Guest post from Andrew Roberts:
The lure of a bit of Alpine mountain climbing is almost too much for any cyclist to resist, even for an unnatural climber like myself. So, in early June, Andy Kell, Neil Stevenson, our friend and fellow O2E’r Paul Applequist from Scotland and I, flew out to a wonderful chalet in Bourg St Maurice. Unlike our fellow BRC Alpine adventurers we didn’t have a fixed plan of routes but there were no shortage.
Friday we headed southeast from the chalet and enjoyed a 66km route that took in the small ski village of Sainte Foye. After a quick descent we then climbed 17km (6% av) up to the larger ski resort of La Rosiere at 1850m. Sadly no restaurants were able to help us refuel so we descended the 23km back down to Bourg for lunch. After lunch we headed back to the chalet for coffee, cake and a chill before dinner.
Saturday’s ride (95km & 2001m elevation) coincided with stage 6 of the Dauphine finishing at La Rosiere, so we headed north east out along the valley floor towards Moutiers and then took the very picturesque and steep (8% av) climb up to the village of Granier. From there we descended back to Bourg where Andy and I had a large beer and Croque Monsieur whilst the other two had some healthy stuff. The challenge after lunch was to get to the top of La Rosiere before the pros did..no problem..we thought.
Neil and Andy arrived at the point where the Gendarme would not let us go further, just a few minutes before “G” and the lead group passed by. Paul would have also made it if he hadn’t spent the climb reminding me why a large beer and Croquet Monsieur is NOT the lunch of champions! After we had let the pros finish their slow crawl to the top, we followed them and enjoyed a couple of beers in a much busier “Ros” than the day before. The descent to the valley was almost the most perfect 26 mins I have ever had on a bike..I say almost, as Paul decided to visit the tarmac on a sharp bend and leave some of his skin and blood behind for fellow climbers. He soon recovered though, helped by a fabulous meal at the catered chalet and much complimentary wine. This was great preparation for the main event on Sunday..Col de La Madeline. Some of this ride can be seen at https://youtu.be/FmqcqvPxlgA
A regular in all the grand tours, this behemoth starts in the valley at Aigueblanche and rises to 2000m over 26km. The average gradient is 9% but when you bear in mind that nearly 2kms are downhill, the rest of the climb is pretty brutal. The scenery is spectacular, as the tarmac twists and turns through forests, rock cliff faces and snow walls. The temperature difference was also significant with me plunging my head into a waterfall of melting ice to cool down at one point and then having to sit inside at the restaurant at the top because it was so cold! Again, we had an amazing descent back to Aigueblanche for a pre-dinner aperitif or two!
All in all a fantastic few days in cycling heaven and can’t wait to return.