Distance: 28.1 miles. Elevation: 3895 ft.
The weather forecast suggested there would be a few days of rain coming up, so I squeezed in this ride to the Col d’Allos while the weather was dry, even though I’d just done the Cime de la Bonette the day before. Reading back through my reports (below), I seem a bit dismissive of this ride, with a sense of just getting it over and done with. Yet looking at the photos while producing this blog post, I realise that it’s a beautiful road, the likes of which I would willingly pay to go on if it were available in the UK. I guess that’s due to the ‘epicosity’ of the Bonette ride the previous day, numbing my senses. Everything is relative of course, but it’s inconceivable to think that you can somehow become flippant about the spectacularity of these mountain roads.
Anyway, I did a few reports into my phone during the ride, using voice-to-text, as usual. Due to poor signal (I suspect), some of what Google thought I had said was extremely difficult to translate afterwards. Usually, when it comes to writing my blog, I have to edit what has been interpreted to some extent, e.g. every time I say “col”, the phone assumes “coal”. Normally it’s easy to correct, but sometimes it’s outrageously obscure, as seen below.
I left for the ride at around 11:15 am. Three miles in, just as the route turns off the col de la Cayolle road and crosses the Bachelard river, someone has created a nice model of a bike in their field, designed to be seen from the air, but still quite visible from the road.
It was probably created for the tour de France, but is still being well tended, another celebration of cycling typical in France. (Le Tour last came along this road on stage 17 of the 2015 edition, when Simon Geschke took an impressive victory after a 50 km solo over two mountains.)
11:59 This report coming at the 6-mile mark. Again I’m wearing my bib-longs and a different top this time with zips you can undo to let the air in. I’ve just seen the first two cyclists of the day coming down past me. I’m standing by the edge of the gorge, looking across and trying to work out where the road to col de la Cayolle is.
I think it’s way down below – in fact it must be way down below because there’s no evidence of any roads further up the hills opposite.
So this road is climbing significantly more steeply than the one to col de la Cayolle on the other side of the gorge.
When I started the ride there was a strong headwind which I wasn’t impressed with, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting me on the climb. In fact standing here I can feel the wind on my back so it must be helping me up there. I came past a couple of groups of people who had stopped their cars to look out over the gorge from a vantage point. Two of them wished me “bon courage!” as I rode by, which is always a nice thing to get, especially from drivers – unlikely to get that in the UK. So far, the km signs have said roughly 8% and it’s a bit of a slog. I’ve just eaten the second half of my banana and will now press on.
13:09 I’ve stopped at the 3-miles-to-go point. Since the last report the road came out of the forest and went onto a sort of shelf / balcony road that followed the mountain around the edge and away from the river. [In fact the road diverts from its intended course and spends 4 miles going round a sort of cirque formed by the Torrent des Agneliers which flows into the Bachelard to the east, the Bachelard at this point diverting 90° to the east in the direction of le Col de la Cayolle.]
Once again, as has happened on the previous few rides, I have been plagued from time to time by flies buzzing around. It can get really irritating having to swipe them away. Anyway the road went in and out of wooded areas as it wound its way around the mountain and now I’m on another exposed section. I’ve been riding so far without my gloves on and my hands are nice and warm – in fact I’m warm enough but just a bit too sweaty so that makes you feel cold. There’s not much traffic on this road; I have seen about three pairs of cyclists.
As the road winds its way through the woods there are very few opportunities to take photos because the view is barely visible through the trees, which is good because I’m trying to get this ride done without stopping too much, so I can get back.
There are lots of small lizards around but every time I try to take a photo of one they scuttle away. Some of this rock looks like it’s just going to collapse at any time.
14:00 Well I’ve reached the col d’Allos.
During the last section I just plodded away to get up here; in fact for the last couple of miles I was just looking down at the road in front of me, figuring that the best views will be on the way down anyway, as usual. There was an 8% sign for the last sign approaching the col, but there’s no way it felt like 8% to me, nearer to 6 or 7, I’d say, which was a welcome relief. I stopped at one time to dry my hair and inside my helmet like I did yesterday. [the following text is where my phone went haywire in its interpretation of my speech] It makes it a bit more comfortable endless cold of the edit looks like the american couple of use , hamburger photos of the payment canyon looking over the other side looks very wild with only some whiskey lift equipment ruining the whole the top of 1 side. [Ha! Well the text started off OK, then my phone went mad, then towards the end I can translate “looking over the other side (of the col) it looks very wild with only some ski lift equipment ruining the whole of the top of one side”]
I’m now going to put my rain jacket on and have my sandwich and just chill for a while before the descent.
[Again, my phone went mad at the end of the following sentence]
I forgot to mention that the wind is helping me up here it’s that a low wind my light except on some sweet paxio wind.
[“Sweet paxio wind” ?? What the hell was it going on about?]
I didn’t do any further reports, but needless to say, the descent was a joy and I stopped a few times for photos.
Eddy Merckx – end of an era Back in 1975, the Col d’Allos was the final mountain to witness Eddy Merckx lead the Tour de France, on stage 15. He eventually lost that day to Bernard Thévenet, who went on to overall victory in that year’s race. After that stage Merckx never wore the yellow jersey again.
Familiarity breeds contempt Writing-up this blog post back in the UK, a few weeks after the event, I’m amazed at my somewhat blasé attitude, at the time, to what is clearly a spectacular part of the world and veritably a cycling paradise. I suppose it’s human nature that you can’t keep having your mind blown every single day. Nevertheless I hereby promise to try not to lose perspective the next time I’m out there.
GalleryClick to enlarge / see slideshow