The STYLE ALTITUDE regular ski / bike blog with (almost) daily updates NOW in the summer. Introducing our NEW bike blog featuring regular reports on cycling routes in the Hautes Alpes
While the skis are stored until next winter, the bikes are back on the road. This is our new Bike Blog and Live WebCam in Serre Chevalier near Briancon with cycle route reports from the Haute Alpes and our Tech Editor's training updates for the Etape du Tour that takes place in July. Also check out our Cycling Tour Guide mapping out the best mountain routes and cols.
We parked up near Guillestre and headed down towards Lac Serre Poncon, but this time took Les Balcons de la Durance, a stunning traverse above the Durance river in full flow before dropping down to Embrun and on towards Savine de Lac.
I've never seen the lake so full and unlike the last couple of rides around the lake there was not a cloud in the sky so the lake was reflecting the azure blue of the sky.
It was hot though, temps mid to high 30's in the heat of the sun and on the last big climb up to the Col Lebraut it was like an oven.
Managed 130km and just over 2,000m and felt good in the heat, same was not the case for my mate who found the last third of the ride in the intense heat tough going.
Yet another great ride. This time accompanied by a mate who was on his electric mountain bike, and it was good to have company on the long climb up.
Leaving Briancon heading out on the Izoard road about 3km out there's an old military road that goes up to the Ancien Fort du Gondran ou Sommet des Anges (2459m) above Montgenevre.
Some 1,350m of climbing, then it's a truly stunning (and long) descent to Montgenevre and then traverse to the forts of Briancon via Bois de Sestriere and l'Infernet.
MONTH TO GO
17th June 2017
That is to the Etape du Tour (Sun 16th July), which is when nigh on 20,000 cyclists arrive in the valley to cycle a stage of the Tour de France which leaves Briancon and finishes atop the Col d'Izoard.
I have around ten mates coming out and now some are beginning to panic at the thought of taking it on as they have not been doing enough training.
Cycling 180km in the mountains in temps of 25 degrees is totally different to riding in mid to high 30's and that's what will do for me even with all the training I've been doing!
Yesterday did one of my favourite off road rides, Balcons de Serre Chevalier, just me and the marmots.
BACK UP THE IZOARD
15th June 2017
Yesterday the Izoard was only open to cyclists from 11:00 - 14:00, for "Le cadre de la fête du tour, inauguration ce jour-la de la signalétique ASO de montée de Col" which I surmised had something to do with new signs on the road up to the Col D'Izoard from the Queyras side, which is the route the Tour will take and the Etape in July.
I left at 08:00 conscious of the heat after Saturday. As I started the main part of the climb up from where the road splits a couple of km before Chateau Queyras, so yes there were some new signs on the side of the road, and then as I rode into Arvieux I could see a "function" going, so took a look and a picture
Sure enough was a melee of people from all the various tourist offices, regions, departments, Maries and the like and they were all celebrating the wonderful new signs and a great deal of back slapping was going on.
However, one small problem as I saw it (or didn't). The idea behind the signs was to celebrate the history of the Izoard in the Tour and the many riders who had climbed and went on to win stages but as I cycled pass them (slowly) I just could not read them as the font was way too small. So maybe the designer should have worked that one out with a prototype before going into production!
One of the signs, and you are meant to be able to read that small panel below the gradient !
And now zoomed in.
I've ridden up the Izoard from thie direction seven or so times and this time round did not seem to bad (doubt I'l be thinking that on the 16th).
One way to approach is is that the real climb does not start till Brunisard and then it's only 600m to the Col!
SCORCHIO AND HEADS UP
12th June 2017
First off this Wednesday 14th June the Izoard is only open to cyclists from 11:00 - 14:00, as ever when the Cols are "Reserves" it's a great atmosphere on the mountain. More dates when others are closed here.
