Having cycled Alp D’Huez and watched part of the Tour de France we were feeling very pleased with ourselves and ready for the challenges ahead !!
Our next stop would be La Grave and although not that far it would be mainly uphill, it was also to far to reach the campsite after it !!
We set off as usual with Thijs leading, Naomi next and myself at the rear. This was our usual formation mainly due to me having a powerful rear light ! I’m a little safety conscious and although the French drivers are more patient and courteous towards cyclists than those back home I still ride with a rear light !
The ride started with a long straight road which went on for quite a while, it followed a river and was flanked on both sides by trees and beyond that, mountains. Soon though the road started to twist and turn through the valley, tunnels, cliff edges, bridges and dams all lay in our path. It was a beautiful ride, the sun was warm and bright and the scenery was spectacular. The mountains seemed to grow in the warmth of the day and the road became ever more interesting until we arrived in La Grave.
We knew there was a campsite so before heading down the steep drive we shopped, not for dinner, but for lunch and breakfast….we’d eat dinner out, a rare treat !!
The camp site had an unusual thing….grass, we hadn’t seen much in the campsites along the way. Electricity and Wi Fi were also available but no laundry at camp, there were machines in town though. That fitted in with our plans perfectly, we’d take our laundry up later and eat while it washed and dried. We also managed to watch some of the Tour on TV while we had a few beers, another great end to a great day.
Next stop Briancon, only problem being a large mountain in the way. Col du Lautaret stands at 2058m and although we didn’t start it at sea level it was still a long slow climb, made slightly easier by the fantastic views on the way up. We stopped for the obligatory photos at the summit sign before the roller coaster ride down the other side.
It really was a fantastic ride downhill, kilometre after kilometre rushed by and although we stopped fairly often for photos we still made great time. It soon became obvious that our intended stop at Briancon would come way to early and our plans changed. The map and GPS were consulted and a campsite at Guillestre was soon our next target.
Rolling hills made up most of the rest of the days ride but we didn’t mind as the sheer beauty of our surroundings was keeping us entertained 😉
We rolled into a very nice campsite at the foot of Col de Vars, our challenge for the next day now loomed large ahead of us !
Naomi realised that the shops would soon shut and that the next day would be Sunday, she rushed off on her bike so quickly that she forgot her helmet. Fortunately she managed to get to the shops in time and returned unscathed and laden with goodies, we wouldn’t starve after all !!
The camp had a TV lounge and we managed to watch some of the Tour again before downing a few well deserved beers. An early night followed as we knew that the climb would test us all.
Col de Vars although not particularly steep did go on for about 25km, we kept a good steady pace, stopped often to admire and photograph the scenery and were rewarded eventually with a summit plaque to take photos next to. We stopped here not only for photos but drinks and ice cream as well. We got chatting to a group of road riders who were very impressed that we’d climbed up with our heavy bikes and kit !!
The road down was another hair raising, roller coaster ride with yet more incredible scenery and even more photo stops. But we weren’t done yet, we knew we had one last climb before we’d be over the Alps and into Italy and we knew we’d start it later the same day. Col de Larche would be our final Col, standing at 1948m and over 20km in length it would be another good test. It started nice and easy, just easy rolling hills through quaint villages. Soon though it started up for real and you could feel the incline change, we were soon in our granny gears and breathing hard. We past by ski lodges,hotels and ski lifts and were only about 6km from the summit when we entered a small town and realised that we’d arrived at our last French campsite.
Our usual routine of tents, showering, cooking were quickly sorted as we wanted to find a TV and beer. Tonight was the last day of The Tour de France and we wanted to see Chris Froome take the win and see if Mark Cavendish could make it 5 Paris wins in a row !!
Well Chris Froome became the second Englishman in two years to be the Tour winner but sadly Mark was beaten into third place, no doubt he’ll be back next year to have another go.
With only 6km of Col de Larche to climb in the morning we were feeling good, especially after seeing Chris Froome win !! It didn’t take long for us to reach the summit, we were now in Italy. Guess what though, we couldn’t find a summit board to take our photo with, bloody Italians, all that hard work and no proof !!
Still, can’t complain really, ahead lay our next country, more challenges, more things to discover and photograph and lots more cycling !!