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Published: March 19th 2018
Looking back at where I turned off the road up Alpe d'Huez.
Since I wasn't very hungry and couldn't see shelling out 12 Euros for the hotel breakfast, I wandered over to the boulangerie and emerged with a giant croissant and a baguette still warm from the oven. I am increasingly convinced that foraging for breakfast on my own (rather than taking the hotel breakfast) is the way to go, not merely for cost-effectiveness but because it provides more opportunity to interact with people, to see how they live, and even to pick up some town gossip occasionally. And today, since the market was set up right outside our hotel, I also suggested we have Caroline buy provisions and meet us at the Col du Lautaret for an al fresco group lunch.
But first I wanted to explore yesterday's 'high road' (D211A) that I had heard so much about. It didn't matter that most of us planned to supplement today's nominal route with an unscheduled detour up the now-open Col du Galibier (a mere 8km up from the Col du Lautaret we would be passing over), I was intent on re-climbing the lower (and more challenging) part of Alpe d'Huez up to switchback 16 before branching off to see the sights. I
I now understood why those who had ridden this route yesterday were so impressed.
had assumed that the road hugged the contour of the hill as it ran along the edge of the valley. I was wrong. Very wrong.
After a delightful ride through a thicket, the road tilted upwards and kept going, soon becoming reminiscent of San Francisco's Lombard Street. But it was worth it: to this point I had assumed all the postcard views of Bourg d'Oisans had been taken from aircraft, but it soon seemed more likely the road I was on provided all that was necessary.
After finally descending I joined the regular route and entered the Departement des Hautes Alpes, hoping the others were not so far ahead of me that I would miss lunch. My timing was impeccable, as I passed the last of our group just before the col, although it didn't really matter - everyone ended up waiting for the van to arrive.
The initial stretches of the climb to the Col du Lautaret are fairly gentle, and although the grade rises as you approach the summit it remains fairly moderate. The 8 km ride from there to the Col du Galibier, however, is a different beast. There are steep pitches all the
way up to the tunnel, at which point things get really interesting (which is presumably why they built the tunnel in the first place). But there is quite a sense of celebration when you reach the summit, and the place is positively festive with cyclists.
The cool temperatures, bumpy pavement, and brisk wind made the descent back to the Col du Lautaret somewhat stressful (with steep drop-offs onto talus slopes, the consequences of misjudging a turn are pretty severe), but the easier grades and more temperate conditions on the subsequent descent towards Briancon were grin-inducing. There was even a faux-Brazilian carnival going on to welcome us when we arrived.
Hotel conditions improved dramatically as well, and Carole and Mesfin, perhaps feeling guilty about having scored luxury accommodation, hosted a soiree in their penthouse suite. But first we scattered for dinner as different people had different tastes. Good things came to those of us who craved vegetables (who else would go to a Chinese restaurant in France?)
Tot: 2.181s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 8; qc: 53; dbt: 0.0438s; 2; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb