Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cycling to the Cols du Lautaret and Galibier

We left our inn's front door yesterday morning (Friday) and headed up the road. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and the weather would remain good throughout the day. Once again, we felt fortunate with the weather and hope the gods will continue to favor us throughout our bike tour.

We had done this ride two years ago, but it was in September, after everyone goes back to work and school after the summer vacation. There were quite a few more cars and campers and motorcycles on the road this year, but it was still a beautiful ride.

La Meije

The thing that differentiated this ride from our previous two rides, aside from the different scenery, was the maximum elevation reached. We started at just under 3000 feet and reached the Col du Galibier at 8580 feet, with a total elevation gain of 5880 feet. The Croix de Fer ride of the day before had maxed out at 6760 feet, so even though our total vertical foot climb was more on the Croix de Fer ride, the elevation of the Col du Galibier is 3000 feet higher.

This picture was taken a few kilometers from the Col du Lautaret, looking back down on the way we had come.

The mountains were much higher along this ride.

We stopped for a bite to eat at the Col du Lautaret, then headed up the Galibier.

The summit of the Galibier was eight kilometers from Lautaret, and each kilometer was marked with a sign like this, indicating elevation and the average grade for the next kilometer.

The place were we stopped to eat is the building in center left.

This was looking down to the road that comes down from the Col du Lautaret, which goes on to Briancon, Italy and Provence further south. (The lead photo above shows a similar scene.)

Mark ascending ahead of me.

One cannot see it too clearly, but the grade for the last kilometer averaged nine percent, the steepest grade of the climb.

We made it!

And this picture shows some of the road we ascended.
There was a festive atmosphere at the top. A whole bevy of young, *very* fit Dutch cyclists were in the process of arriving at the col from the other direction (which I have heard is more challenging). (I may yet do a "Humans of Europe" post about them once I see Mark's pictures.) We also saw a young Japanese couple who were traveling with all of their belongings hanging off the back of their bikes. Man, what a haul that must have been.

The descent was (head) windy and cold. It's a good thing we had arm warmers and our (light) jackets.  On the way back to Le Freney, we stopped in a little town for crepes and pie, then headed on home -- just in time for cocktail hour.

We are now in Geneva, where we will go for a ride along the lake tomorrow, then set out on our tour on Monday morning. We've already seen one of our favorite people from the last tour two years ago, and we are looking forward to seeing other friends, both old and new (such as the woman cyclist we met in the parking lot of our hotel from Columbus, Ohio - but originally from Utah).

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