Day 2: La Grave to Pinerolo, Italy

, July 30, 2011

Today I woke to a spectacular alpine backdrop; Glorious sunshine beamed over glaciers on the high peaks while lush grass clung to the steep slopes at lower levels.

From camp at 1400m I began the day climbing, working hard over numerous switchbacks that elevated me to 2058m and the summit of the Col du Lautaret with the infamous Col du Galibier looming ahead. The Galibier is for another trip so today I instead pointed the bike downhill and pushed for Briancon down a long, swooping decent which needed little braking – finally I seemed to be making good progress after a slow start.

After gorging on some local specialities from the patisserie (when in Rome), and knocking back an espresso I started climbing once more. This time the Col de Montgenevre, which tops out at 1854m. A nice climb through the trees, complete with road graffiti from last week’s Tour de France appearance.

Crossing over into Italy I descended through awesome tunnels to Cesana Torinese at 1345m. The mountain ahead told me the only way was up and I hauled my bike and body back up to Sestriere at 2035. Host to the Winter Olympics in 2006, the town clearly has some summer life too with lots of downhillers heading to the lifts. I soaked up the horrendous architecture as I demolished some lunch, wishing for a moment I was on a bike with knobbly tyres… another one for next time. The descent from Sestriere must be one of the easiest stretches of road I have ever ridde –  I nailed 60 km in a little over 90 minutes, dropping all the way down to 376 m in Pinerolo and in doing so waved goodbye to the Alps.

Unfortunately campsites on the Italian side of the Alps are few and far between. A very helpful woman at the tourist information office in Sestriere marked up on a map the sites near Pinerolo. I settled for site in Torre Pellice, about 15km south-west from Pinerolo – a little out the way but it’s a nice site and I am sure I will soon be back on course in the morning.

Cycle touring solo can be a lonely spot at times, especially in Italy where so few speak English (my Italian being very poor). However this evening I sat chatting to a Slovenian chap who has given me a huge amount of inside knowledge for the second half of my trip. As such I am running a bit late, 11 pm, must be bed time.

Jump to Jack’s next day