Thursday, August 21, 2014

Col de la Croix de Fer

Yesterday was one of the best cycling days Mark and I have experienced together. We decided to tackle Croix de Fer (Iron Cross). I say "tackle" because we started up this route two years ago, but I threw in the towel about three-fourths of the way there. As it turned out, that last quarter was the most beautiful part of the ride.

We began in Bourg d'Oisans, having driven down from Le Freney and parked the car. We rode about eight or nine miles up the valley floor, then began our ascent, climbing the first 3.5 at an average grade of 9.7 percent. It was easily as difficult as Little Cottonwood Canyon back home.

After this first climb, we stopped for a bite to eat at the same place we visited two years ago. I had a galette (crepe) with ham, cheese and egg. Mark had an espresso. I don't know how he does it, going without lunch, but he had a big breakfast.

My galette. Look at the color of those egg yolks!

I knew what awaited us during the next phase of our ascent: a descent. A mile or so after leaving the restaurant, we had to descend into the canyon because the road crossed to the other side of a river. Then we had to climb out, only to repeat the process a little ways further on, crossing back to the other side. This part of the ride, as depicted in the photos below, was heavily forested. The second photograph looks back on the narrow part of the canyon we climbed back and forth across the river, down switchbacks then up them. Grunt.

The ride then opened up after one last climb up from the river. Up, up, up before leveling off (comparatively speaking as we approached a large mountain reservoir.

We ran into these sheep and their shepherd shortly after coming up the reservoir. I quickly sped up to get behind the cars as they made their way past, and was astonished as the shepherd turned towards me as I was passing. I say astonished because he was frankly one of the most handsome men I have ever seen, with a chiseled face and long blond ringlets. He frankly looked like something out of a Paris fashion magazine or a Renaissance painting. I hadn't expected a shepherd high on a mountain road to look like that.

The road really opened up just past where I took the above picture. The vistas were incredible. The pictures we took really couldn't capture the majesty of the landscape through which we were passing.

Then it was time for the final ascent to the col, to the iron cross we could see in the distance. Then, we arrived and were treated to the vistas that lay on the other side of the pass.

It was such a beautiful experience. The beautiful weather. The beautiful scenery. The exhilaration. The sense of accomplishment we felt. Our gratitude for being there on such an amazing day. It was one of those days that, I think, cyclists live for, when all the training pays off.

Then, it was down, down, down, with a few ups (which we welcomed because it was pretty chilly), with a couple of more pictures depicting the beauty of this place.

It had been a long day, but what a day it was!

Now for the stats: 50 miles, 6263 vertical feet.

It was nice to get back to the hotel and relax.

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