Trans Alp Challenge
Day Five – Valloire to Briancon via Serre Chevalier
Lou Reed, gargle & get ready to strum, this looks like a good time for ‘Perfect Day’!
I awoke with a nudge in my ribs and a ‘grunt’ from Christian. I had slept like a baby. Thee sun was just breaking in the valley and the top of the mountain were already bathed in an orange glow of expectation. Yesterday has already been consigned to one that was endured, experienced.
|My Cannondale bike|
|Watching the racers go by|
We met a bunch of English guys the night before whom were doing all the famous famous ‘Tour de France’ climbs over 4 days, 2 per day. Today as we met queuing for breakfast in the Hotel Les Melezes, they mentioned they were pedalling both La Galipier and Alpe D’Huez – Good guys and loving it too – Respect but it was on tarmac!
This morning we however had a 700 metre climb up from Valloire to the Col de Ponsonniere at 2,657 metres high in clear cool and sunny conditions. Our climb up co-incided with the ultra marathon mountain bike race ‘Raid de la Meije’ – 100 km, including 5,000m meters vertical ascent. This is serious biking and apparently out of the 500 equally mad as us starters only 15 or so will actually finish. I hope all 5 of us do!
The first guy passed us half an hour after we started soon followed by 2nd and third, these were seriously fit guys but we kept pace for a while but we could stop and enjoy the views they could not!
The climb was very long and included a long traverse across the broken mountain rock and scree, not overly comfortable with this at all, looking down was not an option so why did I do it!
|Top of one of the Cols looking down over the Souther Alps|
When we arrived at the Col the views were incredible either way, one direction towards the Southern Alps and other was the arduous route we had just taken. We continued to follow the race trail occasionally pulling over to let the mad fast guys through. The wind blew warm and welcomed us down the valley and into beautiful Melezes Forests where we could let go of the brakes and enjoy real freedom. Whoops of joy from Adrian and delight on all our faces. This was the best yet and mountain biking as it should be, a few frowns, some good and steep challenges but overall stunning scenery and fast and fun! We had been biking for almost 5 hours straight!
This morning also saw my first bike fall, at almost zero speed I misjudged a corner in sight of the village and dropped over the bars straight into a gorse bush! Was filmed and in front of everyone too. I was still picking thorns out of my elbow at lunch much the amusement of the others.
|High above Briancon|
Lunch at Serre Chevalier was much needed to recharge and also where I saw my first French man with real blue French beret – it made me smile. We then headed up high up the mountains with ‘Wheels’ Josh to over 2,200 metres. Only a mere 350 metres more climbing before a long descent to Briancon. The scenery and mountains have taken on a new complexion, they have now changed. It seems so much more dry, yellow stone, the pine forests look quite different and so much warmer, Is that the Mediterranean calling? We have dropped into the southern Alps – it is beautiful here and just loving the biking!
There were a few moments of panic and fear as we edged our way along the long traverse across the mountain. The width narrowed to almost nothing, our wheels were pushing the stones over the edge and it was a very long way down and very steep. Warned not look down, focus ahead and keep your speed. So why did I look down and slow up, my pedals started to catch the inside edge as leant towards the hillside – bad plan! More stones fell and the bike slipped more. No liking this much at all. Shape up Tim! Eventually edging my way across unconvincingly to the other side I was much relieved.
Tonight we are in the Refuge Napoleon high up in the mountains on the Col D’Izoard another famous Tour France stage and close to the beautiful National Park of Queyras which is where we are going tomorrow. The owners are so welcoming and I was given a birthday cake with my age to be on it – hmmmm surely that cannot be me!