“Oh you’re heading North? Over the Sognefjellsvegen? Wow, Good luck!” the man said, as I borrowed some change for the showers at the camp site. I’m just over 540km into my journey (not yet half way), and tomorrow I’ll ride the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe. In 36 degree heat; carrying all my camping kit, cooking equipment, food and clothes more suited to typical Norwegian weather than the record breaking temperatures I’m sweltering in. Continue reading
The American accent cuts through the conversations on Bedoin’s main street, it’s early evening and the restaurant’s outside seating is full of diners in full conversation. “Have you rode up the mountain yet?” I overhear, “We rode up this afternoon” the American voice proclaims. They are a retired couple from America, in their late 60s, touring Europe and they had Mont Ventoux on their to do list. The giant of Provence seems to captivate the attention of so many as a cycling mountain, not just cyclists either, but anybody young and old who wants to challenge themselves. The array of people who attempt this mountain, on all manner of bicycles from basic mountain bikes to serious road bikes, is really something to behold. Continue reading
We arrived in the early afternoon and set about finding a hotel for the coming night. It was going to be a flying visit, a single ascent of Alpe d’Huez followed by a refreshing shower and some dinner. The village of Bourg d’Oisans lies at the foot of the legendary alp and after a quick walk around town we settled on the Hotel Des Alpes on the main pedestrianised street. The hotel looks to be in the process of a renovation, the deluxe rooms being nicely finished but the rest of the hotel and standard rooms looking a little unloved and out dated (the owners are friendly and a room is provided for bike storage in the basement).
There wasn’t time for lunch so I stuffed down an energy bar whilst assembling my bike in the car park, and prepared to see what all the fuss is about this “legendary alp”. First impressions were that it looked pretty unspectacular, you can see the ski resort from the valley roads and it didn’t look all that far away. The statistics also didn’t sound that bad: 1118m elevation gain, from 742m to 1860m and an average gradient of 8.1%. That all sounded quite acceptable when reading it on paper, so just what made this worthy of the Hors catégorie status? After all it’s far from the longest or the highest climb in the area. Continue reading