Day#3 -Busy, Busy, Busy
Our trip coincided with an ITT up L’Alpe d’Huez on the Saturday and they were busy constructing the start ramp as we took our now-favoured riverside route out to Allemond. A TT up a mountain in this heat? Mad dogs and cyclists …
Tosser Toss Up
It wasn’t the only major event in the area either, as the snappily-titled Porsche Savoie Cup 2022 Les Deux Alpes was also taking place over the weekend. This was a non-timed (yeah, right) rally for Porsche enthusiasts, giving them the opportunity to sit in convoy within an over-priced, over-heated tin box and speed around breathing in the exhaust fumes of a whole load of other tin boxes, while driving too fast up some narrow and restricted mountain roads, all the while trying to see just how loud they could make their engines scream. It was a real toss-up and quite a debating point about whether the Porsche drivers were more or less annoying than the Harley Bikers rally we stumbled across last time.
I can say they were a constant and occasionally dangerous feature all the way from Allemond to the Col de la Croix de Fer. That doesn’t sound all that far but, at the speed I was travelling, it represented an agonisingly prolonged exposure to their annoying presence.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
I knew what to expect on the climb up to Rivier d’Allemont and while it didn’t seem as far or as debilitating this time around, I was more than ready for the cola and coffee that awaited at the cafe.
Behind, Crazy Legs must have looked to be struggling so much that he actually got a generous push from a passing cyclist. He was grateful for the help, but our group was divided over whether this was a good thing, or a little showy. Personally, I’d more than welcome any assistance on the climbs.
The Big Yin set off from the cafe early to get a headstart. The rest of us ambled after him and were more or less together until we crossed the river d’Olle and the serious climbing picked up again, then it was every man for himself and each at a pace they could sustain.
It was baking hot, with the steep sides of the valley seeming to contain and radiate the heat back at you. By the time I caught the Big Yin he’d dismounted and was sitting in the shade of a tree, overheated and temporarily out of it, like Huck Finn waiting for his next adventure. This duly arrived in the shape of Crazy Legs and the pair reportedly frolicked gleefully in an Alpine stream to cool down before riding the rest of the way together, leaning on each other for moral support.
Once again I found myself cursing the descent down toward the Lac de Grand Maison which, although providing some cooling respite, utterly destroyed whatever pitiful climbing rhythm I’d managed to assemble. Still, I was soon at the blockhouse with a decision to make, left to the Glandon or right to the Croix de Fer?
Flip the Coin
I went Glandon first, but the only other person there was a French guy who was just to set out without his bidon, which I was able to reunite him with. I turned around and set my sights on the Col de la Croix de Fer. It was just 3km away, but I was really starting to flag now and it was slow painful progress – despite a little bit of pacing from the forgetful Frenchman.
It took a while, but I got there, completely wiped out and ready to throw my lot in with those planning to just turn around and head back, rather than descend to find the Lacets and have to climb up the other side of either the Croix de la Fer or the Glandon. It turned out the severe temperatures had even the most gung ho amongst us deciding not to press on, and there was a general feeling that we’d done enough for the day. A new plan was hatched to ride back to Le Riviere de Allemont for lunch.
Re-united again and fully fortified by another two cola’s, we clustered around the summit sign, press ganging a young French cyclist into photography duties. He was more than happy to oblige if we returned the favour and spent some time trying to guess which area of Ireland we were from.
He seemed to be a bit confused to be told we were actually from India, then Mexico then the Ivory Coast, but maybe not as confused when Crazy Legs told him we were from England and the orange, white and green were just traditional club colours we’d
been lumbered with inherited.
Youth and Exuberance (Not Mine, Obviously)
We started the descent, with all of us except Goose taking the short diversion to the Glandon summit for further photo opportunities. First though we had to join with all the other cyclists and exert our collective ire with two dickheads who drove their (not at all) ostentatious sportscars up from the other side of the col and parked slap bang in front of the sign. I think they’d seriously misjudged their audience and just how much interest a bunch of sweaty cyclists had in their uber-expensive penis extensions and they were quietly persuaded to move along.
Amongst the groups of cyclists were a trio of girls in matching leopard print jerseys with bright pink socks and Crazy Legs negotiated photo duties with one of them. She duly complied and then it was Crazy Legs’ turn to repay the favour and he shuffled into position. This was all the signal the girls needed to lithely clamber up and drape themselves all over the sign, flashing peace signs and devil’s horns while waggling their tongues, giggling and fully enjoying themselves.
I couldn’t help but contrast their natural, unforced exuberance with us, slightly grumpy old blokes, stood around smiling uncertainly and looking slightly discomfited by the whole photo ordeal.
Then it was off for a long bit of fast descending back the way we’d come, with its smattering of gnarly climbs thrown in just to further shred the legs. It was astonishing how quickly it was over when compared with how long going the other way had taken.
Halfway down we rendezvoused at Les Favets for a most excellent lunch and pressed our favourite waitress into performing photo duties.
Then it was back onto the best bit, the last super-smooth and fast downhill run we’d taken on the first day, all the back down to Allemond. Coming off the descent, where at least the air was moving and providing some cooling relief and transitioning back to normal speeds, it felt like someone had suddenly opened an oven door and we were caught in an intense blast of hot, dry air. I’m not really sure I’d realised how hot it was until this point.
We ambled slowly back to town along the riverside route, where we split, with a few of us naturally drawn into the town in search of a cold beer.
More by luck than management, we managed to find the most unfriendly bar in Bourg d’Oisans, where the staff seemed to take great delight in finding new and creative ways of ignoring customers. We should have realised we weren’t welcome the minute the waitress castigated the Ticker for casually laying his helmet on the ground, because that might have been where she wanted to plant her foot in order to serve us our beer.
Still, once seated, no one was in any great hurry to get up and move again and so we endured, watching the passing traffic and speculating that the bar was just a money-laundering front so didn’t need to attract, please or keep customers.
If that bar was bad, then the bike shops were superb. Captain Black had determined that his braking wasn’t up to scratch and decided to call into one of the shops to have his Trek checked over. I tagged along for the ride and we ended up going to Bleach, Bike and Ski as they’d been good to Buster on his first trip.
The mechanic immediately took the bike into the workshop for a quick look and returned to tell us the brake pads were badly burned. He suggested Captain Black needed to try feathering his brakes not hauling back on the levers with all his might. In the Captain’s defence I guess the mechanic hadn’t been with us on that death slide down the Sarenne – I’m sure if he had he would have been more understanding.
As it was he set about replacing the pads straight away, with no waiting, or can you bring the bike back tomorrow. In short order, the job was done and the prices were very reasonable. So, Bleach, Bike and Ski … hugely recommended, that crappy bar on the corner? Best avoided.
The plan for the evening had been for the Oberlanders to join the others for a meal in the restaurant at their campsite, but by the time we’d returned to the hotel a thunderstorm was brewing, the wind had picked up and the rain was lashing down. We didn’t fancy the mile or so walk out to the campsite, so cried off and the three of us wandered into town for a meal.
It struck us that the thunderstorm probably would have coincided with us arriving at the top of the Galibier if we’d embarked on our Circle of Death ride. Hmm. Done that, don’t ever want to do it again, so it looks like we dodged a bullet.
Tomorrow, our last day, was all planned out too with a trip up the Col de Ornon as the centrepiece. I was hopeful the rain had cooled things down a little and looking forward to one more amble.
|Day & Date:||Saturday 18th June|
|Time:||4 hours 33 minutes|
|Average Speed:||18.3 km/h|