Rhône Alps – Day 4 – Road graffiti by Saxo Banksy

Retracing old ground today, but in reverse.

Ignoring all common sense once again I didn’t bother with much of a warm-up, so I went straight up the D80 climb up to Col du Mollard from Villargondran, the one with the lovely hairpins from Day 1. 16km long with 1,100m of climbing, that should wake me up at least. With the temperature hitting 32˚C this morning, the trees on this ascent gave welcome shade from the sun. I counted 44 hairpins in total, there might have been more, I wasn’t really paying attention. 44 seems about right.

Once at the top of Mollard, there’s a 6km descent before another big climb up to Croix de Fer.

Croix de Fer is French for Iron Cross, and guess what? There’s an Iron Cross up there. Here’s a picture of it….

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I was told that the descent from Croix de Fer/Glandon down to St. Etiene de Cuines is a must. If magnificent views of Mont Blanc are your thing, then this statement is correct. I enjoyed descending this road more than going up the damn thing. It’s a lot easier, hurts a lot less and takes a fraction of the time! As long as you’re pointing the bike in the right direction, you’re doing OK. This technique works well for me.

Some road graffiti from today’s ride….

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The view of Mont Blanc from Col du Glandon (it’s the white thing at the very back) ……

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Route: http://www.bikemap.net/route/1809162

Cycling done: A smidge more than yesterday.

Rocking and Rolling done: I’m still hearing dip, di-di, dip, di-di, dip, di-di, dip etc. What is that song called? Let me know at @perryguitar666. Again, I wish all manner of pestilence upon this artist. (Whenever I use the word ‘pestilence,’ I’d like you to imagine me as the Grim Reaper. Thanks.)

Distance: 79.7km

Vertical Gain: 2,141m

Legs: Feeling better

Oh, and here’s a 3m high sculpture of a bike at the top of Col du Glandon. And that’s Col de la Croix de Fer just above the pedal.

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Rhône Alps – Day 3 – Glandon, Croix de Fer and Mollard.

So enough of those little first category climbs, it’s time for some Hors Catégorie baby!

Today’s ride took me up to Col de la Croix de Fer via Col du Glandon, and then back up to Col du Mollard again.

This is a section of Stage 11 of this year’s Tour de France.

Not easy.

It began with a 10km spin down the Maurienne valley to Saint Etienne de Cuines where the climb begins.

I took a left up towards Glandon, (taking a right would mean you go up Col de la Madeleine, but more of that in a few days time).

It’s a steady climb averaging about 7% for the first 16km, but it lulls you into a false sense of security. I was taking it quite easy, my legs didn’t hurt too much, so I thought I was doing pretty bloody well. Then I remembered that the pros do this at twice my pace.

On top of the sudden realisation that I was actually not very good, the last 4km the gradient ramps up quite sharply. Great! 10%. 11%. 12%. 13%. 14%.

At this this point I was wishing all manner of pestilence upon the families of the people who built this road. My leg muscles began to burn and my lungs felt as if they were about to burst.

I did feel better when I got to the top of Glandon. Elation and relief were the emotions I felt as I was hunched over my handlebars dribbling onto my front wheel.

After the 2.5 km climb up to Croix de Fer, the narrow descent through the ski resorts has to be taken with caution. At some points in the road there isn’t enough room for an oncoming car and a descending bike. I took the ‘Tour de France’ descent off Col du Mollard as opposed to the one I did a couple of days previously. Very technical but a lot of fun.

Here’s a proper cyclist, Daniel Lloyd, who is about four thousand times better than me, with a proper insight into the climbs.

Route: http://www.bikemap.net/route/1760884

Cycling done: More than yesterday

Rocking and Rolling done: For some reason my brain is full of those shitty Eurodance pop tunes. Mainly the Numa Numa one, and the one that goes dip, di-di, dip, di-di, dip, di-di, dip etc. Total hell.

Distance: 74km

Vertical Gain: 2,069m

Legs: Hmmmm…..

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Rhône Alps – Day 2 – Col du Chaussy

And to the second warm-up day.

Starting with another ascent up the Lacets de Montvernier.

‘Lacets’ is what the French call hairpins. It’s also the French word for laces, as in shoelaces. Cute.

It’s impossible to take a good photo of the lacets from the road, so I got ‘my mate Dave’ to take a picture from his helicopter.

From the village of Montvernier, it’s a pretty steady climb to the top. There are a few disconcerting sheer drops along the way; fine on the way up, shit-your-pants on the way down. (I think I prefer shit-your-pants).

The last climb of the day took me up to the village of St. Pancrace, then back home to St. Jean de Maurienne.

After two days of ‘warming-up’, I’m fucking exhausted!

Route: http://www.bikemap.net/route/1760910

Cycling done: Same as yesterday

Rocking and Rolling done: Zilch

Distance: 57.6km

Vertical Gain: 1,563m

Legs: Oh FFS!!!

