Taming the beast of Galibier

Trip Start Jul 02, 2011
Trip End Aug 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Cassini

Flag of France  , Rhône-Alpes,
Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today started the same as yesterday. Up and dressed in time for the 8am buffet breakfast. Derek has been putting on some great food for us. Tried to cut back a bit today so as not to feel bloated riding. 
Our peak of choice today was another double. First a mainly gentle climb to Col de Lautaret, a climb of about 1100 meters followed by the 9km climb of 600 meters to Col de Galibier. We had our work cut out for us.
The first 2km from Le Freney are fairly steep but after that we followed the river that feeds the dam. This is a constant climb but mainly around 4 to 5% so isn't too bad. We went through a number of tunnels today with 3 of them being 700 meters long! One in particular had a 200 meter dark spot with no lights in the middle - very eerie and just a little bit scary hoping the cars coming behind you notice you in time. After about 17km we reach the town of Le Grave. There was a great market there with fresh fruit, meat, cheese, olives, nougat, bread, fresh veggies as well as some crafts. All this below a magnificent vista of Le Meiji covered in a glacier - awesome. We had a quick snack and started on the 10km trek to Col de Lautaret. This was mainly around 6% and quite manageable with the road being quite good. We reach the Col in under an hour and had climbed 1100 meters. We stopped for a bit of a rest and Jeff and Tom took on some fuel at one of the shops at the Col. Back on our bikes we pointed them straight up towards Col de Galibier. The weather had started to get overcast and we could tell there was rain on the way. For me this meant I had to guard against getting too cold so I took off to try and keep the body temperature up. Jeff and Tom followed at a steady pace. After about 3kms the rain started. It didn't get overly hard but everything got wet including us. The wind had also picked up which made things a little treacherous as we climbed. Most of the climb up we were on the outside of the road above steep drops. This was actually good because on the way down when we had some speed up we would be hugging the mountain. After 8kms you pass a little shop and start on the last kilometer. Here the road took a sharp rise up and things got very tough. This stretch varied a bit but was all over 10%. Getting to the top was a feeling of pure elation. The views both sides of the Col have to be seen to be believed.
I stopped for a few photos and had a bite to eat but the temperature had dropped sharply and the wind was biting cold. Without an over jacket I headed back down to the shop a kilometer down to shelter from the cold. Jeff and Tom came by there just as I pulled in. I waited in the shop and got some lunch and a hot coffee while Tom and Jeff went up to the top and had some fun in the snow before they joined me for a drink. Jeff and I both bought a T-Shirt to put on for the descent as the wind was still very strong and cold.
The descent wasn't too bad, the wind certainly pushed the bikes around a bit but generally it was better than I thought. The one positive of the strong winds was that it had dried the road.
After leaving Lautaret we realized that we actually had done quite a bit of climbing, we were effortlessly doing high 40s to low 50s on long straights with gentle curves - this was more like it. The trip back to Le Freney was fast with a few photo stops.
Today we climbed the beast of Galibier. A giant of a mountain over 400 meters higher than Kosciusko. We had very strong winds and rain to handle which made the climb all the more satisfying. All of us are VERY well satisfied right now. Today is a little sad as it is our last night in Le Freney. Tomorrow we take a 3 hour drive to the base of Ventoux where we will prepare to take on the next challenge of our own little tour.
Right now, life feels pretty good.

A note from guest author Jeff Hilder.
I feel so lucky to be over here with some great cycling friends.
The mountains and beautiful villages just blow me away.
We rode to 2600 meters and looked up to  mountains and glaciers in the sky.
This trip is just fulfilling my youthful dream of seeing the European alps.
Often whilst riding I just look around and admire the shear beauty of the mountains and the amazing engineering feats that have been achieved at such amazing altitudes.
Yesterday the shepherd tending his sheep at 2000 meters and today the local market with beautiful breads cheeses and fruits and the sound of cow bells ringing across the lush valley.
Just little things but special to me.
To experience the pace of life, the passion and resilience of the people who live in this area is such a wonderful change from the city lives we come from.
Tomorrow we move on, but this wonderful little piece of France has left a lasting impression on me.
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Luke on

Well said, both of you :)

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