“Let’s take the big valley road to Briançon to get there faster,” said Conor, when talking about the route for today’s ride.
I looked on the map and realised the “valley road” was in fact the Col du Lautaret, climbing to over 2,000 metres in elevation. To get back to Italy from the bottom of the Alpe d’Huez, there was no easy route. So, somehow, after one of the biggest days we had ever done, we decided to do another gigantic one: Col du Lautaret, Col d’Izoard, and Col d’Agnel.
If I’m going to be completely honest, I think we came back mostly for the food. The mountains in France were incredible, Lake Annecy was great, and the little Auberges we visited were tough to beat. But when you’re burning nearly 5,000 calories on the bike alone, you want to eat and you want to eat well. So whether we would admit it or not, our real target today wasn’t the 2,740 metre Col d’Agnel… but the pizza, pasta, and gelato waiting on the other side.
The last few days in France I’m pretty sure I ate more cheese than I ever have in my life: cheese at breakfast, cheese in a sandwich at lunch, melted cheese in something at dinner. They love their cheese. And I like mine. But this was a lot. We’ll go from bread, butter, and cheese, to pasta, pizza, and olive oil, and if given a choice, I’d always opt for the latter.
We just had our best dinner yet – a selection of charcuterie made from mountain animals – the venison salami and lamb prosciutto for me, and the wild boar ham and sausage for Conor. Followed by a homemade gnocchi with a butter and cream sauce, a tagliatelle with a rabbit ragù, a rabbit with polenta, finished with a gelato and fresh strawberries. Safe to say it was worth the ride.
I finally convinced Conor to break out of his shell this morning, urging him to join me in a bit of “group ride karaoke.” He did and it made the first climb pass by with ease. We were more concerned about remembering the words to each song or hitting the right tune (though neither of us quite got it right I don’t think…), that we forgot about the flat tyre, the grade, or the suffering. That was until we tried to hit the high note at 2000m altitude and ran out of air…
The support we’ve received so far has been incredible. People from all over the world are cheering us on over every type of social media and we even met a few supporters out in the wild on our ride today!
I’ve been getting messages from tons of other pros saying how cool it is what we are doing and how they wished they could come along. We didn’t know what to expect when we left, but this has totally surpassed both of our expectations. I think I speak for us both when I say we feel truly grateful for all of the love.
In terms of riding, we’re pretty amazed at how our bodies have adapted to the load in what will be the biggest week of bicycling in our lives. After 6 days of riding, we already have thirty-seven hours on our bikes… all that while carrying an extra 20 kilos of gear. Our muscles are looking bigger, stronger, leaner (I know that’s hard to believe with everything we’re eating…). What was a struggle in the first days comes relatively easy now, and 6 hours seems like a pretty reasonable jaunt.
We’ll have over 40 hours of work this week, even without a job. It might not be a 9 to 5 – more like 10 to 6… and a hell of a lot more enjoyable.