Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Stage 6 Briancon to Col du Galibier

Stage 6: Briancon-Col du Galibier

Clear blue sky and warm sunshine. After doing a few “housekeeping jobs”, emptying loo etc, Ian set off cycling at about 9am. With a drag on the main road north west, D1091, towards the Col du Lauteret, an old Roman outpost, where I would meet him before lunch, following the same route. The road through the Serre Chevalier valley with views all the way up to LaMeige(3983m) and the Grand Galibier(3229), is absolutely stunning. The high mountains are covered with snow still, with a recent fall during the bad weather last week.

I’m sitting here writing this blog long-hand, at the Col du Lauteret, suurounded by blue sky and warm sunshine, waiting for Ian to arrive. I’ve passed maybe a hundred cyclists coming up. From a distance what seems to be sprightly cyclist sprinting up the pas turns out to be a 50/60 yr old! Cycling seems to be a popular form of exercise even in advancing years, but then a lot of these guys have had a lot of experience!

Ian arrived at the Col du Lauteret (2050m), amazingly fresh and a quarter of an hour ahead of time! Then re-fuelled by Chatsworth Farm Shop’s fruit cake, orange juice and fizzy water, we both set off up to Col du Galibier. Steep at first, and then 7% and 8% incline all the way. Not too bad, although pushing uphill all the way made my toes go numb! Passed the monument to Henri Desgrange, creator of the Tour de France cycle race, past photographers who ask you to smile, when you’re struggling to breathe, and then push tickets into your back pocket, so that you can re-claim the action photos later. It was great to cycle over painted dedications, on the tarmac, to Tour de France stars, like Kloden and Schleck. Superb scenery, constantly changing with the hair-pins. The last half mile is 11% and an absolute killer, but I was so chuffed to get to the top, without having to get off and push! It was hard and I’d only gone from Lauteret, whereas Ian had come all the way from Briancon.

We drove back down the valley, through La Grave and all the way to Bourg d’Oisan, to stay the night, provisions and petrol. We’re doing a bit of a detour and an extra climb for Ian, with a cycle up Alpe d’Huez, a iconic climb of 13k over and unusual cliff-side ascent with 21 marked hairpins. For Ian, fancy doing Alpe d’Huez on your rest day!

Ian says:

“Today was the continual ascent from Briancon to the Col du Galibier. On all of these trips I take 2X2L bottles of water, one mixed with an energy powder, also Mars Bar, 2 Trail bars, camera, money, credit cards, mobile phone and cagoule for swift, cool descents. Marie did really well today, ascending Galibier in an hour, only 5 mins behind me. I thought it was going to be a lot longer and got hunkered down ready for along rest! Made a change to hear Marie complaining about a numb bum!

Weather superb today, and we sat having a coffee with a guy we’d met, called Anthony. A marine engineer, he works for four moths a year and then travels for the remainder. He enjoyed rock-climbing, walking, cycling, mountain-biking, sub-aqua…..Lived in a tent out of the back of an old Peugeot. What a strange life. Got talking because he liked the van.

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