Bourg d'Oisan and Alpe d'Huez
Mixed feelings about being back in Bourg. Busier, and more touristy, but set right in the big mountains of the Haut-Alpes. Didn't get off to a good start with the longed- for campsite being all but closed, although we were offered four spots exposed to the sun, most of the day!
Finally opted for one close by called the Rencontre du Soleil. Friendly people and lovely site with pool. The forecast was a bit mixed but very hot and humid at moment. Opted for our first swim,on our day off, and then relaxed on our day off.
Early morning was overcast, but small patches of blue sky trying to expand. After a warm-up around the roundabout, off up Alpe d'Huez. We'd both been thinking about this in our sessions at the gym in the winter. It's such an awesome climb, covering 1000m of ascent rapidly. In 15 mins, you're looking down on the town of Boirg, which suddenly seems far below. Steadily climbing, counting off the 21 hairpins, passing through tiny hamlets and the village of Huez, past the turn off for Villard Reculas, which we planned to take later.
I was overtaken and then overtook, and was overtaken again by a bad-tempered Scot, who shouted at his wife to get him some water because he was "dying!".
Finally reached the top considerably faster than last year on 1 hr 32, Ian just missing out on his target of 1hr, by 3 mins. So naturally we'll have to do it again, me to see if I can break 1.30 hr, and Ian the hour! Joined at the top by a Kiwi cycling group, and the 62 year old got up in an amazing 54mins, the best time of the day, beating young men a third of his age. His comment on arriving at the finish banner was "I bust mi guts getting here!"
Never done it before, because been too exhausted, but carried on past the cafes to the official Tour de France finish higher up in the ski village. But there's nothing there apart from chalets and a bus stop, and a small sign saying the finish of the climb for the tour, so the cafes are the chosen destination for most cyclists! On through the village and then out into a wonderful wilderness of snow-capped mountains in the distance, and sweeping hillsides and gorges, on past the Brande d'Oisan, an archeological site, where silver miners in the 12century set up home and worked high up the mountain side. Eventually a "pastoral" ie. rough track leads up to the Col de Sarenne. Total contrast with Alpe d'Huez, remote, silent, desolate. No cars and no motorcyclists. In fact, hardly any cyclists, most, as we have done before, deciding that Alpe d'Huez is their ultimate destination.
Chatted to a Brit, now living in San Francisco, funnily on the same day that Andrew, Lizzy and Lily are making their way up to San Fran! He recommended cycling in the Sonoma Valley, and making your base in Santa Rosa, and said that it was a great place for cycling, so should be good.
Decided to take the route back through Alpe d'Huez, and Huez village, where we turned right and cycled on the high-level, contouring road we've taken before, to the beautiful, hill-top village of Villard-Reculas, steeply down the hill all the way to the main road about 7miles out of town. Heads down and averaging 18mph, to get back in time for pasta and a beer at the Dutch-owned, good value restaurant in town. Surprised to find it was 2pm. No wonder we were starving. Cycling for 4hours and climbed about 5000 ft, and this was supposed to be an easier day! But feeling good and strong. Mixed feelings about the place have been dispelled. Get off your bike, sit down in a busy bar and the food's there in no time! The up side of being somewhere "touristy" .