

In Briancon we stayed at the Hotel le Mont Prorel. This is a traditional, small French hotel, run by a couple from Southampton. It's in a great location near the centre of the town. Once again, there is an excellent French breakfast buffet.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Winding Down

With the rides completed, we decided to have a really easy, relaxed day today, doing a little sightseeing in Briancon's old town. There was quite a lot of rain overnight, and the weather looked grey and threatening at breakfast. But by the time we were ready to go up, the skies were clearing and the sun was making yet another appearance.

In a final strange coincidence, having hardly seen any other Wilier bikes while we've been in the Alpes, odd since Italy is so close here, one of the other guests in the hotel has an Izoard! It's actually an XP. He and a friend are on a whistle-stop tour of the region. They are cycling the Izoard today, then heading for an early bus to Grenoble tomorrow morning on the way back to London.

We drove up to the old town. The approach road is very steep. I wouldn't want to cycle up it. Finding the pay car park full, we started a random tour of the town, but in less than 50 metres had found an apparently free car park with space in it.

We spent the morning walking round the town and its walls and fortifications, and taking a few photos.

A rather nice bridge linking parts of the walls of the town
Ingenuity in using the geography and the local materials is everywhere
The parish church still dominates the old town's skyline
The fortifications, including arrow slits, are a reminder of the importance of this site in guarding the route between Italy and France
The streets are very steep

We had a very pleasant lunch in one of the few flat areas of the town, then headed down to buy supplies for the trip home, which starts tomorrow. Shopping at lunch time is a delight. There was hardly anyone in the supermarket.

So that's about it. There is just the packing up to do this afternoon before loading the car and driving back to Langres for our overnight stop tomorrow.

It's been quite a trip!


I've just totted up a few numbers from the last couple of weeks of riding.

  • I covered just shy of 600 kilometres. 
  • I climbed nearly 14,000 meters, which is over 1.5 times the height of Everest.
  • I expended nearly 18,000 calories while riding. I'm pretty sure this is accurate as it's based on data from my power meter. It just goes to show how efficient cycling is, since this is not a lot of energy when compared with the average intake for a male, of 2500 calories per day. I rode on 10 days in total.
  • My maximum speed while descending, naturally, was a shade under 65 kilometres per hour.
  • In total, I turned the pedals 110,647 times.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Izoard to the Power 4

So this was it. The final ride of the entire trip, and the realisation of the concept that had sparked the whole enterprise. Today, I'd ride my Willier Izoard over its namesake, the Col d'Izoard.

The Tour de France has used this pass on many occasions, and in both directions. Since we were staying in Briancon, I'd decided to ride it from Guilestre back to Briancon. We set off bright and early to drive to Guilestre, over the Col d'Izoard so I could get a look at the road, and so that we could take some photos. The weather could not have been more perfect. Clear blue skies, and not a cloud to be seen.

The drive up from Briancon is steady. The road is wide and well engineered and the surface superb. We stopped a couple of times on the way up to take photos. The views from the top were spectacular. It's not as bleak as the top of the Galibier, even though it's almost as high. Trees line the route almost to the top. 
The view back down towards Briancon from the top of the Col d'Izoard. The building in the foreground is the Refuge Napoleon. It has a cafe.

The view towards Guilestre and Italy from the Col d'Izoard

After crossing the top of the pass, the road descends rapidly into the Casse Deserte. This barren landscape is dotted with amazing rock pinnacles. The rock here is quite different from that on the Galibier. It's very sandy. The Casse Deserte occupies quite a small area of the whole climb. Then again, after the Galibier, maybe everything else looks small!

The amazing rock formations of the Casse Deserte

After a short climb through the Casse Deserte the road descends quickly again until it crosses a wide Alpine valley through a number of villages. The final run into Guilestre is almost flat for many kilometres. More on that later.

Guilestre has a large market in the centre of town on a Monday. We were lucky to find a parking space, and even luckier to have retained our full complement of wing mirrors after an unbelievably stupid and rude French woman seemed determined to drive her Peugot through our Fiesta, rather than giving us 10 seconds to move out of her way.

