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Day 10 : Three cols on one day

In the morning we had a chat with another cyclist. He hadn't felt as cold on the Bonette as us yesterday. A while later bram told me that during the night he had used the bushes as a toilet, because he thought there were bars in front of the bathrooms. In the morning he noticed those were actually fly curtains. We went to the supermarket and baker, it was a pretty touristy town and there was music everywhere. We recognized one of the songs as 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds', it was some weird French version.
 

There was also a store selling bicycle stuff. Unfortunately they didn't sell luggage carriers. I bought an inner tire and a pocket knife with 'cold de Bonette' written on it. Bram bought a warm bicycle shirt of the Bonette. We left late today and there were still three cols to be climbed. We started right away with the col de Vars. There we passed the cyclist we had seen on the campsite and his wife. Halfway up the mountain we needed to get a stamp. We waited in front of the tourist office for ten minutes, only to hear they didn't have one. Luckily, we found one in the local town hall. At the summit we talked with an English couple. They had been cycling in the area for years. After we took pictures for each other we bought some more ice cream. I wanted to go to the bathroom, but even as customer you had to pay, so I just went to the bushes.

col de vars

Col de Vars

col de vars

View towards the side we had come from
 

During the descent we passed some villages. My bike was making a strange noise, every time my wheel went around something was ticking. My rear tire turned out to be so worn out that the inner tire was popping out. I clearly needed a new one. After last years' problems I carried a spare one. Within 15 minutes I had replaced it and we could continue. 

cycling in france

Bart repairing his bike
 

There wasn't a descent at the end of the village, so we couldn't buy any food. There was, however, another road going upwards towards the second col of the day, the Izoard. Twenty kilometers further and more than an hour later we arrived at the village at the base of the official climb. At the bakery we were helped by two good looking girls. They even smiled at us, at least that is what we told ourselves, maybe they were just laughing at our feral look. One of them asked if my chain had ran off, because my hands were  black. I told them I had had a punctured tire. At the bakery they also sold ice, we decided to come back for desert later. First we needed to get some spread and drinks.

We went back for ice cream and ate the bread at the terrace that belonged to the bakery. Of course the girls were pleasantly surprised we had returned, or so we told ourselves. I had chocolate and coffee ice, but coffee and lemon would have been better because those bins were farther to the back. For that reason Bram ordered melon and something else. We ate the rest of the food in the shade. The salade we had bought contained cucumber and fatty salmon, I hoped I would be able to keep that in during the climb.

 

The first part of the Izoard involved a lot of sweating, afterwards we cycled up in a steady pace. Bram wanted to take a break, so I took some photos. 

Izoard

One of the turns on the Izoard

Izoard

The village where we came from

cycling in france

Million dollar question: What is Bram going to do with these leaves?
 

This climb was very nice, at one corner we looked out over a huge rock.

Izoard

Climbing the Izoard

Izoard
Izoard

At the top of the col we asked some motorcyclists to take a picture of us.

Izoard

At the top of the Izoard

Izoard

View towards the top

cycling in france

We were going in this direction

cycling in france
cycling in france

The descent
 

The descent went over a pretty busy road. When I stopped at an intersection to wait for Bram a cyclists came up to me. He was looking for the way up te mountain. I managed to help him with the map I carried. Another time a car stopped, the people asked if we knew were the nearest DIY store was. Of course we would know, being two cyclists with luggage eating in a park.

The descent stopped in Briancon. It was completely packed with cars, but by bike we could quickly ride through. The road went slightly uphill for about 10 kilometers. We got some more food and around 19:00 started the last climb of the day, it was the col du Lautaret. The 100 cols tour went all the way up the Lautaret and then at the top would take a turn to the start of the col du Galibier. We wanted to have a day off near the Alpe d'Huez, which meant we would instead go directly downhill after the Lautaret and would later climb back up again to climb the Galibier. It wasn't very steep, so we could cycle at about 12 km/h. While I stopped to pick some leaves Bram made this picture:

cycling in france

Just before reaching the top we suddenly had a very nice view. The moon was hanging above the mountains while the sun was setting. We admired the view for a while and I took some photos.

col du lautaret

The moon during the sunset

col du lautaret

A white van stopped an a French man came out. He spoke some English and Bram had a conversation with him. He explained he passed by there about 150 times a year and stopped every time to enjoy the view. We told him we wanted to go to Bourg d'Oisans tonight. It turned out that's where the man lived. He said it would be dangerous to descent in the dark as there were many tunnels. It also wasn't all downhill, there would be some climbs as well. He said there was another campsite in the nearby village La Grave. We continued climbing and took a picture at the top of the Lautaret.

col du lautaret

Just before the top

col du lautaret

The summit of the Lautauret

col du lautaret

It was nearly dark

The descent wasn't very cold. It quickly got dark and the road was pretty good. There was a lot of traffic though. After a few kilometers the road got worse and we passed through a few tunnels. Every time a car approached it made so much noise we would think there were 20. Before one of the tunnels was a kind of speed bump that nearly threw me off my bike. We quickly saw a sign 'campsite'. We weren't even close to Bourg d'Oisans yet, but it was too dangerous to keep going. The campsite was located a bit lower than the main village. The front desk was already closed so we pitched our tents at one of the free spots before heading towards the showers.

Bram had found a really large stall, it think it was for disabled people. I started waiting for the other two to free up. At the door was a sign you were only allowed to shower for 5 minutes, but I had to wait for more than 15. Meanwhile I was talking to an Irish man who had arrived by car the same day. He planned to go mountain-biking in the area with a guide. He had seen us when we were coming down the mountain. He said he had recently read something about an Englishman cycling around the world in 200 days. If I wanted I could have the article, I would just have to visit their tent. They had an orange canoe on top of their car, so it should be easy to find. 

I checked myself in a mirror and realized I looked horrible. My hair was all messed up and I was covered in dirt and grease. The Irish man offered to let me shower first, but I said I didn't mind waiting because it was warm. Meanwhile I ate the granola bars I still carried in my shirt. After showering Bram and I returned to our tents, it had gotten dark. Fortunately we remembered where we had pitched them, as they were hard to see because of their camo print. During the night I saw some falling stars. It was a clear night and we were at more than 1000m elevation so it again got really cold.

Distance cycled: 139 km