We were up at 7am and tucked into French baguettes and jam for breakfast (I knew we should have brought more cakes). The route for the day was the Marmotte, Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier (103 miles and 4000m of ascent) minus the last hill, of Alpe d’Huez. I hadn’t realised how famous the Marmotte route is, with over 7000 trying it each year and many not succeeding. But how hard could 100 miles be?
We headed out of the campsite, took a right turn into a flat run up to the dam and then we were climbing...for a long time – I didn’t count! Cycling is very different in the UK, it is up or down and little in between. However, the French gradient was gentle, not more than 12% and generally 7%, and you could spin a compact with 28 comfortably (Adrian had a 30 and didn’t use it much). Part way up, we passed through Le Rivier d’Allemont and the surrounding villages before we caught sight of the first Col of the day.
At the summit of Col du Glandon (1924m) we stopped to take the obligatory pictures to instantly email home to those who didn’t come. A little more climbing and 2.5km later, we passed the second Col de la Croix de Fer at 2067m. No time to hang about, pictures taken of the Iron Cross and duly emailed to friends at home – funny the responses seem less than impressed.
We departed the Col with a 25+km descent ahead of us – and a speed of 45 mph! I even got used to the sweeping bends and passing cars that didn’t even seem to mind! Back down at 700m we decided to stop at Villargondran for lunch.
I was left in charge of the bikes (make sure you remember locks!), whilst Adrian took care of lunch. He returned fully laden, with water and orange juice and a sandwich: 'Where’s the cake?'
I had my share in the shade at the front of the building, much to the amusement of the locals.