Our Col d'Allos Duathlon - Bike, Hike and Bike again

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Monday 4 August 2014

Our Col d'Allos Duathlon - Bike, Hike and Bike again

Today was our second consecutive day on the bikes climbing the steep roads of the French Alps after riding up the Col de la Cayolle the previous morning and this time our target was the Col d'Allos standing at 2250m. At just 76m lower than the Col de la Cayolle, but to be climbed in just 16.5km (yesterday had been 27km to Cayolle) we knew we had a tough morning in the saddle ahead of us.

Setting off on the stroke of 8am the climbing started after just a few kilometres as we passed a sign informing us of the distance to the summit and the average gradient of 6.4%. As we were to discover however, this was really broken down into 14km at 7 and 8% with a couple of anomalous 3% km thrown in. Phew.

Fortunately the chilly air soon burned away in beautiful morning sunshine and we were grateful of the lower forested slopes to keep us a little cooler as the incessant climbing began. The rewards were great though. After climbing just a few hundred metres the views back over the Ubaye river basin behind and the steep sided gorge we'd cycled through the precious day opened up and took our breath away (or was that the cycling?) After 3km the forest tracks gave way to narrow, precipitous mountain roads sweeping round the mountain and as we stared across the valley we were climbing around and looked up we could see the steep switchbacks to come. It was a daunting view.

However, it was well worth the effort as the higher we climbed the better the views became, made even more special by the brilliant sunshine and bright blue sky lighting up the valley below and framing the distant peaks. We both felt so lucky to be able to be in this place and taking ourselves into this majestic setting using only our own pedal power.

As the kilometres ticked by and the altitude left to go got smaller dreams of reaching the top turned into reality and after 2 hours of pushing on the pedals we reached the first flat piece of road that day at the col to be met by the same smiling French gentleman who had taken our picture at Cayolle the previous day. He was more than happy to oblige once more.

Photos taken, we quickly grabbed some food and considered our options. It was only 10.30am on a beautiful day so going back didn't seem like fun, but descending into the next valley so we'd have to climb up again seemed a pedal revolution too far. Fortunately the Col d'Allos intersects several hiking trails including the Tour d'Ubaye (GR56) which we had planned to hike on our original trekking agenda. So, throwing on our extra clothes and locking up our bikes we began a 3 hour ramble about the surrounding hills. With aching legs we didn't climb much higher, reaching around 2400m along 2 different ridge lines, but mostly we just tried to take in the awesome view of the Alps that surrounded us on all sides in a breathtaking panorama.

The time just flew by and without realising it 3 hours had passed and our tummies were telling us it really was time to get back to the motorhome for some more food and we were happy to oblige, although it was sad to be leaving this fantastic landscape behind. Whizzing down the mountain in our most challenging, twisting descent yet was a hair raising experience! Arriving safely after just 30 minutes we could only think of one thing, food! An hour later after a lovely big salad and beans followed by fresh watermelon it was time to put our feet up a while and savour the memories of our amazing day.

So now it is evening once more and we are on the move again to the nearby village of Jausiers, closer to the start of a few more mountain passes for us to test our legs on in the days ahead and perhaps a couple of hikes as well.

Wait for me!!

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