After yesterday’s ride I woke with quite stiff legs but pleased to see the sun shining. Rather than an out-and-back I fancied doing a loop which took in a couple of cols. At least that way, once you’ve committed there’s normally no chickening out!
I tapped up my host for a suitable ride. He described a favourite and over the course of breakfast decided that he actually quite fancied coming along. I was glad of the company. And as it turned out, a road was closed on the other side of the first col so a bit of local knowledge was gratefully appreciated.
The start of the ride was a long and easy 20 mile descent through the valley towards Grenoble. We then turned off at Sechilienne and stripped off layers in preparation for the first climb, the Col de la Morte (ominously translating as the Pass of the Dead!)
This first ‘Hors Catégorie’ climb was 8 miles at a 7% average gradient, starting way down in the warm and wet Alpine forest and climbing over 3000ft to a deserted ski resort at the top.
From the top of the Col we headed down into the quiet valley of Lavaldens before a road closure sign sent us on a diversion that added 10 miles to our journey as well as the Category 3 climb up the Col de Malissol.
Somewhere around 40 miles we decided to stop in the town of La Mure for lunch. Steak and chips, the French classic. And when you ask for rare you get rare. Or to be more exact “saignant” which roughly translates as bloody! It tasted great.
The temperature had dropped during lunch and as we got ready to leave it started to rain. Despite the fact that the next 10 miles were descent I found this to be the toughest part of the ride due to the cold and with chattering teeth I was looking forward to the long climb up the Col d’Ornan.
At Entraigues we stopped and removed outer layers of clothing before starting the climb. I was still fairly cold so this seemed counterintuitive until you looked at the road ahead which quickly rose up into the mountains.
The Col d’Ornan was an unusual climb, basically long straight stretches of road which appeared to me to be flat, as if the dominating mountain peaks created an optical illusion and incorrectly raised the horizon. It was a 9 mile Category 2 climb, the first half of which was all below 5% with the final few miles ramping up to 8 or 9%. Not the toughest climb, but after 60 miles or riding it presented enough of a challenge.
After stopping at the top to chat to a few amiable Belgians we embarked on the exhilarating and technical descent down to Bourg d’Oisans. The road was wet with lots of twists and turns, so it was helpful to be following a knowledgeable wheel. From the foot of the climb we made our way back along the valley floor to base. In total we covered 73 miles and 7000ft of climbing.