Having traversed the length of the French Alps from North to South, and spent countless hours on the bike exploring the Southern Alps, I’m always surprised at the variation and beauty offered. The Alps are a relatively young set of mountains, with their features still being created, built and eroded by all that mother nature and the collision of the African and European tectonic plates can muster.
Riding in the Alps hasn’t always been the easiest of love affairs. Like the harshest of weathering, freeze-thaw, the Alps have cracked me like rock fragments, yet I’ve also pedalled across the cols like the fast free-flowing waters of the glacial melt-water – Days when you feel as light as feather and float up the climbs, and you descend with speed and precision.
Like a dangerous lover, I’m always drawn back for more.
I love the history of bicycle racing and the Alps, as a heartland to the history of cycling allow you to be inspired by riders of by-gone eras, as well as todays heroes. There are few sports openly available that allow you to experience first hand the same terrain as your idols. Cycling in the Alps allows you this opportunity and will openly embrace you.
The high mountains of the Alps were introduced to the Tour de France by Henri Desgrange a year later than the Pyrenees – 2011 is the centenary of the inauguration of the Galibier – these summits are no less revered.
Octave Lapize might have sworn at the “assassins” across the Pyrenees, but Degrange himself declared:
“O Tourmalet! I will not fail in my duty to declare that, by comparison with the grand cru of the Galibier, you are but wishy-washy, common or garden gnat’s piss: before this giant, one can but doff one’s cap and bow very low… “
“…Devant ce géant, il n’y a plus qu’á tirer son bonnet et saluer bien bas.’
Its that reverence that serves to draw me back, time and time again. From the highest paved pass in Europe of the Col de la Bonette to magnificent lake of the Cormet de Roseland, when you take in scenery like this you can’t help but fall in love. On each of the mountain roads you too can play out your own battle – imagine you are racing Pantani up Alpe d’Huez or emulating the riders of 1911 and their crossing of the Col du Galibier.
Being a centenary – don’t forget the anniversary! – the Tour de France returns to Alpe d’Huez and Col du Galibier. The Etape du Tour on July 11th is the week after La Marmotte.
Surely a chance to enjoy the warm summer embrace of the Alps for just a little longer in 2011?
For the perfect preparation for both events or to simply enjoy the splendour of the Alps, why not join the La Fuga reccy weekend in June and prepare to fall in love.