I assembled the bike while Angela headed into the local supermarket to pick up some cakes and drinks. After a very high calorie Mille Feuille and a can of lemonade, I was ready for the off. After negotiating the lunch time traffic, and more pedestrians determined to have a cycling-related accident by inattention, I was soon heading away from town and up the valley of the river Guil, which gives Guilestre its name. Soon after leaving the town, the road heads into a gorge, hugging its side. It's narrow, and has a number of tunnels. It's incredibly picturesque, but also busy. At one point, an articulated truck laden with tree trunks made its way down past me. Fortunately I'd pulled over to take a photo at the time.
The barrage in the Guil river just above Guilestre. The road clings to the side of the gorge at this point. Next to the barrage, you can just make out the entrance to one of the tunnels on the road.

The road runs alongside the river for a number of kilometres, and hardly climbs at all. Progress is swift with gradients of only a couple of percent. This flat section is the primary reason for the average gradient of this climb being quoted as misleadingly low. Once the D902 turns away from the river, towards Arvieux, the gradients ramp up significantly. There is a lot of hard climbing ahead.

The road soon straightens as it crosses a wide Alpine valley. The gradients remain quite high though. One of the features of the Izoard is that its gradient is never constant for long. Get into a nice rhythm for 7% and within a few hundred metres you'll be at 8.4%. Gear for that and soon it will have kicked up beyond 9%, or back down to 4%. It's continually knocking you out of your rhythm. Don't believe the roadside gradient indications either. It may well be an average of 6.4% for the next kilometre, but you'll probably find a short section at 10% hiding in there!

Once the valley has been crossed, there is a series of hairpin bends and steep ramps to be negotiated as the road works its way up to the Casse Deserte. The ramps do lengthen just before it's reached. It's a hard section, but the tree line is not far away, and the goal is in sight. Just before the Casse Deserte is the most misleading cycling sign I've encountered in this entire trip. It claims that the next kilometre is flat. As I passed it my Garmin was reading a gradient of 6.8% and the road was kicking up. Of course, what actually happens is that as you reach the Casse Deserte, the road abruptly swings sharply downwards for another half kilometre or so delivering you to the last set of hairpins that lead up to the Col itself. This last set is not as hard as the Galibier. The warmer weather helped too, and soon I could see Angela perched on a rock waiting to record my arrival at the top of my last climb of this trip.
Making the final push for the top

Izoard to the power 4. One director of Izoard Consulting photographing another director of Izoard Consulting who has just got his Willier Izoard to the top of the Col d'Izoard.

The track up from Guilestre to the Col d'Izoard is available on Garmin Connect

The descent from the Izoard towards Briancon is superb. The road surface is almost new. There is a combination of hairpin bends, sweeping curves and straights that are a delight to descend. In no time, I had made the turn at Cervieres and was racing down the Cerveyette valley towards Briancon. I did have to check my progress sometimes so as not to break the speed limits in the villages I whizzed through on the way down.

And then it was into rush hour traffic in Briancon. It's easier with a bike, and without too much delay I was back at the hotel. Now it was my turn to wait for Angela, who had to get the car down from the Col and through that same traffic.

The track down from the Col d'Izoard to Briancon is available on Garmin Connect

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Easy Way Up

After yesterday's exertions, it was time for another rest day. The weather in Briancon was fabulous. We decided to take the cable car up to the top of mount Prorel, the peak above the town. The line runs in two sections, getting from Briancon at around 1200 metres to 2360 metres in under 15 minutes. That's about the same height gain as going over the Col d'Izoard. That should be tomorrow's adventure.

The very easy way up. The cable car station at the top of mount Prorel. Actually to get to the peak itself is a further steep climb on foot, but there are plenty of walks that don't require mountaineering skills too. 

The old, walled town of Briancon, above the newer developments. This view is from the intermediate cable car station.

The views from the top of mount Prorel are superb.
This is the road down to Briancon from the Col d'Izoard. With any luck I'll be arriving down it tomorrow afternoon.

