The Col de la Madeleine, and the Perilous Descent to Gap

Tour for Kika

Our traveling circus is safely encamped for the night in a hotel playing host to 50 Gendarmes from Paris assigned to Tour duty this week.

It was another hot stage today with the group getting pushed much of the way to Bourg-les-Valence by a fierce tailwind. After the only significant climb in the stage they made good time until Simon had a bad puncture that required a new tire. That cost us while one of the support vans made its way back to find the group on the road. In the meantime I wandered into fields of lavender, wheat and hay bales to try and capture more of the countryside. Everywhere cicadas were screeching out their mating sound.

Stage Nine took the team over the mythic Col de la Madeleine. Out of the steaming hot valley, the road wound its way up to the high alpine pass like tiers on a wedding cake. The elevation and a couple of brief showers helped cool the riders as they ground out the 25 kms to the top. Television can’t transmit the immense scale of this landscape. It truly is a mythic theatre that I’d love to revisit (and climb) without all the white campers that appear like mushrooms each day around 3 pm.

Stage Ten was tougher than expected with the Col du Noyer taking a toll, particularly on Micheil who had fallen hard the day before and scraped and bruised himself quite badly. When at last the road plunged over the edge of the Saint-Laurent-Du-Cros to Gap it was not for the nervous. The first few pitches are perilous, with only an eighteen inch wall separating the riders from a 1000’ free fall into oblivion. You’d better have your “bottle” descending here.

Tonight we had pizza in Bourge-De-Péage 20 paces from the slow but powerful current of the River Isère. After the meal I stood on the bridge watching hundreds of swallows spiraling and chasing each other high above in a glorious sunset (the first of this trip).

Something about their frenetic play high above an eternal river reminded me how short this journey of ours really is. Time for a change I think.

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8 Responses to The Col de la Madeleine, and the Perilous Descent to Gap

  1. Ciclismo Verita!

  2. Tim says:

    Wow, Michael, you totally nailed the ambience and the scale of the scenery. I know and love the sounds of those cicadas from numerous summer hols in the south of France. Reminiscent of intense, shimmering heat and the scent of thyme and lavender.

    “Time for a change” was a little ominous – is this a case of “sell the house, sell the car” – and I wonder is Juli frantically packing? (Juli – don’t worry – we’ll track him down because I think he’ll stand out like a sore thumb on that electric bike… plus the batteries have got to run down at some point…)

    Michael – glad to see you’re having a blast and definitely delivering the goods on the visuals. Bravo.

    /tim

  3. The Team done good Michael, Congratulations to all. The pace of the tour hots up as the hairpins climb the mountain and the altitude rises. Fields of barley and huge sunflowers line the road like spectators, agog with excitement.
    The heehaw donkey finds it all a bit “seen it before” as he stands in the heat. Good choice with the power assisted cycle, all that camera gear would have been a nightmare without the extra assist.

    And now the next stage…

    Douglas

  4. Bela says:

    Great photos again. I look forward to your entries every day. Not only to follow the progress of one of my friends on this mad tour of France, but also because of your photos.
    Please keep them coming!

  5. BR says:

    I hope you all have a great ride to Paris. These pages and images bring me right back to 1991 when I followed. What we see on TV or the internet is a pin hole view of the big loop. Michael, don’t forget to get into some of these pictures and put me down for the first hard copy book! Be safe!

  6. kurt says:

    Those hairpins look like way too much fun.

  7. Sean says:

    Great pictures. Will you ever post the metadata for the shots?

  8. Xander says:

    What an amazing taste of your trip… inspiring..