Lovely day for the Col de La Croix de Fer circuit
After the efforts of the Vaujany, we just pottered up to Villard Reculas on the Monday and continued on a little of the balcony road, but didn't go far, as we have a longer expedition organised for the following day. It's a cracking circuit but again a long one. If you want to drop down into a different valley a take in more than one col, it's always going to be a long day. But we're in no rush!
I set off half an hour ahead of Ian, climbing the long straight section up to La Rivier, going North of Allemont. Five miles of steady climbing! Ian's going to have to do this all again, in a few days time when he cycles the Marmotte challenge, so it's more practice for him. After the massive hydro-electric dam and lake of the Grand Maison, there's the last ascent up to the Col du Glandon. The mouse had just been caught by the cat! First break of the day, and a coffee at the cafe. Not following the lovely final climb which sweeps around up to my favourite col, the Croix de Fer. But we will come to that later in the day. Over the Col du Glandon, and down the other side into the Vallee des Villards. Beautiful descent through alpine meadows and following the river all the way down to the little town of St Marie de Cuines, on to St Etienne de Cuines and eventually St Jean de Maurienne in the valley of the same name. Time to grab a sandwich and two cokes each, before beginning the long gradual climb up to St Jean d'Arves, getting steeper as you cycle through St Sorlin d'Arves. Told Ian to get off at his own pace and I'd see him back at the van!
A little pause for a swig of water at the curious church of St Sorlin, with its funereal crafted iron and silver wreaths, fixed all over the outside walls. Last slow pull out of the ski village, which the local cafe owner at the summit later told me was 65% owned by the Dutch in the form of second homes. No wonder the place is full of them! Fun-loving and friendly, but you wouldn't chose to sit next to them on a restaurant! A bit loud!
A celebratory hot chocolate at the friendly cafe and a chat, a bit one-sided, with family members of the owner. Off on the final descent home, sweeping past the turn-off for Glandon from earlier in the day. Fast but careful descent into Articol, and eventually past Vaujany and into Allemont. Tough day but fantastic. 72miles and 11000' ascent.
Weather was rubbish the following day so made it a rest day! Moved the van down the road a few miles to Bourg d'Oisan, in preparation for the start of the Marmotte. Site now in Peak season and costing 45euros per night, as opposed to 16 at Allemont, and the cheeky beggars want all you payment up front, which we've never known anywhere else in France. We'll stay at Allemont next time. They may have a lovely swimming pool, but so what!
More about the Marmotte later, but Ian's spent all year doing lots of miles and climbing in preparation for this race. Extremely tough and not for the faint-hearted (that covers me then!).