Monday, 16 June 2014

Two Cols

Still in Barcelonette, two beautiful cols.
Grey, cool weather.  Down to about 15'C!  The stifling heat of Provence was long forgotten.  We set off early to get as much cycling done as we could before the weather worsened, as it was forecast.  Our Spanish camper set off two hours before us at 6am, as he'd planned to do a 170km circuit with 10000 ft of climbing taking in Col de Cayolle, Col du Champ, Allos and Col d'Allos.  We planned to shorten it by cycling up Col d'Allos, which I've never done before, and back down into the Ubaye valley and then up to Col de Cayolle and back to campsite.  The route up to the Col d'Allos is carved into the rocks, suspended above the Bachelard gorge.  The views up to the peaks are breath-taking.  With an average gradient of 7% and max of 11%, the climb is testing but not to difficult.  You climb 1115m over 21 km.  A superb col where you're straight over the top and down into Colmar, if you wanted to,  our friend Lorenzo would be climbing up from Colmar.
Time to put on cagoule, warmer gloves and twist and turn back down the climb, trying to get warm!
At the bottom, a right hand turn took us on the much further ascent up to Col de Cayolle.  29km is a long way but you can maintain a good pace with an average gradient of only 4%, with a max of 8.2%   Ranked by "Le Cycle" magazine as one of the 30 most beautiful climbs in Europe.  Not a lover of league tables but it is glorious.  Cannot understand why there were only a handful of cyclists on the route, and in fact, Ian and I were the only ones on Allos at the time!  The area is very understated, not very touristy and not big on self-promotion.  Doesn't try too hard.  In fact could say it doesn't try at all!  Tried to buy some food when we got back but they shut at noon on Sunday.  Understandable, but then when we returned on Monday at a reasonable time,10am, shops were closed then also!
Anyway, back to Cayolle, the road hugs the river Ubaye, a grey-blue glacial river, claims the narrow gorge of the torrent, passes through sleepy hamlets, before ascending through alpine meadows, with Spring flowers, over 9kms at 7%.  Disturbed several furry dog-sized marmots, crossing the road and sent them whistling down the slopes.  Time yo stop at the top, take a photo, put on cagoule, leg warmers, warm gloves and head scarf.  Freezing.  Fast but long descent into Barcelonette, avoiding debris on the road left behind after the winter.  Cold and hungry, didn't take enough food with me- only a couple of biscuits.  Stupid!  Back to pasta before walking into town to watch last stage of Dauphine with Lorenzo, in a cafe.  Froome struggled and Talansky, USA, won the tour, with Contador, looking great, hard on his heels.  Great day.  First time I've tackled two cols in one day.  Total of 56miles and 7500' of ascent.

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