Goodbye Mountains

It was cold and rainy at the Col du Lautaret which is the last Col before Galibier. I knew my options were to either climb Galibier in absolutely miserable weather without knowing if more snow was falling like yesterday, or to go over to Italy and ride the climb to Sestriere and watch the Tour go by. So I left.

I figured I didn’t really need to climb the highest finishing climb in the Tour de France (2645 m, 8678 ft) in these conditions. Besides, I have climbed America’s highest paved road, Mt. Evans, Colorado (4300 m, 14,000 ft). Take that, France!

I borrowed a spoke tool from Trek Travel on the Tourmalet and returned it here

I got so chilled yesterday I didn’t want to risk doing it again, especially with a 5-hour drive ahead of me. On Sunday, 200 cyclists had to be rescued off Galibier when the snows blew in and they weren’t prepared. I left Lautaret in the cold rain and first drove down towards Briançon and saw many cyclists headed up the mountain.

Partway down the mountain I abandoned the idea of watching this stage of the Tour in Italy. I knew traffic coming back through Briançon would be a nightmare and I was just too tired to stay that late. Garmin’s ETA was never close to reality in the Alps because the roads are not conducive to traveling 90 kmh which is what Garmin uses to calculate time.

If I could do it over I would have stayed one more night in the Alps (tonight) then used tomorrow as an all-day drive day (7-8 hours). Or paid more for a connecting flight from Grenoble instead of returning from Toulouse.

When I turned around to head back to Montpellier I went back up the mountain. I saw many of the same cyclists I passed headed back down. I think they realized how nasty the conditions would be.

On the way back to Bourg d’Osians I saw and talked with one of the riders from Evolution Cycling Club in Reston. Seems they had a group of six riders here this week.

Turtle. I remember him from a group ride two years ago.

Near Grenoble I saw a man fixing a flat (bike) in the rain. I did a U-turn and pulled up with a floor pump. He knew no English but gestures said it all. He was happy to have someone stop with a real pump.

Just helped this Frenchman by lending him my floor pump

So I left the Alps behind today and am now on the Mediterranean coast of France in Montpellier. I am staying in a 15th century building. A Best Western.

Actually, my room was part of the old butcher shop.

This entrance is just to the right of the main entrance to the hotel

I went for an afternoon ride trying to find the sea but couldn’t. How big is it anyway if I can’t find it?

I’m sure close but don’t know the connecting roads

On the map it appears that I was close but so far away. It looks like only a highway which does not permit bikes, crosses over to the beaches. I’m probably wrong.

Montpellier is the fifth largest city in France. Not sure why I wanted to come to a city. With tram construction and a traffic pattern that predates city blocks, it is pretty difficult to navigate. It gave both my car Garmin and my bike Garmin fits trying to route me to my hotel. But it is a nice city.

Interesting grass in the trolley tracks

Reflecting, I climbed the Tourmalet, to the summit this year, and from both sides as I went down to the point I had come up from the other side last year. I got chased by the Devil. Twice. And cows. And llamas. I climbed Mont Ventoux in 50 mph winds at the summit. And I climbed Alpe d’Huez. That’s a pretty complete week.

Last year when I signed up for the Trek Travel tour of France I was glad to bike Pla d’Adet, Aspin, Tourmalet, Azet, and Peyresourde. But I always felt that I haven’t been to France until I biked up Alpe d’Huez. Now I have.

This has been a great trip although I have ridden far less than I planned as I have driven far more than I planned. But the great climbs made it worth it even if I left one on the table. It can stay there.

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