Col du Grand Cucheron
Race the rain
Today’s forecast on all my weather apps was thunder and lightning.
There were some hours when predications were clear, but they were not long enough to make me venture too far to take on a long climb.
Low cloud shrouded the tall peaks next to my campsite, and the air was heavy. Maybe the forecast is right.
I looked for alternatives.
In a direction I wasn’t intending to explore until later sat the Col du Grand Cucheron, a 5/10, 13Km climb. Perfect.
So off I drove in anticipation of hitting the summit before the rain.
Near the base of the climb was a beautiful lake and a conveniently empty car park.
I parked and readied myself for a quick and what I hoped would be a relatively easy climb up the Col.
With my legs spinning up the 7% gradient, I passed through Saint-Alban-d’Hurtieres to the open local farmlands.
It was a busy day in the countryside as I dodged and swerved to avoid tractors racing up and down the roads.
I suppose it made a change from the usual Porsches and motorbikes.
With no hint of rain clouds and a blue sky, I settled into my groove to take in the views.
I can’t believe my eyes
The road ahead was wide, smooth, and level.
I was tricked into thinking I was descending.
My eyes told me it was level.
My Garmin, heart rate and legs, however, were unanimous in their disagreement.
The gradient was 5% and I was in a larger gear than I could comfortably manage for climbing .
I still believed my eyes, but it eventually ocurred to me, that for the first time in my life, I may be wrong.
I dropped a gear to pick up my cadence, but even then as my legs eased I was still doubtful; it looked so convincing.
With 6Km to go, I was back on a quiet forest lined road. The air was heavy and even taking the biggest breaths didn’t seem to suffice.
The optical illusion of the gradient had suckered me in and now the Col was delighting in depriving me of oxygen.
As the gradient kicked up to 11%, I kept rallying myself to “Dig in, it will be ok once you get around the next corner or over that rise”.
It wasn’t. I was still being teased and taunted.
It was a fight until the very end and there was no auberge or grand vista waiting, just a lone summit post.
It was only a 13Km climb, but I fell for every trap it set. The Col du Grand Cucheron had done me like a kipper.
On the descent, I stopped in disbelief and laughed out loud at one of the street names in the village and how I rued my pain.
As the Brompton posed, one of the racing tractors photo bombed. Amazing.
A different note.
Last week I met a young lady from my hometown Gosport at the top of Col de la Colombiere. Most odd, really.
Today was the campsite manager change over-day. The new manager was an ex-wren who served and lived in my hometown, Gosport – What!!
On the climb in the forest’s solitude, I thought of the song, “Hotel California” and paraphrased it as “You can check out of Gosport, but you can never leave.”
p.s. It never rained