A recap of the past few days.
The day after the tour, I rode into town with Chris to see the send-off of stage 19.
After the start we met up with Doug and Audrey and climbed the road on the opposite side of the valley from our house.
It was an awesome ride up – twisting, (pitch-black) tunnels, and crawling under roofs of overhanging rock. The views were amazing and made up for the six and a half miles of constant, steep climbing.
On the way to the top we passed through Villard Notre Dame and then climbed a gravel road over the summit before descending the backside of the mountain in really cold rain.
The following day was when Doug, Chris, Eric, and I did the ride I last posted about. It was an exceptionally long and tiring day, but had some of the best scenery we’ve seen yet. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera, but I did steal a few pictures from Chris and Eric.
We started riding out to Col du Glandon, which is about 28 miles away, and 20 miles of consistent uphill riding. The Col de la Croix de Fer is right next door so we rode up it, too. Our original plan had been to ride Glandon, Croix de Fer, and Col du Madeleine. Best estimates would have put this at a 12 hour day, however, and with a late start, flat tire within the first 2 miles of the ride, and a lack of enthusiasm, we cut out Madeleine.
At the top of Croix de Fer we were in serious need of food and water, so we followed Chris’ Garmin to a market about 10k away. 10k turned into almost 20 though, and to the top of yet another mountain. I had no water for the last 8 kilometers (uphill, on the mountain) but felt fine, though some of the team were really dragging by the time we reached the top. The market was closed, as almost all stores out here are, for lunch from 1-3:30pm, but mercifully we found a public washroom with ice cold water and a small snack stand with french fries and paninis.
We also discovered tiny horses and a lake on top of the mountain.
The way back was pretty murderous. Another 16k back up to the top of Croix de Fer (most of it at 8+% grade) in the blistering sun on weak legs, and then a section of 12+% coming out of Col du Glandon. Once we hit Glandon though it was mostly downhill the rest of the way home (until Alpe d’Huez, which always manages to be a tougher climb than I remember).
The following day I didn’t ride. Eric, Milica, Chris and I walked into town to get money and groceries. I say walk, but it was actually a pretty strenuous hike, including using cables bolted in to the mountain side to aid in descending.
We found a cool waterfall, got our money, groceries, french fries, and some bread in town before hiking back up. That night we all watched the final stage of the Tour as they rode into Paris together.
Yesterday, Chris and I followed a ride in a guidebook we have that took us across town and almost immediately up Col d’Ornon – a climb the Tour riders went up on the same day as their double-ascent of Huez. It was a rough wake up after a day off, and we made the mistake of trying to chase some guy to the top (we never caught him), but the long descent into the French countryside was awesome.
Chris even got to pee off a really high bridge:
and I got a sweet new euro haircut:
By lunch we were exhausted and hungry, but of course everything was closed. So we rode on, practically delirious in the 90F sun. Luckily almost every town here has a public spring/spigot that you can stop at for water, so we were never in much danger of running out. But after a week+ of intense riding, we’re all running a serious calorie deficit and it became very noticeable yesterday. We were able to forget about that a bit during the unexpected but incredibly wonderful 9 mile long descent we rode down from one of the mountain passes, and we made it back to town with time to stop at the pastry stop to refuel before the climb back up Huez to the house.
Today we had a rental car and restocked on groceries. Chris and I are about to head out to visit a town described as “at the end of the road, and literally at the end of the world.” I’m not so sure about that ‘literal’ part, but I’ll be report back if I don’t fall off!