Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Alps Trip Day 13 - Chatel to Morges

This morning I woke up still a bit pissed of with myself over the hotel. Further down the road I passed a number of other ones, all of which were more likely to satisfy me. There was even a campsite 10km further, though this was probably more than I could have coped with. Given the freakish weather it was probably not a bad idea to have been indoors last night. More on this later.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Alps Trip Day 12 - St Gervais to Chatel

I was going to take a direct route toward Geneva, but after a café I realised that I would be disappointed being so close to Chamonix and its high mountains and not to have taken a peek. In spite of difficulties later it wasn't a decision that I regretted. The valley in which Chamonix sits is quite narrow and due to the Mt Blanc tunnel is dominated by a major highway, which was off-limits to bicycles. To get around this was to do quite a bit of climbing but that gave some stunning views of both sides of the valley.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Alps Trip Day 11 - Seez to St Gervais

The Cormet de Roselend was a nice climb. On the way up I spotted many nice wild camping spots. After a while the scenery became more oxen and alpine. The first glimpse of the Mont Blanc Massif was to be seen just below the summit. I'm not sure if I would rate it as highly as I've seen it so. This reminds me that I should review 'my' cols, I don't need to wait until I'm old and grey to do that, though it could be said that I am already in that state.

The weather in the morning was pretty nice, not too hot. My regret was having to wear socks in my sandals because my feet were still sun burnt.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Alps Trip Day 10 - Lac de Mont Cenis to Seez

Today I went over the Col de l'Iseran. First I had to get there. This involved the last little bit of Mont Cenis and up the Arc valley to Bonneval-sur-Arc. I'd hoped to see the French couple with whom I'd survived yesterday's difficult afternoon climb to the Lac de Mont Cenis, but I didn't. The views around the lake were lovely though the light wasn't as good due it being cloudy. I figured that this would be a good thing after the heat of yesterday. Into the Arc valley I got the impression of grandeur, with views of glaciers high up.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Alps Trip Day 9 - Champlas du Col to Lac de Mont Cenis

After a rather meager, but normal by Italian standards, breakfast I headed up the road to Sestrière to find the rough road that started the 'route des Crêtes'. It was truly worth the effort that was required to get to the start. It was one of the best rides I'd ever done. I'm going to seek these rough roads in future.

As soon as I got off the black asphalt onto the rough road peace descended. For the first hour I saw almost no-one. The initial ascent to 2400m was a bit tough, a bit more so than it would have been on asphalt, but less than I'd have imagined. The weather was perfect. The Sun never went behind a cloud and I never needed to either put on socks, which had the unpleasant side effect that my feet got sun burnt, or put on a jacket or windbreaker. The views were out of the World, across to the peaks of the valleys on either side of the range that the route followed. The alpine meadow flowers were out in force and were magnificent. Occasionally a marmot would scamper into view. There were lots of butterflies. The animal kingdom was best represented by grasshoppers, which numbered in there thousands. A Buddhist would have had quite a problem on the route, so many and stupid were the grasshoppers that it was impossible not to squash a few from time to time.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Alps Trip Day 8 - Le Monetier-les-Bains to Champlas du Col

This morning started well with a nice breakfast at the gite followed by an equally nice descent into Briançon. I got to the starting point of the Tour de France well before the action kicked off. The Caravan was all lined up, all the staff enjoying a moment of relaxation before the hectic day ahead. As with the day before the crowds had come well in advance of the action to ensure a place. The action was in two places; the podium where each rider who wished to participate in the day's stage had to sign-in, and the starting line. The starting line was in fact the fictive one, just for the crowds, the one where racing began was a few kilometres away.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Alps Trip Day 7 - Valloire to le Monetier-les-Bains

I woke up late; I had decided to permit a certain lie in since the Tour wasn't arriving at the top of the Galibier until later in the afternoon. There wasn't much point arriving at the top at 9am.

The whole climb was in nice weather with the crowds increasing as I went up. Everywhere people's heads turned either in disbelief or (I think) admiration. One passing cyclist asked if I was crazy. At another point a bystander remarked when I passed that I was a 'real cyclist', which just about encapsulated why I was putting myself through this monster climb. I was carrying 2/3 my weight, in addition to myself, up the mountain, not just a 5kg bike. Camping cars and tents lined both sides of the road. People were everywhere and seemed to have been so since yesterday. I wasn't the crazy one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Alps Trip Day 6 - The defile de Maupas to Valloire

Today the weather really arrived as it should. The ride up the Col de Glandon and over to the Col de la Croix de Fer was under a warm Sun. The views from both were grand, especially from the Col de la Croix de Fer. The difference with the earlier wooded cols of the Vercors and Chartreuse and the ones of today was purely due to height, in the place of forest there were alpine meadows. I find the former a bit forbidding and closed while the latter open, with the highlands I know that I have worked to get there and savour it even more as a result.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Alps Trip Day 5 - Mens to the defile de Maupas

Today started well. I awoke earlier than I had previous mornings but rested. I got under way at a bit before 7am under grey clouds that appeared to be breaking up. At about 9am I found a nice spot on the side of the road and made myself porridge and a cup of tea. The Sun came out a little and the weather gave even more signs of improvement. It was feeling a little warm, at least by comparison with earlier days.

