Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Grenoble to La Grave

Monday I rode from Grenoble to La Grave, completing my transition into the Alps.

View Grenoble to La Grave in a larger map

Yesterday's ride from Lyon was certainly a transition day, and this was another one. After the traditional French breakfast, the day started with... waiting. I thought I could charge my camera with its USB cable, but that wasn't working. So I decided to wait until the (very close-by) FNAC opened at 10:00 so I could buy a charger. I found one that would work, but was expensive. Maybe it was a bargain, though, since the TSA apparently changed the rules in the previous couple of days, and if my camera couldn't be turned on I risked having to leave it behind.

So it was that despite being up quite early I didn't get moving until around 11.

Hot Springs at Uriage-Les-Bains

A side road off D524
I knew I wanted to revisit the old town of Vizille, which I had passed through in 2012, but since there was a lot of climbing today I decided to avoid D5, the direct route, in favor of the flatter D524. D524 turns out to be a very pretty road, passing through some picturesque mountain villages before entering Vizille next to the chateau.

Entering Vizille

I would have preferred to spend a little time in Vizille, but daylight was burning so I passed through and began the long slog up D1091. As you can see from the elevation profile below, this road just goes up, gradually increasing in grade, until it hits the plain that contains Bourg d'Oisans at about 700 meters.

At the second hairpin on D211
All along the way it was threatening rain. I thought about stopping in Bourg d'Oisans for lunch, but since it was still sunny I instead just bought two packaged sandwiches at the Casino supermarket (one of the few open on Sunday), and started up the Alpe d'Huez climb.

When I rode through this area in 2012, I chose an odd hotel nominally in La Garde, a micro-village on the Alpe d'Huez climb, but actually across a gorge and 2000 feet of climbing away. That was inconvenient, but the positive side was that it introduced me to D211a, a little road scratched into the side of the mountain, offering stunning views of the valley below. I wanted to revisit that road on the way to La Grave, which meant climbing up the bottom third of the Alpe d'Huez climb to La Garde, then taking D211a as it peels off.

Looking east, near the base of the Alpe d'Huez climb. You can just barely see D211a about 2/3 of the way up the mountain.
The climb felt pretty good, despite my full pack. I was definitely slow, and it rained a bit, but I felt OK. I turned off on D211a, then began its long climb. In 2012 this always ended at the road up to the Maronne, so I hadn't realized that in this direction the road just keeps climbing, right up to 1200+ meters. Ugh.

Looking back toward Bourg d'Oisans from D211a
When I got to the relatively level part of the road, the part with shear drops to the valley below and consequently great photo opportunities, fog was falling down the valley and it was getting much colder. I stopped to eat one of the packaged sandwiches. At one point I noticed wisps the fog rising above the road, which I thought would make a good picture. By the time I fished my phone out of the bag I was already in pea soup. Ugh. No more good pictures today.

Riding that spindly little road in practically no visibility was a little worrisome. There's barely room for a car, and the guard walls are pretty low. Overcook a corner, and you're Wile E. Coyote. But my real concern was the weather; if it got much colder I didn't know what I could do. The weather certainly rolled down the valley quickly.

I continued on, and at a four-way intersection I took the wrong turn, entering D211g and the tiny village of... maybe Les Cours? A little lesson in French road numbering: A letter suffix already indicates that the road is a glorified track, and once they get to G, the road is just an afterthought. Accordingly, D211g is tiny, not so much a road as a series of connected driveways. OK, this was obviously wrong. I climbed the steep ramp out of the village to the main road... and made a wrong turn. In fact, it wasn't even the main, minor road -- it was D211e. As it turns out, I did about half the climb up to the ski station at Auris d'Oisans before I decided that surely I would have remembered this from 2012. I should have finished it off, but I was worried about the time, and besides the fog precluded views once I was up there.

So I turned around, following D211a back down toward D1091, the main road through this valley. I knew the hotel was at an elevation of about 1450m, so I was disappointed to rejoin D1091 below 1000 meters. Lots of climbing ahead.

The view from the hotel in La Grave
From this point, the ride was a slow cold slog up the hill. I managed to reach the hotel at about 18:30, with plenty of daylight (for what little that was worth) and in time for dinner. So not too bad.

Elevation Profile
Monday was a little over 58 miles, with 6600 feet of climbing. The most difficult kilometer was at the start of the Alpe d'Huez climb... but of course that doesn't take temperature into account.

No comments:

Post a Comment