Col de la Croix de Fer
Ouvert ou Fermé (as if it matters ????)
I had ridden to the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer once before via the Col du Glandon, but never in its full glory.
When I was travelling to my new campsite a few days ago, I encountered the dreaded road closure sign at the Col du Glandon/Col de la Croix de Fer junction.
Not good news.
The junction was only a few Kms from the summit and it would be a long way to go if you had to turn back.
I was hoping that it would be clear now or at the least a way around whatever was closing it.
The long and unwinding road
The TdF 100 Climbs segment starts from the small village of Le Verney with a 6Km, 10% gradient up a straight forest lined road.
There was no respite, just a view up a never-ending wet road.
Just when you are on the cusp of being ground down, there is a gift.
The unexpected drop to 4% with a slight descent through the village of Le River d’Allemont
The elation tempted me to perform the finger chain ring manoeuvre but with 20Km still left to climb; I decided the best course of action was to lighten the spin and take the rest.
Annoyingly though, at the point where you could use just a little more rest, 8-9% returned.
Today the 8% felt tough.
Ham and cheese on granary to go, please.
At 12Km to go, something shattered the silence of the mountains.
Someone had obviously bought themself a new air horn. It sounded like an industrial estate sandwich delivery van, and, for them, its novelty value had not yet worn off.
A few minutes later, a cycle tour van passes with two members of Tenerife Bike Training.
The driver’s horn continued to echo around the mountainside even after he disappeared.
A few more Kms up the climb and one of the Tenerife Bike Training riders was now standing by the bus talking.
For him, this looked like salvation in the form of a broom wagon.
In the final 7Km, the gradient dropped, and it was time for some deft chain lifting with the calibrated digit.
Go, Go, Go. Aswcending a mountain had never been this fast. I was flying.
With the wind rushing past me, I streaked across the bridge (in my mind I did) only for an 11% wall to bring me back to earth.
My legs moaned louder than a La Cucaracha air horn until a 6% gradient became the order of the day.
With the summit in sight, I put everything I had into a fight to the top.
My gasping with theatrical effect was wasted, the summit was quiet with only 3 or 4 riders and an empty open auberge.
Ah well, enjoy the opportunity to sit back and take it all in with a coffee and apple tart.
Baa! foiled again
A few photos later, and it was time to whoosh back down.
Or so I thought.
In fact, it was time to test the brakes – quickly.
No, not a Latvian lorry driver this time, but a 100+ sheep crossing the road, unperturbed by any traffic.
This was not the first-time sheep have stopped me and will probably not be the last.
When you see how frustrated some people were, you just have to laugh and consider it one of those special moments.
Come on if you think you’re hard enough
Once again, I found myself spoiled by the magnificence of the landscape and I couldn’t resist being in awe of it.
Photo opportunities in every direction, but it was the Col de la Croix de Fer snow plough that caught my eye.