Distance: 47.7 miles. Elevation: 3685 ft.
As I was in the neighbourhood, I thought I’d ride up to the Ballon d’Alsace again, but this time from the south. I tried to set-off earlier than usual because the forecast was for thundery showers later. It was supposed to get very warm later, high 20’sºC. So no base layer or rain jacket, but I wrapped my arm warmers round my top bar just in case. I left at 11:50.
(The text below is a mixture of live reports dictated into my phone and stuff added later, so the tense is all over the place).
Clouds in the distance looked ominous
I knew things were going well when the church clock in Chaux chimed midday just as I approached – I always seem to get places on the hour.
Report from Ballon d’Alsace
I did the climb in one go, mainly 5 and 6% with just a steep ramp right at the end after the forest ends. It was cloudy all the way up the climb and there was nothing to take photos of – it was just through the forest, similar to the climb on the north side, with a lovely winding road. The air in the forest was cool and damp, and some stretches of the road were wet. The effort of the climb was enough to keep me warm. It’s not as warm as I was hoping, so I wish I’d brought my rain jacket, although I did bring my arm warmers and I’ve just put them on. There are loads of cyclists about today; both clubs and individuals. The majority were descending past me on the climb so it looks like everyone started their day earlier than me and will be getting back in time for their Sunday lunch. The col here is really quite busy with people walking, cycling, etc and lots of cars around, probably because it’s a Sunday.
I was talking to a German guy who asked me where the col was – I told him there was a sign just down the other side and that’s the only sign I know about. We had started conversing in French before we established each other’s nationality, after which we used English.
I’ve just eaten my sandwich (ham and Dijon mustard, hereinafter referred to as ‘HDM’). I’m sitting by this monument, created in celebration of the “Territoire de Belfort”‘s centenary year.
I had a banana near the bottom of the climb. Really the climb was quite easy, a combination of easier gradients and my being a bit fitter lately.
It looks like the weather is quite sunny in the distance around me but it’s cloudy here at the moment. One annoying thing during the climb was that I was getting bugged by flies, presumably because of being in the forest. The same thing had happened on the previous ride. It’s frustrating having to keep waving them away. I expect that they won’t be able to keep up with me on the descent!
After sitting there for a while, watching the Sunday visitors ambling around, I set off back down the hill.
The sun came out just at the right time for the descent.
About a mile and a half from the top I turned off onto the eastern descent from the col towards Sewen.
Report from Barrage lac d’Alfeld
I’ve just enjoyed a really fast, twisty descent from Ballon d’Alsace. I got the impression it was pretty steep, judging by the cyclists struggling up on the other side of the road, jerseys unzipped, faces grimaced. It also looked more ‘interesting’ than the other two roads up there.
Although I don’t have disc brakes, my recently-fitted SwissStop blue BXP rim brake pads were doing a brilliant job. I was really revelling in the speedy downhill until I caught up with a car, which slowed my progress, especially round the bends. In the end it didn’t matter because at one point I realised I’d gone past some sort of dam, so I turned around and came back up the hill and investigated. It’s a lovely area for walking, and there’s a nice-looking restaurant here as well and now the sun has come out so it’s even better. A lovely place to come on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Even the dam wall is made to look nice. The French certainly know how to make their country look attractive. On seeing me trying to do a self-timer selfie, a passer-by offered to take my photo.
After the dam, my journey continued along a lovely valley road which followed the Seebach river to Lac de Sewen
… where I came across these long-haired layabouts
… followed by a series of charming villages, the first of which was Sewen
.. and then further down the road came Dolleren
Then came Oberbruck, followed by Wegscheid
.. and then Masevaux-Niederbruck
Like I’ve noticed elsewhere in The Vosges, many of the place names sound German. It’s not far to the border from here. Indeed Masevaux-Niederbruck sounds like it’s half French and half German. I wonder how the French pronounce the German names…
That road through those pretty villages in the valley of the river Doller was delightful, and with the sun blazing down I was in heaven. A further fifteen miles of lovely traffic-free roads, with four or five slight lumps, got me back to the van.
The promised thunder never arrived. In fact the skies had cleared to deep blue and it was very warm, so ironically the weather was actually better later in the day, and I’d had no reason to leave early after all. I probably should have had an energy gel or the fruit cake I had in my back pocket for the second half of this ride. The banana had got me up the climb but the sandwich wouldn’t have given me much energy, although it’s always nice to have something savoury.
Still, another excellent ride in The Vosges.
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