I followed the Bonne river up to Entraigues and started to prepare myself for the col d'Ornon. As I went up it both the weather and my leg improved. Or maybe my mind was on the glorious views, now that the all covering clouds were almost gone or just the nice feeling of sun on my skin. The mountains had a different character than the Vercors, I couldn't really see much of the Chatreause. I was now arriving in the high mountains, it was exciting!

At the top there was a restaurant with a gite d'étape and rooms, it looked very reasonably priced. Why do I never come across this kind of place when I'm looking for it?

On the way down from the pass I saw loads of cyclists. I guess this is to be expected so close to Bourg-d'Oisans, a cycling mecca. Seeing all these aluminum, fibre and titanium bike riders made me think about reconsidering my earlier decision to skip the Alpe d'Huez, on the grounds that it might exacerbate the knee problem. At the time I thought that if I was going to kill my knee, a small exaggeration but perhaps true for the purpose of the holiday, then I would do so to see the TdF. Now with the weather so nice those thoughts went out the window. I started the climb at 1:50 and arrived at the top at 3:40, a lot slower than the likes of Pantani or Armstrong and even most others doing so at the same time as me. However I was faster than some, even on there light bikes! After picking up a certificate and getting my photo taken I headed down the mountain via Villard-Reculas, over a really attractive road that seemed to only just be touching the mountain. The sense of flying down the mountain was very real

Back in the valley I started the steep climb up towards the col de Glandon. I had thought that I might be able to cross it and the col de Croix-de-Fer today but that had been before adding back the Alp d'Huez to the schedule, the conclusion can wait for tomorrow . At 6pm had reached le Rivier d'Allemont. I could see that it was my last chance to buy something to eat before the crossing and possibly a place to stay. There was a gite which looked nice but being Monday it was closed. I made a spur the moment decision to get a bite to eat at the only open café in the village, it was a very small place, I think I was lucky there was even a café. A lovely lady provided me with a nice soup and crepe, her husband advised me on places where I could wild camp. They even provided me with the milk that I needed to cook my porridge in the morning. A couple of kilometres up the road I found the place where I am now. It would be impossible to pitch a tent but my hammock went up fine, though we'll see how the night goes. If I haven't got the attachment knots right it will be an uncomfortable landing on the ground.

Distance - 107km
Time - 8:01
Max Altitude - 1770m
Tot. Ascent - 3073m

Col d’Ornon – 1367m

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Alps Trip Day 4 - La Chapelle-en-Vecors to Mens

The started as badly as the one before ended well. Almost from the get go my knee began to hurt, and quite a lot too. They were so much so that my thoughts were with abandoning the trip then and there. A couple of changes in cleat position got me back to more or less back to where I was yesterday. From there the pain became manageable with the occasional massage. This got me over the col\tunnel de Rousset out of the Vercors. The way down was quite spectacular, clouds raced down the steep valley. Jagged rock cliffs lined the sides.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Alps Trip Day 3 - Col du Cucheron to La Chapelle-en-Vecors

The decent into St Pierre-de-Chartreuse was cold but the Sun could be seen. It looked like a nice day was on the way. At St Pierre the road mounted towards the col de Porte. My legs weren't co-operating and my right knee began to hurt. Once over the Col de Porte I started the long decent into Grenoble. I passed a couple of dozen cyclists on racing machines going the other direction. In Grenoble the Sun was nice and warm; soon the chill of the decent was gone.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Alps Trip Day 2 - Annecy to Col du Cucheron

The morning started well with a nice breakfast, though I didn't take full advantage as I wanted to get going and make up for the slightly shortened day yesterday. I had a nice chat with a Canadian woman who had lived in NZ for 10 years.

I had thought about going over high road past le Semnoz, which started by the Youth Hostel but I decided that I avoid having to hard a start and the road to le Semnoz topped out at 1700m. In addition I was concerned about getting cold; my 'system' hadn't taken into account the rather bad weather of yesterday and today.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Alps Trip Day 1 - Train to Basel and onto Annecy

I arrived at the train on time. For the first hour or so I shared the cabin with a Dutch guy, we had a time filling conversation about cycling. Later we were joined by a bubbly Swiss girl and the conversation became more fun. As night progressed the cabin filled up. I slept well enough, though I was tired early in the day, I guess this was due to it being my first day.