Col de la Lombarde
I knew nothing
The only things I knew about the Col de la Lombarde were that it was no.99 in the book, it was on the Italian border, and I was nowhere near it.
As a 21Km climb up to 2368 metres from Isola with a rating of 8/10, it certainly deserved some respect though.
Being close to the “EPIC” Cime de la Bonette, I hoped that the landscape would be equally captivating.
Unfortunately, there is only one Cime de la Bonette.
My expectation was that I would arrive at the sleepy village of Isola at the base of a ski resort.
Brmm brmm, let’s party
Isola town square was bursting with motorbikes, music tents, bars, and stalls.
Isola was “The” happening place to be.
It all seemed out of place on a hot summer Sunday, but a good time was being had by all.
Fine for some, but I had mountain number 99 to climb.
As I navigated my way around the cordoned off areas, I reached the segment start.
Any initial excitement and exuberance brought on by bright lights and music drained from me during the opening 4Km.
I’m used to tough opening 1Km starts but the first 4Km of the Col de la Lombarde was a truly vicious 9-11% gradient.
Once passed and breathe regained I seettled down to enjoy the 17Kms at 7% with an occasional 9% blip.
It seemed to take a lifetime. Even the novelty of riding through 6 tunnels didn’t ease the grind.
Eventually, the Isola 2000 ski village appeared, which of course was desolate.
Reaching the village though, was not the end of the climb.
Out of control
To the side of the village was the 12% slope I needed to climb for the summit.
As I pushed up the climb in the 30C heat I was suddenly confronted by a speeding and out-of-control drift trike.
(a drift trike is a three wheeled go kart with a very large front wheel)
I think we were both surprised to see each other.
In the panic, he span off the road and into the grass verge (unscathed).
After all the close shaves I had survived on my Brompton, I thought it ironic that I could have been taken out by a drift trike.
Non too emamoured, I conveyed my concerns and opinion with a fine selection of internationally recognised phrases.
No vista, Baby
At the final 2Km it was a call for “All hands on deck”.
A gradient jump, and one of those disheartening climbs where the finish is in sight but as your ride it never seems to get any closer.
For the last Km, the gradient relented to 8% but retaliated with a short 10% kick.
The Col de la Lombarde summit was a bit disappointing.
Or was I just spoilt after the magnificence of the Cime de la Bonette?
There were no magnificent views and just a mass of motorcycles.
Nothing wrong with the motorcycles, but it annoys me when they insist on parking against or next to the summit signs.
Parked cars and campers were also anywhere and everywhere. The summit just looked a complete mess.
A small hut selling coffee and burgers though had very few complaints about the clientele, he was doing a roaring trade.
After 20 minutes, sitting perched on a boulder, with a coffee and cake, I readied myself for the return to Isola.
Step away from the dance pole
The descent was a thrilling white knuckle affair on roads with barely any traffic. (Once I passed the drift trike zone).
It was now a but quieter in Isola.
The bands had stopped and most of the stalls were shut. It was lunch time, and it was now the restaurant’s time to make hay.
I ventured into the now empty main band tent and despite the Brompton’s insistence I kept it away from the pole dancing pole.
On the whole, the Col de la Lombarde was an interesting ride, but it was not enough of one to tempt me with a tattoo to mark the occasion.