The lake is part of another hydro electric scheme. It's called Lac Pont Baldy. It provides around 5 MW of power to Briancon and the surroundings.

It was from up here that I managed to get a shot of the top of the Galibier. That photo is now on yesterday's post.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Big One - The Telegraphe and the Galibier

Having said our goodbyes at Cycling Ascents, we headed up the Col du Lautaret ready to drive over the Col de Galibier to Saint Michel-de-Maurienne, the town at the foot of the climb to the Col du Telegraphe. We remarked on the number of cyclists on the Col du Lautaret. They all seemed to have numbers on their bikes. Then we reached an illuminated sign saying that the Col de Galibier was closed! 

When we got to the top of the Lautaret, the Galibier was indeed closed, for a bike race. These are the signs that greeted us. 
A very helpful organiser explained that it would be closed to cars for another hour or so. There was nothing for it but to chill out and take some photos. The sky was clear and Les Ecrins put on a spectacular show for us.
The glacier above the Col du Lautaret

As good as their word, the organisers reopened the Galibier just before noon. We drove up, stopping to take lots of pictures on the way. In retrospect this may have been a mistake, as it delayed my departure from St Michel-de-Maurienne until nearly 2pm. That was to have some consequences later on.

We drove right to the top of the Galibier, avoiding the tunnel, to see the views.
The road up to the top of the Galibier, from the Col du Lautaret

The road down to Briancon from the Col du Lautaret, where, all being well, I should be heading later.

As we drove down from the Galibier, first to Valloire, then on to St Michel-de-Maurienne, I really did start to worry that I would not be able to do this ride. We seemed to be descending steeply for ever. Could I really get back over this by nightfall?

St Michel-de-Maurienne is a small industrial town without much to recommend it to the tourist. There is a car park right at the foot of the climb up to the Telegraphe, almost underneath the main A6 autoroute. There were already several cars with bike racks on them there. There was a loo, and drinking water. This was clearly the place.

I was still nervous as I readied the bike, loaded a couple of Clif bars and all the additional clothing I had available. Then I was off and climbing. It was a relief to end the anticipation, and feel the reality of two long climbs. I seemed to be moving ok, and my power, cadence and heart rate numbers were fine. The road has helpful markers every kilometre, showing the distance to go and the gradient. The only downside was that the local council had decided to strip the surface of about half the climb, presumably ready for resurfacing at the end of the summer. The result was the most unpleasant kind of vibro-massage imaginable, apart from proper Paris-Roubaix style pave. This was a heavy road!

Still, in not much more than an hour, I was at the top of the Telegraphe. Maybe I could do this after all. The hors d'oeuvres were over. Now for the main course.

Once again, the bike that got me to the top.
The view back down to Saint Michel-de-Maurienne from the Col du Telegraphe

The track up to the Col du Telegraphe is available on Garmin Connect

Leaving the Col du Telegraphe, the road heads down for several kilometres until it reaches Valloire. For people interested in cycling the Galibier, Valloire just gets in the way. There are lots of people and lots of traffic. Just grin and bear it. Oh, and be prepared to unclip at a moments notice as the tourists step in front of you!

The road heads up steeply as you leave the town. Once again, the kilometre markers are there to make you aware just how far it is to go and just how steep its going to get. But soon, you're free of the town and the people and able to get into a rhythm and marvel at the spectacular landscape you're pedalling through. The Galibier differs from some other climbs in that it's very open. You can see the road ahead snaking over the mountain. You can see just how far up you've come. It does have hairpins, and some sections that hit 10%, but in the main, it's a steady climb with breathtaking views.

I did have to stop a couple of times. Once was to take on some water, when the gradient had not relented enough to enable me to drink for what seemed like ages. The second was to add clothing as I got closer to the top. It was very cold up there. I'm not proud of what happened when I tried to restart after putting on my gilet and arm warmers. I'm still getting used to Look cleats, and do have trouble clipping in, especially on hills. I selected second gear, pushed off hard, but failed to clip my left leg. I took another mighty push with my right leg to keep momentum, shot diagonally across the road and did a wheelie, while still failing to clip in. I managed to keep going, and would like to apologise, to the French couple who had stopped to admire the view, for the loud English expletive which rent the clear, Alpine air. Luckily I didn't actually fall off and was able to make a slow-motion escape.

