Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Venosc
65 miles (479 total) / 104 km (772 total)
8,625 feet (21,572 total) / 2,629 m (6,575 total)
Our final day climbing over the alps before a rest day on Sunday and leaving on Monday. We started late due to the hotel access times to our bikes, at around 7:30, with a 10 mile ride to the base of today’s climbs. The first of which, Col du Telegraphe, was actually quite nice. The gradient was reasonably gentle (for a nearly 3,000 feet ascent!) and there was plenty of tree cover so the temperature wasn’t excessive. We reached the top in an hour or so and took several pictures while there.
We then descended to Valloire, around 500 feet below, where there was a Harley Davidson festival. The whole town was taken over by, literally, thousands of motorbikes and the sound was deafening. We had seen hundreds up to this point but had now found the reason. As we cycled through the main parade route (there was no other option) we felt rather out of place so kept our heads down and our pedals turning. If we had been motorbike enthusiasts it would have been a magnificent site, but it was sadly wasted on us. As we left Valloire the road rose again, this time with little shelter from any trees and so the temperature started to rise, not to the levels we experienced in Italy, but into the 30’s, hot enough!
We knew this climb would test us and so gave it the respect it deserved by taking it easy on these lower levels. We stopped at one cafe for an omelette and a couple of other times for water and malt loaf from Steve’s stash!
At every point along the way we could see the road stretching out for mile after mile in front of us, and for several hundred metres above us. We kept thinking that when we got to each point on the edge of our view the end would be in sight. Time after time our hopes were dashed as Galibier kept on putting yet more tarmac in front our of wheels.
When we started the ascent we could see several mountain peaks towering far above us, as we climbed we edged closer and closer to their level. We passed through large areas of snow that had yet to melt, and the cloud level and we were now looking down on those peaks, yet still the end wasn’t in sight. This climb really was a challenge like we’d never seen before.
As we reached the snow line, where the whole area was blanketed, we could at last see the finish, still a kilometre or so in distance, and a hundred metres above, our position. Although we were tantalising close Galibier hadn’t finished with us just yet. The temperature by this point was now in single figures and to add one final challenge a hailstorm started, seemingly from nowhere. We weren’t going to give up when we were this close and found the energy to keep our legs spinning over and eventually crested the summit.
The relief at reaching the end was only outweighed by the need to stop for air and recover some energy. There was little time for pictures as the hail was now starting to get heavier and we needed to find shelter, fast. On the other side there was a shop about a mile down and we went down as fast as we could in the conditions. It was now 8°c (just a few days ago we were in 40°c!) and we were starting to feel the cold so needed to descend around 1,000 metres vertically to get back to normal temperatures. After sitting out the worst of it we took a break in the conditions to move further down the mountain. The trouble was the faster we rode the more wind chill made matters worse! After we spent 20 minutes or so (we didn’t time any of this, there were more important matters at hand) thankfully we did warm up. We had now earned back the man points we lost in Italy by asking for directions!
Now it was just a case of finding the chalet, which wasn’t helped by our gps devices as the software didn’t allow us to go through any tunnels, although we were legally allowed to do so. Luckily the chalet owners had given us full directions which were easy to follow. On reaching the village we discovered it was on a hill, and the chalet was close to the top. Shane needed to have a little lie down in the road before climbing again, which caused concern to some passing locals by who stopped to check on me! Once again we’ve landed on our feet at a great place, the views from our room are spectacular and will be posted to our Flickr page.
Officially our first of 3 rest days tomorrow. We’ll see how we feel when we wake up about how much rest we want/need!