The Col du Rousset was the last col that I had on my list to ride this year. The plan had been to ride it a few weeks earlier, but due to my wrist problems and some poor weather, it had had to be put on the back burner. Eventually the planets aligned though and an opportunity arose to ride, so Mark and I set off midweek for the trip down south.
The thermometer in the house showed -2.2degrees C when I got up, and the on bike temperature gauge was soon flashing the ice warning symbol. The heated seat and grips were on full blast for the hour and a half of the motorway journey it takes to get to Grenoble, and as we neared the city the lakes, streams, and water in the plage were steaming, the mountains had low level cloud/mist shrouding them, and amazingly, despite these cold temperatures and relatively early hour, there was a hang glider flying in the cold misty air!
Here's a beautiful shot taken at around 09.45am at the motorway services just outside Grenoble where we always stop for a break and a warm drink. I would have taken this shot, and all the others you see in this report, but taking my camera out of it's case, I found that the viewing screen was a mass of jumbled colours, the result of it being dropped a couple of days earlier. Seems I'm cursed with cameras when I ride, the last one got run over after it dropped off my tank bag on the Col du Petit St Bernard last year! All pictures you are seeing were taken by Mark C.
The Col du Croix Hautedown to Aspres- sur-Buesch is pretty quiet out of holiday season, and we enjoyed being able to ride without too many cars about.
This picture shows how much snow, and the level it has fallen at. It isn't particularly high here and was a warning sign that we were sure to find more snow higher up.
Col du Cabre
This is a great pass en route to the Rousset and here the trees are starting to change colour, making for a spectacular ride. Less exciting were the ice patches we encountered on one particular downhill braking section into a hairpin bend!
This is a really interesting rocky outcrop that appears from nowhere. On previous occasions we have just ridden through, but today Mark stopped and took these pictures, so now we know what we've been missing!
This is such a wide and open col with long distance forward vision, it encourages "sporty" riding, and today I'm grateful that I'd changed rear tyres the day before, as I'm able to enjoy the confidence it gives on the 15 minute blast to the top.
Those bends are even better than they look
Here is Marks newly acquired 2010 30th anniversary GS Adventure
At the top of the Col you drive through a tunnel and arrive at a roundabout, turn right, and there are several restaurants and hotels which serves the winter skiing trade. Today as we exit the tunnel the roads are suddenly snow and ice covered! There had been snow at the roadside as we rode up, and melted snow running across the hairpin bends, but I wasn't prepared for this! Gingerly negotiating the ice, we found the restaurants to all be closed. No choice other than to continue the descent to the valley below, but very carefully, as this side of the mountain was in shade and there looked to still be ice patches on the damp surface!
Finally we found a small town with places to eat, although by now it was almost 14.00 and the creperie we stopped at had little to offer us in the way of food. Gratefully ordering a basic crepe and a cup of hot chocolate, we took a 45 minute break and planned the route out of the valley back to Grenoble. Well, that was the plan! Marks GPS immediately sent us the wrong way, and after seeing and passing a couple of diversion signs to Villard de Lans, one of our detinations, I started to wonder whether we would be able to take our route at all. Intending to exit the valley via the gorges du Bourne, we arrived at road works and a closed route to the Gorges and Villard de Lans, with signs for a diversion there sending us back the way we had just come! 20 minutes later we were on that road and following the diversion signs we should have taken earlier!
This was a great valley looking back towards the Rousset, but as we climbed I quickly started to get concerned. A couple of little slides and more and more roadside snow, and it was becoming clear this diversion wasn't going to be much fun. 12 kms or so of winding and small mountain roads, damp with melted snow, and perhaps even patches of ice, it was a pretty slow ascent and I was extremely relieved to get out the other side and start to descend again on drier roads.
From Villard de Lans ther are some pretty good sweeping A roads back to Grenoble, before the hour and half of motorway back to Geneva. We ended the day having spent 7h 47 in the saddle and having ridden exactly 600kms. We had an excellent time despite the early morning cold, and it just goes to show (again), that if you're prepared to brave some inclement weather, there is often a great days riding to reward your efforts.