When I finally made it to the Valloire end of the Galibier tunnel, I'd just about run out of water. I stopped at the shop to buy some. There is no cafe here, so nothing for it but to push on over the top to the cafe on the other side. The last kilometre is a set of hairpins at nearly 10%, but was actually not as bad as I had feared. Seeing the final goal is half the battle.
The now obligatory picture of the bike at the top.

The road leading down to the Col du Lautaret.

The track from the Col du Telegraphe to the Col de Galibier is available on Garmin Connect

It was freezing at the top. The wind was blasting over the Col, and once I'd got my pictures, my only thought was getting down as fast as possible. It was now that my late departure really started to bite. The cafe at the Galibier was already closed. Nothing for it but to head down to the Lautaret. Never has 8 kilometres of descending seemed so unpleasant. My hands were frozen, and I was having difficulty controlling the bike. I shivered uncontrollably all the way down. I had to concentrate really hard. And when I got to the Lautaret, the cafe I've used before was also shut. Thankfully, the hotel was still open. I laced the hot chocolate I bought with sugar and sat in the sun for a while until the shivering stopped.

The track from the Col de Galibier to the Col du Lautaret is available on Garmin Connect

The problem now was that the road down to Briancon was in shadow. Nothing for it but another 15 kilometres of shivering descent, continually looking for the next patch of sunshine that might offer a little relief, followed by a blissful 12 more kilometres without a shiver. Each of the towns on the descent was another mild annoyance, but at least most of Briancon's traffic had dissipated by the time I arrived. I consulted the paper map I had showing the hotel's location. I turned down what should have been the right street and sailed straight past it. I was so cold and tired that I didn't even notice our car parked prominently in front of it. I stopped, and while pondering what to do, a lady appeared at my side. It was Angela, who'd spotted me and came to the rescue before I could pedal off and get really lost!

What a day. The Galibier is a spectacular climb. I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

The track from the Col du Lautaret to Briancon is available on Garmin Connect

The day after this ride, I was able to take a photo of the top of the Galibier from Mount Prerol, the peak above Briancon.
The road in the valley is the one leading to the Col du Lautaret. You can see the climb to the Galibier as a diagonal line running up the mountain in the distance from just above half way up the picture. On the original, suitably enlarged, the cafe at the Galibier tunnel, the tunnel entrance and the top of the pass itself are all clearly visible.

Friday, 15 August 2014


Tomorrow, we move on to Briancon. While Angela is taking the sensible option of driving, weather permitting, I'm going to include a ride over the Col du Telegraph and its larger cousin the Col de Galibier. So after yesterday's exertions on Alpe d'Huez, I just wanted to ride for a couple of hours on something not too difficult.

Originally, the plan was to do some shopping, fill the car with fuel and then ride up the Ornon again. But by the time I was ready to go, the cloud had filled the western end of the valley and the weather over towards the Ornon looked decidedly evil. It looked a lot better at the other end of the valley, so that's the direction we headed in. I turned up towards Venosc at Le Clapier, and rode up beyond the cable car station to the lake at Plan du Lac. The road above Venosc is steep, with grades of 10 and 11%. With the weather closing in, I turned tail and ran for the valley, which was much nicer!

There are no pictures today, but the track up to Plan du Lac is available on Garmin Connect.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Seconds Out. Alpe d'Huez. Round 2. And Some Sightseeing.

So after a week of riding iconic Tour de France climbs in spectacular scenary and glorious weather, a question remained. Has my riding improved at all? The best way to find out was to ride up Alpe d'Huez again. Angela and I arranged to have lunch together, but unlike our Deux Alpes experience, we knew where to meet!

