Mike Simpson

Cest un Col Ouvert et Ferme

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CCC2013 Stage Four

Briancon to Albertville

233km with 5317m of climbing

A pretty big day ahead, there was uncertainty about the route but the mood was set early as while putting on his bibs, Dave smeared a load of chamois cream to the wrong side of this shorts. Laughing and riding with great chums has taken the worry of my knee away and I am enjoying this trip so much. Our chief, Phil Deeker has designed some wonderful and unique routes. But today Mother Nature and 5000 Dutch riders tried to skupper his plans.

This years Tour de France takes on the Col de Sarenne for the first time, (above Alp d'Huez). So do we today but just days before it was closed due to snow. Also planned today was the Croix de fer and Madeleine. The day before all these mountains were closed but the luck of the Cent Col rider seemed to prevail as we hear at the morning feed stop that the Sarenne and Croix de Fer are on. (Although strangely the Glandon was closed) We'd already slogged up the Lauteret as we started the thankfully underused Sarenne. Alp d'Huez is such a popular and crowded place that to appear there through barren mountains over the deserted Sarenne is a true joyous experience. So back to the Dutch, typical we happen to be navigating the Alp on Dutch Day when 5000 Dutch riders try and ride the infamous climb as many times as possible for charity. It is mayhem as road closures, riders and supporters pack the mountain side. But we have an email from the event organisers that grants us passage across their path to the balcony road to Allemond. To go from quiet desolated roads to the mayhem of Alp d'Huez was quite bizarre. It would have been fun to stop and watch but we had a long way to go.

The Croix de Fer was another long, long slog, 24km in total, and we were again well into the snow line at the 2067m summit. So what a morning , 79miles and 3500m of climbing before lunch. After the deceptively tricky Mollard we have a stunning descent of the Ventour (not Ventoux that's scheduled for stage 8), with what must be the most hairpins in the smallest of spaces ever. The Madeleine was well and truly closed so we skirted the mountain taking in the made up col de la petit dejeuner, well it's still climbing. A huge day finished after 8pm in a rain shower. There was excitement for pro teams Garmin Sharp, Cofidis and Bianco when they realised they were sharing the same hotel with the Cent Col riders :). However they missed seeing their heroes as they were all fed, watered and tucked up when the brave CCC riders weighed in!

Click images to enlarge.