Was excited to do this ride as it would feature two famous peaks that would both be on the Tour de France route a couple of weeks later.
A not too early start, and off we went. Bruce suggested he would drop the car off in Bourg, so he and Will set off while Malcolm and I went down the Balcon road, back to turn 16 of Alpe d’Huez and descended the rest of the way into the town. Once we met up, we had a flat 10km to Allemont and rode alongside the spectacular lake and then started the long, long climb to Glandon.
This road was hard. We went through some beautiful small villages, pausing to refill water bottles at the small fonts they have (the water is straight off the glacier and clean as anything!) but the road pitches through multiple switchbacks and has sections at 14% gradient. At one point I’m riding alongside a Frenchman, and we have a nice chat (in fractured French) about what an absolute bitch of a climb this is. The killer is that occasionally the road drops (usually to cross over a river) and you have a short, steep descent only to have to climb up again on the other side.
2 hours into the climb we reach one of the landmarks on the climb, the huge Lac de Grand Maison where we pause for photos and to regroup a little. We have fun watching Malcolm trying to clip into his pedals whilst going uphill, and we set off the final part of the climb. For the last 10km you can actually see the peak you’re aiming at and can see the long, winding road up to it. Head down, get those pedals spinning and up into the clouds we go. The higher you go, the cooler it gets – and when the summit of Glandon finally comes it’s decidedly nippy at 15 degrees.
Some routes around here will send you back down the other side of the mountain and back up to do both peaks – but we’re not that stupid. We take the short climb to to the top of Croix de Fer and pause at the cafe there for a coffee.
We go back the way we had come – this time considerably faster! 🙂 The roads sweep, and it’s a lot of fun. You can go 3 or 4 km without touching the pedals, letting gravity do all the work. There’s a few short, sharp climbs (the dips we had encountered on the way there) – but it’s generally a nice ride back to Bourg. We strap the bikes to the roof rack and home!