Unlike a week ago, I did a tour of the outer reaches of Bourg d'Oisans, to warm up properly, then made my way across to the start of the climb and headed up. First impressions were not too bad. My power output was up, and my cadence higher than last week. Good riders continued to come past, but I was doing my fair share of overtaking too. Within no time I reached La Garde, where I had turned off for the balcony road yesterday. As the slope eased down into the 8% region I was able to push rather than just survive. As the gradients kicked up again, I was still able to keep up a pace and feel comfortable. No back pain either. So far so good. As I approached Huez village, a rider sporting a Yorkshire Tour de France jersey came past but didn't really make much progress. As the gradient eased again, I re-passed him and didn't see him again. I even managed to smile for the photographers!

Thanks to the guys and gals at Photo Breton, for this shot.

The whole climb, while not exactly easy, felt a lot more comfortable than last week. It certainly helps to have an idea about what's coming around the next bend. And this time, I wasn't reduced collapsing on the kerb after crossing the finishing line. And my time? Well its not going to win any awards, but at just on 1 hour 30 minutes, it was a whole 20 minutes faster than last week.

The track up to Alpe d'Huez is available on Garmin Connect.

After the obligatory drinks and lunch Chez Leo, including sandwiches that Subway could only dream about, we spent the afternoon sightseeing. After riding up to the lakes above Alpe d'Huez, along with what seemed like most of the population, I headed back down to Huez and over to Villard-Reculas. Angela drove back via the Col de Sarenne.

The track up to the lakes is available on Garmin Connect.

Above Alpe d'Huez, and reached with a moderate amount of climbing, are a number of lakes, including this one, Lac Besson.
The views of the surrounding mountains from the lakes are spectacular

The road to Villard-Reculas clings to the side of the mountain much like the balcony road. It gives spectacluar views across the valley. The icing on the cake is the descent from Villard-Reculas itself. Its fast and open with sweeping bends and good visibility and enough hairpins nearer the end to keep life interesting. The road joins the one from Lac Verney, so the final few kilometers is pan flat. There was a tail wind blowing too, which did wonders for my average speed.

The track back down via Villard-Reculas is available on Garmin Connect.

The Romanche valley from the road to Villard-Reculas
The start of the climb to the Col d'Ornon

Stunning scenary is everywhere

A Day of Two Halves

They say that weather changes quickly in the mountains. Today was as graphic an illustration as you could ask for. The rain that started yesterday had continued through the night and into this morning. All along the mountain sides above Bourg d'Oisans, waterfalls that had not been visible before had sprung to life. At breakfast, a group of us decided to go and visit Cascade de la Piss, a fall that reaches the valley floor only a couple of kilometers away. It was a good day for a walk. It continued to rain on us for the entire time we were out. We had to negotiate flooded tracks and, at one point, even to jump across a swollen stream. And then, just as we arrived back, the rain simply stopped. No drizzle, no showers, nothing. The sun came out and within half an hour, you'd have been hard pressed to tell that it had been raining at all. Apart from the waterfalls all the way along the valley, of course.
The Cascade Piss, arriving at the floor of the valley from high up on the mountains above Bourg d'Oisans.

The afternoon was set fair for a bike ride. The balcony road was the obvious choice. This road runs from La Garde, part way up the climb to Alpe d'Huez, to La Freney, near Lac Chambon. For much of its length, it clings to the side of the mountain several hundred metres above the valley. The views are spectacular. The road  looks quite level from the valley. It isn't. The ramps vary from 7 to 10%. One road side sign I saw that threatened a kilometer at 14% didn't ever materialise. Still, the purpose of the ride was to see the views and take some photos, and it was never particularly arduous. The few tunnels are short enough not to be a concern, especially with the small amount of traffic.
Angela drove the road today, and managed to capture a shot of the elusive creature after which this blog is named.
The balcony road clinging to the mountain above Bourg d'Oisans
Bourg d'Oisans from the air.. well, alright, from the balcony road.
A couple of the short tunnels on the road.

The return from Le Freney was the usual blast down the D1091 to Le Clapier, and then time trial mode on the last few flat kilometers into Bourg.

The track for the balcony road loop is available on Garmin Connect.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Col de Croix de Fer and Col de Glandon. The Two for One Deal!

