Day 1: Grenoble to La Grave, France
Jack Richards, July 29, 2011
Hello, and welcome to my European cycle touring adventure blog. Over the next 3 weeks I aim to ride from Grenoble, France to Podgorica, Montenegro. I am taking in a few famous routes on my way including l’Alp d’Huez in the French Alps, Monte Zoncalon in the Italian Dolomites and the Vrsic Pass in Slovenia before cruising down the Croatian coast, cutting inland to Sarajevo and finishing up with a ride through the Montenegrin mountains. My aim was to create an interesting route, and to take in several countries with varying cultures along the way.
Yesterday I waved goodbye to my family in London, and using the excellent Eurostar service arrived in Paris around 1730. I then had a baptism of fire to Parisian rush hour as I rode from Gare du Nord to Gare du Lyon, to catch my onward train to Grenoble. Unable to go all the way on the Eurostar due to odd bicycle rules, I was forced into riding through the streets of Paris. Rush hour gridlock/ barging and a tirade of loud sirens was unnerving and despite being reversed into by a moped, I managed to negotiate the streets. Dinner at a street side cafe and then on to Grenoble.
This morning my ride started proper. I left my camp in Grenoble and headed south-east to Le Bourg-d’Oisans. Rising all the time, the route was draggy but went no way to prepare me for l’Alp-d’Huez.
A true cycling Mecca, this mountain has played host to pivotal stages in the Tour de France, including a stage in this years race just a week ago. With the riders’ names still emblazoned on the road from last week, I headed up the gradual ramp very aware of those who had gone before me. A near continuous
stream of cyclists can be seen heading up this mountain in summer, a very impressive sight. I completed the climb in 75 minutes, not a Cadel Evans beating time, but last time I checked he wasn’t hauling his kit for the next three weeks with him as well. I have been wanting to ride this climb for years so it was great to finally do it, even if it was a fruitless mission in terms of making progress with my journey. All going to plan, the switch back up l’Alp d’Huez will be the only serious deviation from my course towards Montenegro.
From 1800m I raced back down with my loaded bike making things a little more spicy. I continued east over a few minor cols and camped in la Grave to write this blog. Surrounded by shear cliffs and a brilliant blue river about 10 meters from my tent, this ranks as a top campsite.
A serious days riding in the alps, as my legs are currently reminding me. Today seemed a fitting way to kick off the trip; some of the most challenging cycling roads in the world that certainly lived up to the hype and spectacular alpine scenery all the way. Oh and hot sun and for the majority. Fingers crossed for similar weather during my ride across the border to Pinerolo tomorrow…