Riding into Oblivion: Col de la Croix de Fer + Lacets de Montvernier

Last summer, I went on my annual bike tour with 44|5 Cycling on their Northern Alps Highroads Tour. Of course, John + Gerry did not disappoint, and of course, I didn’t really think about the trip nor thought much of it (not to mention, train) until it happened. I have a habit of doing things without thinking and dealing with things ‘when it happens.’ This doesn’t always work in my favour however, because I’ve missed flights or gotten myself into treacherous situations… but that’s what makes life so exciting, and I would not have it any other way!

John and Gerry provides us with daily itineraries and ride maps but I have to admit, I NEVER look at them. I may glance at our route on the morning of, but the numbers and maps don’t really mean much to me as I don’t tend to analyze my bike rides. I never anticipate a hard ride until it happens because I’m too busy focusing in the moment (yet still reminiscing in glee about our previous ride). Hey, I just want to ride my bike!! And sometimes, it’s better to let Mother Nature simply surprise you. 😉

Col de la Croix de Fer | August 2018
August 27, 2018 // This was on day 3 of our bike tour in the northern French Alps when we ascended our mountain of the day: Col de la Croix de Fer from Bourg d’Oisans. A delightful hors category 31km climb with 1505m of elevation, and gradients ranging from 5-13%. Not a typical climb as the route goes up and down, making it difficult to find a steady rhythm— but the harder, the better!!
Descending from Alpe d'Huez
Of course, we had to descend from our hotel up in Alpe d’Huez (which we had climbed the day before) along this epic cliff side road. All I can say is: YOU HAD TO BE THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
20km to the top! No biggie!

When I took this photo, I had one of those “moments of dread” when you finally realize what you got yourself into, and you feel like you are trying to achieve the impossible (and the world is about to end!). Have you ever had those? It finally hit me how difficult this bike tour was going to be, paired with the fact that I didn’t ‘train’— and I felt the weight of the world crushing down on me for a few seconds. Fortunately for me, moments like those disappear as quickly as they come.

It was on this stretch of road when I realized that I had to take in and revel in ALL these moments because this exact moment will never happen again.

Riding my bicycle in France? Riding my bicycle up to a fabled mountain top? I don’t want it to end!! When negative thoughts sneak in, I quickly brush them aside and remind myself that these are moments I will never get back. I physically slowed down on my bicycle in attempt to make the moment last longer. I also really had to pee but I just continued to pedal on… slowly. This was definitely worth the discomfort.

There is really no rush to go anywhere when you are riding in the alps.

in France with Doug + Tom
We made it to the cute mountain village of Rivier-d’Allemont where I finally got to use the restroom, AND photobomb Doug + Tom. Yay!
On our way to Col de la Croix de Fer
A quick + stunning descent from the village to continue on our trek towards our Mountain of the Day! The next photo is the view of the road sloping upwards on the right.
Steep Climb after Rivier-d'Allemont
After losing 100m or so of elevation in an exhilarating descent, the road fiercely turned upwards again. It doesn’t look like it, but this was a nifty 12% grade, paired with thighs burning from lactic acid, and the sun beating relentlessly down on us. I LOVE the feeling of suffering. I couldn’t ask for more!! I remember this moment SO clearly as if it just happened yesterday.
After what seemed like an eternity of blissful suffering without seeing another soul in sight, I finally came to a stop to check out my mid-way reward.

This was just another one of those “YOU JUST HAD TO BE THERE!!!!!!!” moments. Of course, you had to experience this on two-wheelz otherwise the experience wouldn’t be the same. The feeling you get when you are surrounded by the mountains you are trying to conquer, and being able to see the distance of the roads you’ve traveled to get to that point… speechless! Moments like these makes me love my bike life sooo much!!
Lac de Grand Maison
A casual stroll alongside the Lac de Grand Maison.
Aplage Plan Du Suel | France
Here is my friend, Rich. riding through Aplage Plan Du Suel (thank god I took a pic of the sign or I wouldn’t know where we were), on our way up to Col de la Croix de Fer. Rich and his wife, Diane, are both retired and rides their tandem bike around the world. Retirement Goals!! In fact, I just found out from my Facebook stalking that they have just arrived in France for their annual trip. Super jealous!!

