Friday, 25 May 2012

Les Alps

In typical fashion, I left the packing to the night before I travelled up to London...then decided to play the Playstation and leave the packing to the hour before I was supposed to leave. So, forgetting to pack any bike nutrition, I rushed to Boots and bought a huge tub of aqueous cream and plasters; which raised an eyebrow.

We (myself and Ben – who has nothing to do with the above purchase) decided to drive to Grenoble. It’s about 8cm away on a map which equates to about 17hrs in a car; this will be used as a measuring guide to all my journeys from now on.

Arrived 10pm on the Tuesday to be greeted by our plush abode. I say plush, it was an adult sized Lego cabin with an added extra of guessing what panel would fall off when opening/closing a door. In all honesty, I was half expecting to see Pat Sharpe living in the bathroom with a set of twins and some excitable kids up to their eyeballs on dib-dabs.

Congratulations to you who guessed Funhouse. Bet you’re thinking about smashing up your Mam’s living room looking for a green sock and stapler, right?

Day 1: probably for the best, we decided to take this day easy and just spin out the legs after the long drive. Headed out of Bourg D’Osians and within 15k hit the first climb. So much for the easy spin. Two pretty hefty climbs later and during a bottle refill, I smashed a pint glass full of coke with some comedy fountain water squirting on a kids toy bike. Just warming myself to the locals. Made our excuses and descended back into Bourg. We didn’t venture that way again. (~65k + 1,200m ascent)

The rest of the day was spent with feet up and warming my fellow campsite dwellers with my sunburn.

Day 2: looking at the maps of the local area and finding a route that didn’t involve any climbs that were “Ferme”, we found some pretty tight switchbacks after a 40k gentle descent. Bonza! Headed out and soon realised that these tight switchbacks were seriously steep and we were blessed with some very humid weather between the sun showers. The views were pretty spectacular when I lifted my head, but in all honesty, I spent the majority of the climb dry-humping my headset up the mountain. It was seriously steep in sections. We summited, filled water up, descended, followed a yellow sign (don’t do this in France, it’s for ramblers/swingers) and ended on a dirt track for 5k, then a field, then across a river...then realised we *may* have taken the wrong route. iPhone out, back across the field, noticed a farm house with one of those circular targets on an outbuilding, past an angry Alsatian, over a bridge and bike-hike up a track to the main road. I was in Nepal again. Descended through some small towns, had a coke, saw a dog with the head the size of a sofa then reached Col D’Ornon. A long, winding climb in serious heat. At this stage, I just wanted to call it quits on the day instead of taking on Alpe D’Huez. Back to Bourg, feet up, more sunburn despite wearing arm warmers and a bellyful of food. (~110k + 2,100m ascent)

Day 3: Alpe D’huez. Something I’ve wanted to do since I watched my first Tour De France. And somehow, I gave myself a target of getting up in under 1hr. That’s right, 14km of climbing, no reprieve, just climbing. 21 famous switchbacks. So with my sense of direction akin to a lobotomised homing pigeon, I took a wrong turn, added 1km onto the ascent and finishing in 1hr 02mins. Added an ascent of Col D’Ornon from the “better” side to make up for my twat-nav climb on ADH. (110km + 2,200m ascent)

Day 4: armed with the correct route in mind, I was going to make it up in under an hour. It rained all night and the wind picked up, so I was back in Wales. Legs were surprisingly ok and plugged my way up in 58mins. A huge crowd* was at the top to encourage me as I wanged it in the big ring for the final couple turns to dip under my aim.

*there wasn’t a single person on ADH that day.

The descent on Day 3 took 16mins. Today, it took ~30mins. It was so cold, my brakes were sketchy and the road was seriously wet. I decided to head to Col Der Farx, climbed for nigh on 2hrs, including riding between a gap cut out of the snow/ice just wide enough for a car, then turned back 5k before the summit as I started to turn blue. It’s a brutal climb; something I’ll be back to do...just not on this day. I just got too cold to the point it was getting dangerous. Descending made me inevitably colder. Which was nice. I ate 1 ½ burgers that night. (120k + 3,200m ascent).

The 17hr drive home the next day is right up there as the best day of my life.

We stayed in Campsite Piscine in Bourg D’Osians. Ideal for cheap, cheerful accommodation and a great spot for cycling the main climbs. It was a shame that Galibier among others was shut, but I’ll go back one day. It’s totes’ worth it.

I took 8 pictures the entire trip. 3 of which were dogs.

All rides/routes are on Strava - jbwilliamz.

Oh, forgot to add that I have managed one race this year; a 3/4 Cat Crit in Cardiff. Long story short, I made a break with 6 laps left and took 2 others with me. We got caught on the last lap and I finished in the main bunch...bad timing on my part, but enjoyed it.

Oh, also forgot to add I’m racing a my first Tri in nearly 2 years in 2 weeks time in Cosmeston. It’s a small, open water sprint event and barring any last minute disasters, the running is going ok. Managed my first outdoor 5km for a LONG time last week, so I should be able to get through ok.

Also, I’ll be racing in Holland in July for the European Off-Road Championships in GB colours again. A sandy 9k run is going to put me in a seriously uncomfortable box.

 Bourg D'Osians

Ben was a little tired after the first day...
An amazing climb...

Average view...
Top of D'huez


Turn 1....
 Turn 2...
Croix De'Fer
Mmmmmmorvelo...brake dust on ankles.


  1. I think I recognise that Croix de Fer corner. Does it come after you've climbed to the village, then descend and THEN have to climb again? Bastard.

  2. Yep, when you've gone out to the summit, on your return you drop for ages and have to climb back into the's a real nasty sting in the tail...or a great big "bastard" as you've called it.