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Rhône Alps – Day 1 – Col du Mollard

For the first two days I’ve decided that I should take it easy and warm up a little. But my twisted a idea of warming up is averaging about 1,500 meters of climbing a day. (Imagine the height of the Empire State Building, then triple it!).

Considering I haven’t done any proper training since I was in Livigno two months ago, this doesn’t bode well. My good friend, sometimes training partner and pro cyclist Manuel Quinziato is probably shaking his head disapprovingly right now.

Today’s ride began with a quick spin up the Lacets du Montvernier and back down to St Jean. Then a 21km climb up to Col du Mollard.

Surprisingly I was still alive at the top, maybe I should not train more often.

I’ve renamed some local peaks by the way. This one is now called ‘The Frog and Madonna’s Bra’ or in suspect French: ‘La Grenouille et Le Soutien-gorge de la Madone’

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There’s a beautiful descent off Le Mollard (via the D80) back to SJDM, lots of hairpins. I reckon it will be better as an ascent though. I’ll try that later in the week, I like hairpins.

Route: http://www.bikemap.net/route/1760902

Cycling done: Some

Rocking and Rolling done: Jack

Distance: 63km

Vertical Gain: 1,665m

Legs: Not too shabby

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Alpes Maritimes – Day 10 – My last day in France

Col de Vence.

You know it’s time to go home when a mountain biker passes you on a climb.

That happened today. Oh the shame! (In my defence, I think he was a pro! *cough*)

Ten days of cycling has taken it’s toll on my poor muscles.

I need a rest. There’s nothing left.

I’m very pleased that I’ve achieved my goal though…..

Total distance cycled: 1,087km

Total vertical gain: 18,014m

That’s over double the height of Mount Everest.

I’m a very tired but happy Rock and Rouleur.

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Route: http://www.bikemap.net/route/1569730

Cycling done: My poor thighs

Rocking and Rolling done: I think it might be time for some loud guitars.

Distance: 89.7km

Vertical Gain: 1,257m

Legs: Ground beef

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Alpes Maritimes – Day 9 – Col de Turini

Col de Turini is probably better known for it’s appearance on Top Gear as one of the best driving roads in the world than it’s three appearances in the Tour de France.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say it’s also one of the best cycling roads in the world.

There, I’ve said it, courting controversy and stating an opinion.

I should have gone into politics. Although I don’t think I would last long, what with my longish hair, and the fact that I spend too much time on top of mountains. A bit like Highlander, but with a guitar and a bike instead of that sword. And not as French, even though he’s supposed to be Scottish.

Anyway I digress…..

Apart from the little descent into L’Escarene after Col de Nice, it’s a 43km long climb from sea level to the top (1607m).

Even though it hurts like hell, I’ll give the climb a satisfaction factor of 9. Then again I’m weird like that, getting satisfaction from pain, and giving it a score.

The descent into La Bollène-Vesubie is one hell of a prize after all that suffering.

Definitely one of my favourites.

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Route: http://www.bikemap.net/route/1567731

Cycling done: Beaucoup

Rocking and Rolling done: Not much time for any of that, although this song has been going round and round in my head the whole time I’ve been here. Tune!

Distance: 110.1km

Vertical Gain: 2,215m

Legs: You know that feeling you get when someone punches you really hard on one of your thighs? That.

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A sign

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Luceram

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A glimpse of the Haute Alpes

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Another sign and my beloved instrument of torture

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The road down to La Bollène-Vesubie

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Alpes Maritimes – Day 8 – 3 countries in one day

France through Monaco to Italy and back.

The day started off with a quick spin up to Eze village and La Turbie then a steep descent down the side of the mountain through Beausoleil to Monaco, where they were setting up for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Being a bit of a fan I always do a couple of laps of the F1 circuit when I’m here.

It gives me goosebumps.

Halfway around the lap I went into the casino and had a go on the slots. I won €3.60!

Not really.

I’d always wanted to try the Milan-Sanremo climbs the Cipressa and the Poggio, just for the sake of doing them

It’s quite an unremarkable route accross the border into Italy, not very pleasant on a bike.

Unless you like traffic.

The climb up to Poggio is unremarkable as well. That’s that box ticked though.

(It’s still far better than any of the local climbs around London.)

I ducked out of doing Cipressa, It would have meant another 30km of heavy traffic.

Not for me.

Apparently that climb is even less interesting than Poggio.

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Route: http://www.bikemap.net/route/1564373

Cycling done: Molto

Rocking and Rolling done: Niente

Distance: 132.7km

Vertical Gain: 1,730m

Legs: Beginning to annoy me.

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Eze Village

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Building the grandstands next to the Swimming Pool in Monaco

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Pitlane exit

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Loews Hairpin

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