Over the past few days, I'd managed to ride up all the climbs on my target list, in the Bourg d'Oiseans area, apart from two. The Col de Croix de Fer and Col de Glandon form a pair that can be reached in one climb. The Glandon is virtually on the way to the Croix de Fer.

I set off today with company. Ollie and Louise, a couple staying in the same accommodation, also wanted to climb these two cols. We set out together in glorious sunshine to cover the first 9km of flat riding to Rochtaille, and then the gentle climb to the dam at Lac Verney, It's not until 17kms into the ride that the gradient starts to pick up significantly. Ollie was the first off the front of the group, and as the gradient continued to climb to 9 and 10%, I gradually lost Louise's wheel and slipped further and further behind. It was no real surprise. At around 24 km into the ride, Ollie and Louise had stopped in a cafe to take a break. I let them know that I was planning to get to the top without stopping, and on I went.

This is a hard climb. The gradient stays around 10%  for significant periods. The lower overall gradient figure is mainly caused by two significant downhill sections. The first of these comes at around 26km, when a series of steep ramps and hairpins takes the road down to cross a river. The ascent the other side is just as steep, but then settles back to the unrelenting 10% gradient. Occasionally, gradients of 14 and even 16% occur, but these are thankfully short.

This steep climb continues until the dam at Lac Grand Maison is reached. This is the top of a very impressive hydro electric generation scheme that can deliver 20 gigawatts of power to the French grid. After the lake is reached, the gradients ease to between 5 and 8 %. There is another descent before the final 7% assault on the summits. I rode past the Glandon to get all the way up to the Croix de Fer without stopping. My plan was nearly scuppered by a herd of cows that had decided to leave their pasture and wander onto the road. Fortunately, though cars could not pass them, bikes could.

Although this last part of the climb has a modest 7% gradient, the work I'd done to get this far meant that I couldn't really take advantage of the reduced slope, and I finally wheezed to the top 3 hours and 2 minutes after leaving Bourg. And I had to remember that unlike other climbs in this region, there is a serious amount of climbing to do to get back.

The bike that helped me to the top
The weather was starting to close in at the top of the climb. So I curtailed photographic activity to get inside and warm up. Consequently, the picture of the actual Iron Cross that gives the Col de Croix de Fer it's name, is from yesterday's visit when the light was nicer.

The track to the Croix de Fer is available on Garmin Connect.

At the cafe, I downed a couple of hot chocolates, and a cheese and ham omelette. Then I noticed that they had some rather nice tee-shirts. I paid for my meal and bought a tee-shirt to use as a base layer on the way down! And wasn't that a great idea. It kept me warm through the increasingly heavy rain that I encountered on the way down.

I visited the Col du Glandon on the way down. It would have been rude not to!

The track down to the Glandon is available on Garmin Connect.

The enormous bicycle sculpture at the Col de Glandon. Unfortunately bits of it have fallen off and are lying in the grass. Again this picture is from yesterday's visit, when the light was nicer.

I didn't meet up with Ollie and Louise. They did make it to the top, but while I was inside the cafe, out of sight stuffing my face with omelette.

The track for the return from the Col de Glandon is available on Garmin Connect.

Today was definitely the toughest so far. I have to hope it's good enough preparation for the Col du Telegraphe and the Col du Galibier, another double act of cols coming soon to a cyclist near you.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Rest Day

We'd decided that today was a good day to take a break from riding. As it turned out, the weather was not so good first thing. We decided to go for a short hike above Bourg d'Oisans on the south side of the valley. Villard-Reymond is a small village just below the ridge of the mountains and reachable from the road to the Col d'Ornon. It's quite a drive, being steep, narrow and lacking a barrier on some stretches. There isn't much traffic, but meeting an oncoming truck can be interesting. From the car park at the village, the Col de Solude can be reached in a few minutes. This offers a panoramic view over Bourg d'Oisans and the surrounding communities. It's about the one place to get the picture postcard photo of the entire road up to Alpe d'Huez. While we were up there, the weather changed by the minute.