Took the dogs out for a good run yesterday as I was conscious they've not done much the past couple of days, though it's so hot currently. So chose a nice easy route (I needed a rest) with plenty of opportunities for getting wet :)
Temps were mid to high 30's and crossing some of the torrents in flood has to be careful the dogs did not get swept away!
WHAT A DAY
11th June 2017
I've ridden six days on the trot now plus last couple of days I've been doing intermittent fasting, so I was probably not in the best of condition yesterday(too weak).
I've never climbed Col de Sarenne from the damn and it's tough. Unlike the TDF crowds etc are no where near as busy, I'd say not even 10%. As I was riding up road was very empty and the only people I came across, or should I say passed me, were a number of riders from Royal Dean Forest Cycling Club.
I was only 1500m from the Col and had time on my side as no sign of the Heli which always tells you the race is not far away, that said so many team cars and gendarmes on motor bikes going past, when I came across two guys from the Royal Dean Forest Cycling Club.
I don't know why but something wasn't right and I stopped and sure enough one of the guys was in quite a bad way, and his mate was not too sure what to do. It was obvious the guy was fecked i.e dehyrdated, vertigo, bonked etc etc
I advised that we needed to get him out of the sun (temps were low 30's) and got my spare top out of my bag to put around his head, as we lent him against the bank I thought for one horrible minute that we were going to loose him as he just went white as a sheet and could not talk and went still, I then told the other guy I was calling 112.
And whilst this was all going on the leaders were fast approaching, gendarme advised medic was not far away, another couple of gendarmes stopped and we lay him down on the side of the road trying to clear all the rocks.
With more liquid and his mates gels he started to be a little better.
When the medic arrived he explained that he'd get him taken down in an ambulance for a checkover and as the final vehicles went through I cycled up to the Col.
Now the thing was that most on the mountain were only doing the ADH/Sarenne loop, where as once I'd descended down I then had another 1,000m to get back over the Lautaret and I knew it was going to be horrible at best.
I thought I'd been really good taking on water from the various fountains en route but I knew I was weak. I made it to La Grave to my mates hotel and had a pitstop there, and when I left I felt good, but as soon as I went to put some power into the pedals I cramped up in the right leg.
So out of the saddle and cycling at various angles (knee in, knee out) to see if I could loosen up, all the time feckin painful. It became better and then the left leg went so more of the same.
And then with the cramp the nausea started, and I seriously thought about free wheeling back to LG, but somehow I made it over the Col back to Serre.
This is about the third ride now where I've had trouble getting back over the Lautaret so there is some psychological shite going on in my head as well!
This has to be the picture of the day, though at the time I did not realise it, only after watch the race highlights. A Brit 1 / 2 at the finish - the photo is a great story of the day Peter Kennaugh 1st and Ben Swift 2nd.
Yellow jersey group, Richie Porte in yellow. You can just make out the guy (John) on side of the road between the two Team Sky riders with a gendarme!
And medic arriving with cyclists still on the climb.
OFF TO SEE CHRIS FROOME
10th June 2017
The Criterium du Dauphine is climbing Alpe D'Huez today though not by the usual road but the much tougher Col de Sarenne, so I'm cycling over that way so will be another big day on the bike!
Last couple of days I've take it easy but still managed a fair few kms and vertical riding up to the Refuge Laval Haute Vallée de la Clarée which is further up from Nevache and then yesterday to the Le refuge des Fonts de Cervières which actually opens for Summer today.
So hopefully I'll be posting some photos of the likes of Froome and Contador laters.
WEATHER'S BEEN A TAD VOLATILE
8th June 2017
So far this week the weather has not been too summer like, though finally yesterday it was nigh on cloudless skies but a tad chilly at altitude.
Monday and Tuesday saw a fair amount of rain but I was able to dodge the showers and get a couple of training rides in, one off road, right in front of us to the summer village of Frejus and then on the road up to Le Poët Ollagnier Climb, a steep climb up from Briancon.
