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.
The road was reasonably quiet due to the col de l'Iseran not being a national highway, though it wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t car free. It gently rose from 1400m where I dropped down to it from the col de Mont Cenis to 1800m at Bonneval-sur-Arc. This made the final climb only 900m or so. Before starting the climb I got some of the best bread I'd had in France 'pain rustica', it lasted fresh until dinner.
Though the climb wasn't so long it wasn't easy. Though I think I wouldn't have found it hard last year. I think my knee pain was holding me back. Also I was still pretty beat after yesterday. As I went up the cloud cover increased and took on a rain-holding grey colour. In the last section of the climb I had to battle against a strong head wind and a very steep gradient. At the top the wind was very strong and it became quite cold. My pattern of hitting shitty weather when at the top of the highest mountain of a trip had continued.
The way down was awful, the wind was almost dangerous and near the bottom it started to rain. Yet again I regretted not bringing my rain pants. I figured that the best would be to find a gite and bar with a TV and watch the Tour de France. Unfortunately the first town I came on was Val d'Isere, a very posh ski town. There were no gites and I felt out of place. After circling the centre for an appropriate bar without any success I headed out. The only positive thing about the place was that the bus shelters were good spots for a picnic lunch.
The Isere valley was very tight a quite picturesque, but the Sun and nice views were being obscured by the clouds that had dumped on me.
I finally found a bar with a TV in Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise Only to catch the last seconds of the stage, in which Armstrong retained the yellow jersey against strong challenges from T-Mobile. I guess this is how it will be to Paris, though Ullrich etc will have a few more chances in the next 2 days before the mountains are history.
Distance - 99km
Time - 6:19
Max Altitude - 2770m
Tot. Ascent - 1772m
Col de Mont Cenis ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ 2081m
Col de lÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢Iseran ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ 2764m