Col du Galibier, the old frontier between Savoie and France

That Friday morning on the balcony of the hotel in Valloire will be remembered forever as where I heard that the UK started Brexit. We’ll have plenty more of that in days to come, meanwhile “Keep Calm and Carry On” comes to mind.
A memorable morning for riding too, putting on my leathers and crash-hat for the last time on this trip and concentrating on the mountain road up to the Col du Galibier (2645 m.), firstly through alpages (Alpine pastures). I came round a bend to disturb two marmottes on the road. They froze, I slowed down and they ran off in to the lush grass and fields. I think they were basking on the hot tarmac, understandable behaviour but not a good survival strategy. Onwards up as the road climbed through the familiar phases of the middle mountain, alpages giving way to bare rock or gravel, finally walls of packed snow either side of the tarmac. The weather changed, misty clouds attaching to the peaks of the Écrins to the south, the peaks I’ve now left behind to the north hidden in hazy mist. Mont Blanc massif not showing.

 The road to the Col du Galibier isn’t a fast biking road but it’s spectacular for the views and for the situation. You’re on the frontier of the old kingdom of Savoie (annexed by France after an infamous plebiscite in 1860, ie referendum) and viewing the geological boundary between the Écrins and the Alps. It’s a famous stage on the Tour de France although happily cycle traffic wasn’t the issue it has become on Mont Ventoux.

La Meijie glacier seen from the route to the Col du Galibier

Riding down to the Col du Lauteret (2058 m.) the road passes wild flowers blooming profusely.

Last col, the col du Lauteret

The Col du Lauteret would, on any other trip, be a spectacular destination, the col faces a glacier (the Meije glacier) and is surrounded by many peaks each well over 3000 m. But it’s at only just over two thousand metres altitude, the last pass of my trip this time and so it seemed just-so! A pause for a coffee and then the fast long ride down the valley of the river Durance from Briançon, across the bridge spanning the Lac du Serre-Poncon and past Chorges where the GLME 2012 summer camp was based.

Sheltering in the shade on the banks of the lac du Serre-Ponçcon

Suddenly the mountains are no longer tipped with snow and then the valley I am riding down is no longer closed at the end but is open to blue sky. The breeze from the ventilator on the speed bump on the back of my leathers becomes no longer cool but hot like a hair drier: I am back in Provence.

Roughly 1750 km., six nights out. It wasn’t the trip to the Eastern Alps I had been hoping for but I didn’t get soaked and I did see the mountains. I managed to make a highly memorable trip making the fullest use possible of the weather.