A week ago Thomas Otter, George, Richard and Geoffrey set out on their bikes from Genova on a most gruelling but spectacular path ending up in my tourist infested area.
Here's more from Thomas.
Underway Isabel joined them from Germany for the last three legs. But George, the strong one (he was preparing for the UCI MTB masters world championships) must be the unluckiest of all cyclists this summer: In a inexplicable crash early on, perhaps starting with his brake cables getting tangled up in a slow descent, left him with a broken leg in the hospital in Savona. He's on the mend now but I would guess he's pretty annoyed. I would have been.
Myself, having a scheduling conflict had to limit myself to the last leg - but I loved it.
Yesterday, with some transport help I got myself up to St Andre-les-Alpes, about two hours drive from here where I met up with the very efficient looking bunch.
And a cool 10 degrees centigrade it was, but starting with a 500 meter ascent sorted that out. Soon we were pedalling along completely deserted and narrow roads, sans wind-breakers, passing through the occasional deserted picturesque village in one of those high altitude valleys that stretches east-west a bit inland here.
I'm particularly fond of these as they offer a lush mid/north European vegetation as well as no traffic and some absolutely spectacular nature once they slope off towards the Mediterranean.
That's when the fun starts with roads not useful for bigger cars than the smallest Renaults, one at a time - meet somebody and prepare to back up three kilometres. Add that some of those roads have been stapled onto straight vertical rock faces, usually ending in pitch dark tunnels barely big enough for a cyclist. Just remember to remove sunglasses, the tunnels have bends as well!
Thomas on a stapled-onto-cliff road.
Wide part of two-lane highway with hole-in-the-wall tunnel in background.
Map. Click for technical details.
Lunch was consumed in the usual French way, three courses overlooking the mountains, in a village that prompts questions like "what do they live off here?". Spectacular, fascinating nature, but definitely socio-economic puzzling places.
At this point a certain cultural difference between the sports inclined from more northern climes and the southern assimilated one (me) became clear: While all the others had Coke for lunch I simply had to stick to the usual small pitcher of Rosé.
After lunch I just had to work hard as hell in the ascents so as not to give wine-for-lunch a bad name. Luckily, Rosé doping in amateur sports still has a good reputation.
Thanks goes to Thomas, Isabel, Richard and Geoffrey for allowing me to join them and to George who I never met, hoping that his leg will be quickly mended!
P.s. My Garmin suggested 145 kms, 3200 meters ascent, 6920 kCals and six hours twenty on the narrow seat. Ahem, that (last one) my bum strongly suggested too.