At one point I thought I was in for a soaking as I could see the rain in the valley, and the tell tale sign of advancing bad weather is that the wind really picks up, but somehow I managed to stay dry though battled into a strong head wind cycling back up the valley.
Then yesterday with better weather, and with Elaine and Les Chiens it was up the mountain directly in front of us climbing up to the Casse du Boeuf chair (she and the dogs ran as far as Frejus summer village) and then descending back down to Aravet before then picking up the La Mélèzine bike park trail which has not been prepared for summer riding just yet.
And another great video of the ride with images integrated into the vid.
And 'Heads Up' - Criterion Du Dauphine on Saturday as they climb up from Grenoble to the damn at Lac du Chambon, where they then start the climb up to the Col de Sarenne and then on to Alpe d'Huez. I'm aiming to be over there by 12:30 as their ETA is 14;00.
And then Wednesday June 14th the Izoard is closed to traffic and open for cyclists, 11:00 - 14:00.
BACK UP GALIBIER - BUT WITH SLIGHTLY LESS SNOW!
6th June 2017
The iconic road sign at the top of the Col du Galibier is usually nearly buried by snow when we ski tour up there in the winter complete with the Rando Chiens, our two Jack Russells.
It's also traditional for us to do Galibier at least once in the summer. Me running, Gav on his mountain bike and the Randos chasing after marmot whistles. From the Lautaret road before the tunnel to the col it's around 7km and nearly 700km although, this time, Gav put in a few extra kilometres by cycling from our apartment on his road bike before meeting me and swapping to his mountain one.
The old path is fairly steep and rocky, slick with running water from the snow melt. The last kilometre is on the road, currently closed to traffic but full of road cyclists heading up the final bends to the col. There's still snow up there and a chill that has everyone reaching for long sleeved tops while taking photos in front of the famous sign.
2nd June 2017
Up early and left Serre and temps were low single figures. As I knew I'd be in for a long day and what with the recent afternoon thunderstorms I opted for my seat-post saddle bag so I could wear arm-warmers, long fingered spring gloves and a heavier / warmer rain jacket, then as temps rose I could disrobe and pack that kit away, and then should the heavens open I'd at least be prepared if I could find no shelter.
In fact temps did not start warming up till I'd reached the end of the Lac du Chambon cycling along the rescue road, then it's a climb up to Mont de Lans and then the "Traverse" before dropping down to Bour Oisans and then climb the Alpe.
The previous day was the massive "Dutch Day" when thousands cycle the Alpe up to six times either as individuals or in teams, and the infrastrutcure was huge, though the road both up and down was very busy, though not with cyclists.
Once at the finish, I then left the hordes and cycled past the Altiport up to the Col de Sarenne at 1,999m. Up there I then met some Dutch cyclist coming up from Clavans and they told me how yesterday late in the afternoon many cyclists had to be evacuated off the road up to Alpe D'Huez as there was a big storm with torrential rain and hail and many were suffering from the early stages of hypothermia. They were quite impressed with my setup!
Here's a video of the ride with stills integrated into the video.
BIT OF A MISSION
31st May 2017
Decided to cycle up the Col de Granon in the morning to see if the road was open all the way. At the bottom a sign said 9km and as I cycled up I noticed that the KM markers were not up yet.
About a km from the Col there was snow in places across the road but enough space to cycle along, though by the barracks I had to get off and walk around.
And at the top I had to walk across 25cm of snow to take the ubiquitous 'selfie'!
Once back down a little rest then Part 2 of the day's activities, to go and find the ski I lost back in February when I was caught in an avalanche off the Cibouit traverse in the trees in Serre Chevalier.
I did start out on the MTB but I was just too tired as it was very steep up the Tabuc piste, so I hid the bike (locking it to a tree) and hiked up.
At the time when I lost the ski, I failed to mark my location with the GPS so this was really a case of a needle in a haystack. However we did find two others skis including the Rossignol Scratch (below) but alas not mine.