We’ve already been riding for hours and hours and climbed for what must have been at least 20km+. Again, I remember this stretch sooo clearly— the sun and sweat on my skin, the chiming of the cowbells, the vastness of the green fields… what an unbelievable day so far and there were more to come.
Pretty tempting to get off the bike and hang out in the most peaceful valley ever(!) dotted with wild flowers, domestic farm animals, and the harmonic chimes of the cowbells… but the ride must go on!
Summit in sight!! Wah! I didn’t want the climb to end.

I was clearly oblivious of the long, hot and challenging route up to our Mountain of the Day… but all for the better. Sometimes it’s better to not know! Luckily for me, I really felt NO stress, fear, anxiety, over-thinking… or any of that stuff during my ride that day (except for a couple quick moments of dread). I do recall it being really freaking hard, but in the end, all we remember is the glory of it all.

As the climb was coming to an end and I was finally able to see the summit, I realized how tired I was. I was so deep in flow state and literally forgot to eat. Did I just do that whole thing on adrenaline?! Holy crap! Another one of those negative thoughts made it’s way into my head as I was only a few kilometers to the top, trying to hinder my success, but again, that unpleasant moment went away as fast as it came. Soon I was at the top of the mountain, basking in all it’s glory… lining up trying to get a picture of the col sign while everyone sitting above at the little coffee shop was laughing at me trying to get the perfect angle. I did just do this for the ‘gram, k.

Col de la Croix de Fer | August 2018
Definitely earned my views (and lunch afterwards)!!!

Of course, what goes up, must come down and I did one of what is now my MOST FAVORITE DESCENT IN THE WORLD: down the mountain from Col du Glandon towards lunch! I say it all the time (“omg, that’s the best descent ever”), but this time, it truly was! One day, I would love to climb it but I am very satisfied otherwise.

Col du Glandon, France
I’m a collector of #colsignpics but this one is a fake since I didn’t climb Col du Glandon. Fortunately, the descent was fucking epic gloriness to the max. Words cannot even describe (as usual with everything related to riding bicycles).
Col du Glandon descent
Col du Glandon descent: This is one of those moments I wish I had my GoPro… so I can relive it over and over.
A pretty typical scene in France: animals, mountains, and #roadslikethese.
Lunch time
Lunch time @ Saint Marie de Cuines.
Lunch time
Saint Marie de Cuines: I really really really love these quaint villages!!
Col du Chaussy, France
“Hey guys, we are about to climb that cliff! No biggie!”

After a tummy full of pasta, John and Gerry announced we were going to be climbing a 3km “hill” with 17 hairpin turns: Lacets de Montvernier. I was probably the only one surprised. Oops, probably should have read the day’s itinerary.
Col du Chaussy, France
Looking at pictures of Lacets de Montvernier, I am just glad we went UP and not down! Whew.

I was stuffed from the food, stiff and exhausted from our Mountain of the Day, and man, was it ever HOT outside… but how could I say no?! Adrenaline was clearly still pumping. No matter how tempting it is to call it a day, when on two-wheelz (and in France) the answer will always be: YESSSS PLEASEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Col du Chaussy, France
Up, up, and away.
Col du Chaussy, France
Here’s John casually (and quickly) spinning past me as I got dropped while taking a selfie (again).
Col du Chaussy
Wow, was that ever fun!! Here is Tom coming up behind me— all smiles.
Another day, another mountain, another view earned! I think I’m ready for dinner now!!
The end of another extraordinary day of pain and gains on our beloved bicycles.

A gastronomic French affair, as per usual, after a long day on the bike:

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St. Jean de Maurienne
Evenings in St. Jean de Maurienne.
Shaky Snapchat video journal. Yep, next year I need to get on my GoPro game but it’s been sitting in the box for a year. I haven’t had any time trying to figure out how to use it because all my free time is spent on two-wheelz…

Bicycle-touring vacations like this are exactly what I live for!! I highly highly recommend 44|5 Cycling Tours if you want to explore Europe on two-wheelz. They’ve been my trusty tour guides for years and have NEVER disappoint.

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