Villard-Reculas, Alpe d'Huez's nearest neighbour to the west
Looking up the Romanche valley towards Lac Chambon
Finally, the sun makes enough of an appearance to light the road up to Alpe d'Huez

After descending from Villard-Reymond, we drove up to the Col de Glandon and the Col de Croix de Fer. Partly this was to give Angela a chance to see them, and partly to gauge the difficulty of the ride. I'm hoping to complete it tomorrow. Again, the weather was constantly changing and the light could be quite dramatic.
The impressive waterfall opposite the Col de Glandon
The views from the Col de Croix de Fer are spectacular

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Les Deux Alpes for Lunch, with a helping of Venosc on the side

I've decided to call it 'The Joy of Cadence'. Today's ride started with the climb up to Lac Chambon from Bourg d'Oisans. The intent was to climb to Les Deux Alpes and meet Angela for lunch. Not far out of Le Clapier, where the road starts up, I found myself struggling with low cadence and high power output, but on already on my 28 tooth sprocket. I was already rehearsing the excuses about not having the legs for today's ride when I realised I was still in the middle ring! After that, things went a lot better. As a result of a discussion on race craft with Kevin, I even managed to overtake a couple of fit looking riders on the way up to Lac Chambon. I like to think I attacked them when the climb eased a little. To them it all probably looked a little desperate. Still, I stayed ahead of them until the bottom of the climb to Les Deux Alpes.

The track up to Lac Chambon is available on Garmin Connect. 

Once again, things go haywire just above the barrage at Le Clapier. I suspect we're losing satellite signal around there.

I stopped at the barrage to start a new ride recording. I wanted to see what my time up the normal route to Deux Alpes was. The pair I'd overtaken came past me at that point. It was with some satisfaction that later on the climb I caught and passed them again. Not bad grandad!

Deux Alpes is a more forgiving climb than Alpe d'Huez. It's not as long, and not as steep. It's still a ride to be reckoned with, though. The surface is good, the ramps predictable and it's possible to set a rhythm and keep with it. Just as with Alpe d'Huez, arrival at the edge of the village does not mean the end of the climbing. There is at least another kilometer to go before the road flattens completely. 

Les Deux Alpes has the reputation of being one of the prettiest ski resorts in the Alps, as well as its second oldest. It's a big place, and it took us quite a while to find each other, before downing a limonade and a BLT at the Red Frog Irish Pub - really?

The track from Lac Chambon up to Les Deux Alpes is available on Garmin Connect.

Looking over towards Alpe d'Huez from Les Deux Alpes

I took an alternative route, on a much narrower and less well maintained road for the descent. The main road up is shrouded with trees making it difficult to find a place to photograph the valley. The older road has plenty of opportunity for such views. Some of these are man made.
Sometimes its better not to know what is beneath the road surface!

The descent on this route is steeper than the main way up. It also comes out on the main road much further down the valley towards Le Clapier. Once back on the main road, I threw caution to the winds and hurtled down to Le Clapier in no time. Well I say hurtled. I topped out at 62kph, which felt like hurtling to me, especially when I got hit by a cross wind gust.

The track for the back route down from Les Deux Alpes, including a detour in the village of Bons, and an excursion down a track to try and find a view through the trees, is available on Garmin Connect.

I had considered a climb up from Le Freney on to the 'balcony road' which runs along the side of the valley high up, joining the Alpe d'Huez road at la Garde. Some twinges in my back together with advice from Kevin that the climb is steeper than the road to the Alpe, made me reconsider. Instead I rode up to the cable car station at Venosc. It's a gentler climb with gradients at around 6-8%. Once again, I was passed by a pair of riders, but managed to catch and re-pass them on the way up. Getting competitive in my old age!

The track for the route up to Venosc from Le Clapier is available on Garmin Connect.

Finally, I rode back down to Le Clapier, and then time trialled along the 5km of flat road betweeen there and the roundabout at Bourg d'Oisans. Everything seemed to be working ok,

The track for the return from Venosc is available on Garmin Connect.