French Alps, Day 2

Early start once again, everyone rushing around the house sorting out all their kit and having breakfast, massive pot of porridge brewing on the stove, I shovelled some down the hatch. There were loads of other breakfast options. Craig became the omelette king cooking his amazing omelettes every morning. Top notch I have to say! The general mood seemed a little quiet as I think everyone was a little nervous not knowing what was in store for the day. Well maybe I was just nervous as I was in-experienced in this so called col climbing. We weren’t completely unaware of the days ride. Neil would brief us of the next day events at dinner so we had knowledge of what was in store, plus Stephen’s profile graphs dotted round the house giving us an idea of the main climbs we were going to be doing for that day. Red red red…being +10% gradient. No reds on day two’s ride though as we were gently wadding into the art of ‘Col Hunting’ as Rhi coined it…you will hear a lot more of that later I am sure…back to the days ride. Day two involved Col du Cucheron (1140 m).

We set off from the Château at about 0830, headed through Saint Beron, and then towards Entre-deux-Guiers, it was originally planned that we would head for Saint Pierre d’Entremont and we would start the climb from there, but that route through the mountains or col was closed. So the plan was altered to go round the back, the way we would have come back.

So off we headed after a short refuel of some gels, bars etc…and headed for Saint Laurent du Point, just outside this village we started the climb, we basically followed the river further into the mountain range. It was stunning climbing through wooded area with a babbling river next to us, we went through two or three narrow tunnels on the way. The total climb to the top of this col was roughly 15 km although we stopped roughly 8 to 10 km up to re-grouped at a bridge. Ready for the final accent, which started to ramp up as we passed a few ski slopes and lifts, nothing to crazy.

Bridge to Cucheron

Seeing everyone clustered together was a welcome sight when reaching the top with a gorgeous back drop of the valley that we were supposed to climb up from, if that pass had not been closed.

Cucheron

Cucheron Sign

As you can see in the image above the altitude for this col was 1140 meters my first proper col, hence the photo of the sweaty pinkish man. After some much needed refuelling and a sambo we started the decent down, before doing this most of us adding a few more layers to what we were wearing on the way up, mainly arm warmers and a gilet or rain jacket, to keep us from cooling down too much on the 15 km descent. Not much peddling going on to keep your body toasty, so essential the higher you go. The decent was awesome, not much effort envolved and everyones favourite…’SPEED’, well it’s not for everyone but I enjoyed it. It’s amazing how long it takes you to get up there an hour for me with a stop at 10 km but the downhill was done in 15 – 20 minutes, bang!

On the way down we stopped at a café for a coffee and to soak in some sun, the owner did not speak much english, no problems there as quite a few people knew the native tongue as some will know I am rubbish when it comes to French. The café was very accommodating for us 17 cyclists, they were running around putting together a large table for all of us and café au lait all round, as you will see Rhi slurping it down after his little stretch session.

Cafe

On the way back to HQ we started up a chain gang I was pushed to the front just as we hit a hill so I packed out and had to pull back and get the guys to pass me so that wasn’t ideal and probably mildly annoying to the others. It really started to warm up getting close to home. We all shot past the turn off which was at the back end of a downhill so easy enough to do. Getting home from the first day out was a good feeling and we were all very keen to get cleaned up and get some food down us. I had a good sense of achievement.

After all the feeding and cleaning shenanigans we were all lounging in the garden soaking in some amazing French sunshine and ended up sitting round the BBQ with a few beers watching G-man (Graeme) cooking up a storm for some hungry peeps.

All in all a very satisfying day 85 km cycle with 2374 m of climbing in total according to my ‘trusty’ Garmin. We were out for roughly 5 hours, moving time being just under 4 hours. Neil’s briefing struck fear into my little soul about the next days cycle. 140km cycle taking in Col du Grand Colombier which is an HC climb and a lot tougher than Cucheron. Stephen gave me a little pep talk at dinner which was relieving but assured me I would be fine. So I slept like a baby…

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