Riding in the French Alps prior to PBP

Before riding Paris-Brest-Paris in August 2011, I rode for a few days in the French Alps. Since my main focus was on riding PBP, I didn’t want to kill myself on long, arduous rides, so I would drive to the base of some epic climb, ride up, take some photos, and then come back down.

The first day of riding was sort of crazy: I landed in Geneva, rented a car, drove to Bourg d’Oisans, assembled my bike in a picnic area, and then rode L’Alpe d’Huez. Here is a link to the photos of that ride. I rode slowly and enjoyed the great scenery and the idea that I was finally in France! No PR on this climb but that wasn’t the point. Rather, I was being a cyclo-tourist, seeing the sights on my quasi-randoneering bicycle and getting ready for PBP.

After a good night’s sleep at Les Duex Alpes, I drove up the valley to ride the “easy” side of Col du Galibier. Here are some photos of that day of riding. Since the Tour de France had just used this route, the road was still covered with road markings from the fans. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t see any markings cheering me on. However, riding up Galibier and seeing the road markings took me back to 2005, when I pitched a tent on a side street in Valloire and rode up the “hard” side of Galibier (along with about a zillion other people) to stand in the mist and cold to watch Alexander Vinokourov lead the field up and over Galibier on his way to winning Stage 11 of the Tour de France.

The next morning, I awoke to rain but wasn’t worried, since I was driving to Col de  l’Iseran to try to bag my third Col in three days. The weather cleared for most of the drive and for the start of the ride. However, after getting to Val d’Isere, getting dressed, and riding about 30 minutes, the rain started in earnest. I hadn’t brought my rain gear with me on the ride and after getting pretty well soaked and pretty well frozen, I turned back down the hill. Photos of the ride are here. From what I hear, this is a simply amazing ride. Oh well, maybe next year…

After my failure to ride Iseran, I drove to Annecy, a lovely town not far from Geneva. After some great food and sleep, I rode around Lake Annecy and up Col de la Forclaz, which my friends Meg and Craig had said was just a great ride. They were not lying: the ride was really excellent but the payoff was even more terrific: sipping a beer while looking down an 800 meter cliff to Lake Annecy, while watching lunatics on hang-gliders swoop and dive just out of reach. Here are my photos from that day.

Overall, it was a pretty great way to (1) cure jet lag, (2) make sure that my bike was in working order, and (3) get the legs loosened up before PBP.


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