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Thursday, 11 July 2013

Trip to Belgium and France – Day 7

A day late as I was a bit tired last night.

I'd planned today as a long day riding the high passes, and what a day it turned out to be! I'd worked out an approximate route taking in a number of the climbs used during the Tour de France. I started by riding Col de la Madeleine and Col du Glandon, both fairly easy roads giving good views of the surrounding mountains.

As I was riding down from Glandon through the Défilé de Maupas I saw a sign saying the route to Huez via Villiard-Reculas was open. I checked my map, and this road was marked as 'difficult or dangerous section of road' – what more encouragement did I need! The road wasn't that bad, well surfaced, but a bit narrow and with tight bends. However, it more than made up for that with spectacular views.
The town of Huez is more than half way up the climb to Alpe-d'Huez, another TdF favourite. I road up to Alpe-d'Huez, but the town was very busy with traffic and there appeared to both road bike and downhill mountain bike events taking place. Also, a lot of campervans had already 'claimed their spot' for the TdF stage to be held on the 18th!
Didn't bother stopping as it was so busy and turned around and road down the spectacular road. There were dozens of cyclists riding up – every one much fitter than me!
After that I had quite a ride to the next stage of my route – the climbs over Col du Galibier and Col du Télégraph. On the way it started getting colder and I had a shower or rain just before Galibier.
Touring tip: if your riding suit has a Gore Tex liner which you remove for riding in hot conditions, don't leave it in your hotel room when you go out! I got pretty wet going over Galibier, but luckily it was warm and sunny when I got over the summit, which dried my suit.

However, it was even wetter and very misty going over Télégraph, so misty that I didn't see the fort or even the sign at the summit, and only realised I'd passed it when I started going downhill. At least it was sunny again in the valley so I dried out a bit!
From there it was a fairly straightforward hour and a half's ride back to the hotel, or it would have been had there not been a very heavy thunderstorm! So bad that I stopped to shelter under a tree and to transfer everything from my suit's pockets to the topbox to stop them getting wet. It was obvious that the rain was on for the night, so I rode back getting thoroughly soaked in the process. By the time I got to the hotel, every garment I was wearing was soaked through and only my feet were dry.
I shot some videos whilst riding over the passes, hopefully there will be enough reasonable footage to edit something together when I get home.
Most of the rest of our group rode similar routes, but Stuart, Gareth, and Terry D managed to get as far as Italy, only getting back after dark.
This was to be our last night in Chambéry, we're starting the trip home tomorrow.

Song of the day:

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