Sunday, June 24, 2018

1 July, 2013: a huge stage, and a little bit of sightseeing

Previous:  30 June

I started the day with a good big breakfast at the hotel, and rolled out surprisingly late at 0840, without really understanding where the morning had gone.  I had my eye on one of two stages:  an historical Stage 17 from the 2004 race, or the future Stage 19 from the now-current edition.  They were identical but for the penultimate climb, though due to overnight accommodation at the Cullen's place in Annecy, I wouldn't be finishing either until the 3rd of July, so could make the call that morning whether to go via the new or the old route.

Incredible layered-rock on the steep cliff behind Le Bourg d'Oisans
The road was very benign to start with, and as well as being flat, had some great cycling infrastructure.  I hadn't always used cycle paths when they were available, but this was a cracker.

The climb of the Col du Glandon began with an ascent up the face of a dam, at Allemont.  It felt quite steep, but I had a hunch it was my tired legs rather than the actual gradient! 

The Lac du Verney.  The bridge on the right was built instead of cutting a road into the steep hillside

About half an hour into the climb, I was surprised by a short descent to cross to the other side of the valley, and then another.  The road-side signage was all about the net ascent, so it was a bit disconcerting to find I'd be repeating some of it!

There were lots of rockfall areas with signs pointing out “Mort”.  My legs had a bit of a low patch near the top of a steep gully, and I took the liberty of stopping at a monument commemorating the Maquis.  I hadn't heard of them, but they were "rural guerilla bands of French resistance fighters" in World War 2.

I was a little surprised to read it was a full 11km to the Col de la Croix de Fer, making it about a 30km ascent from the dam.  Slightly mind blowing, and a tad concerning!!!

Luckily, the gradient mellowed a lot, especially after the dam forming the Lac de Grand Maison.   

Le barrage du Lac de Grand Maison
The lake was absolutely gorgeous, and it was hard to imagine more beautiful surroundings.

Looking up towards the Col(s) du Glandon et de la Croix de Fer 

And back down towards the dam
By good fortune, there was another professional photographer on the road side, and boy had he picked a good spot.  As I went by, he ran after me and handed me a business card.  He'd jotted down the date and time, and it was a simple matter of finding the right folder on his website that evening, and forking over a few Euro...  A paltry sum for my favourite cycling photo then and since.

I did a short detour to the Col de la Croix de Fer, admired the iron cross for a few moments, and then dropped back down the way I'd come, with a very short climb up to the Col du Glandon from the main road.  

I had a short stop there, and then set off onto a tight and sometimes tricky descent.

I stopped at the bottom for coffee and coke and then took a diversion to see the Lacets de Montvernier.  These were a gift from Sarah - they weren't on the stage route, but she'd found them on a website of cool roads.  They've since been main-streamed, and were used in the 2015 Tour de France, and are there again in 2018.

It proved a little bit tricky to get under train line but it was not an insurmountable hurdle.   The road was almost invisible from the valley, and consisted of very short straights between switch-back corners with incredible retaining walls and a massive batter.  It was very hard to get photos of more than one corner below it was so steep.  The road-building effort was something else!!

At the top I spotted a likely photo spot.  I descended through a paddock, and followed my nose on foot to the top of a cliff.  It was a little bit freaky trying to see the road - there was quite a drop, and I hadn't packed my wings!!

Les Lacets de Montvernier
I dropped back down the way I'd come up, and rode back to La Chambre, where I raided a supermarket for drinks and pastries.  Before leaving, I called Silas to let him know I was about to start the Col du Madeleine climb.

I had ambitions of eating an apple on the way up, but found it was nigh on impossible at a gradient of 6%. Rather than inhale a hunk and choke, I stopped after 500m and finished it off!  Apple aside, the climb was not too steep, but was very hot work.  As I'd done on some climbs, I rode just in my cap, and was treated to lovely views back across the valley to the Glandon.

Near the summit, there were great views ahead too, but the money shot vanished soon after, and I regretted not stopping for a photo.  When I saw the photos that had been taken of me subsequently, I also regretted not straightening my cap!  Unfortunately, while cool enough to don a jacket before starting the descent, I noted "Still warm, so don’t need to worry about beanie".  A crying shame, as that would have sorted the wonkiness...

Another famous Col bagged!
I descended for ages before seeing Silas about 10 minutes from bottom.  It was very strange to be following someone all of a sudden, and I immediately started worrying about getting separated or taking a wrong turn!  One very fast straight on a super-smooth surface was followed by tight off-camber corner, and I was conscious of a definite change in pace!

We stopped for water in Albertville, and then continued on the 2013 route to the Col de Tamie.  All of a sudden, I realised the heat, conversation and the slight increase in pace, were taking their toll.  I'd also not eaten in a while, so started to wane!

We met a friend of Silas on the descent, and then a guy from Auckland over for L’Etape du Tour.  It was mostly flat through to Silas's, and for a lot of it, we were on a great cycle path.  

First peloton in about 3670km!
At one point, I couldn't resist a silly sprint, which I regretted when Silas and I rode  up the last small hill to his house, and I arrived there feeling quite wiped out!  I was greeted by Angela, Isabella and Julian, and they possibly thought "who is this zombie Silas has brought home?!"

They had a pool, and it was fantastic to go for a quick dip before dinner, though I did almost lose my bibshorts when diving in - I should have kept the straps over my shoulders!

It was lovely to join the family for risotto and salad.  I read Snow White and Cinderella to the kids at bed-time, and turned myself soon after.

189km ridden, 4260m climbed, 10 hours duration.  Two HC and two Cat.2 climbs. 

Next:  2 July

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