Col du Lauteret & Col du Granon
Climb: Col du Lauteret
Ride No. 88
Climb: Col du Granon
Ride No. 89
No beating about the bush.
This morning it was bloody freezing.
I looked at my car thermometer and blinked; it was 6 degrees.
Where were the pleasant 20C morning rays of sunshine I had been used to?
Unfortunately, I am camped in the shadow of an early sun blocking the mountain.
I was keen for an early start but watching some cyclists setting off at 8:00am wearing leg warmers and jackets.
At 9:00 am the sun made a vengeful appearance, and I thought those earlier cyclists must be feeling like a boil in the bag.
My climbs today are the Col du Lauteret from Briancon and its offshoot on the descent to the Col du Granon.
The Col du Lauteret is just over 26K with a 4/10 rating at an average of 3.5%.
The Col du Granon on the other hand is just 11Km climb but with a rating of 10/10 at an average of 10%. (Ouch!)
Ugh to be back in England
Col du Lauteret starts straight out of town with the usual 7-8% opener just to get you in the mood.
Unfortunately, it is another busy out-of-town road.
It is not until you get past Chantmerie that the traffic eases slightly.
Traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, and occasional single lanes remind you of riding through a typical English town. (if you were feeling homesick and needed that).
I held a respectable pace up the 3-4% gradient but was always expecting some cruel lump ahead.
Everything was going well, but a professional rider would have been surprised to learn they had just ridden a Tour de France climb on the Col de Lauteret.
At 22Km, the gradient picked up to 6% and with it a headwind. Suddenly, this jolly spin was now turning into some work.
As I arrived at the summit, some stylish Italian riders cheered me.
Obviously, they appreciated a fellow style icon.
After electing one of the many refreshment options at the busy summit and a few carefully composed photos, it was time to spin down.
And next up it is the…
The Col du Granon.
I didn’t want to start with cafe stop legs, so I welcomed a light pedal down the Col du Lauteret.
At 10Km from the start, a pair of cyclists overtook me.
They were not going that much faster, but enough for me to catch a wheel for a bit of fun.
One rider insisted on being in front, so I was happy to let him.
At the turnoff, they continued down.
No stopping, please.
Right here we go.
A 10/10 at 10% for 11Km, what’s not to like?
I had already decided on my tactics – get the gear, get the rhythm, and keep it going.
There were no pleasantries; it was straight into 9%.
Many reports I had read about this climb mentioned the unrelenting gradient, but personally, I do not mind this type of wall, if it is consistent.
You know where you are; you accept it, switch off and get into a rhythm.
I soon came to the small village of Saint-Chaffrey.
It was a mess.
Parked cars and vans filled the road as the villagers prepared for their annual village fete; everybody had turned out.
Thankfully, some spotted the mad Brit on a Brompton sweating his way up the climb and ushered me through.
With no loss of pace, I passed through the villagers who stared curiously at the Brompton. (Perhaps they thought I was the clown act for the kids).
Once I emerged from their gaze and the village, a vast landscape opened.
Looking up, I could see a snaking empty road and snow-tipped peaks; below in the valley was Briancon.
Keep right on to the end of the road PHIL
Could there be a better sight?
YES, of course!
The organisers must have prepared, heralding my arrival.
I didn’t count the number of PHIL’s painted along the road, but it was a lot.
What a gesture.
I felt truly humbled.
Up and up continued the 10-12% and I was feeling good.
My steady pace tactic had been spot on, and with a last flourish, I reached the summit line.
There was no mistaking it because it really was the end of the road.
Beyond the car park, it was a gravel track with few army huts.
A café at the top was open and doing good business.
A few mountain bike riders looked at me and the Brompton in surprise, and they asked me if I had ridden up the Granon on my Brompton.
I thought the answer was obvious, but I politely replied.
The only low light was that the café had run out of Myrtle berry tartlets, so I had to dig into my bag for a trusty porridge bar.
I could have stopped at every corner to take a photo, and it was at this point that I believed that photography had probably saved my life.
Without it, I would have raced down, risking a few corners and the consequences of not getting them quite right.
The laughing mademoiselle
I had seen no riders on my ascent, but as I descended, a steady stream were toiling away.
Despite an overindulgence in taking photos, there was one I missed.
A rider was fighting his way up the climb.
With his jersey unzipped, he bobbed erratically left and right.
He was really digging in.
On his wheel, riding an e-bike, was his girlfriend.
Wearing pink jean shorts with a pink top and cheerfully smiling, she shouted, “Bonjour”.
He didn’t though.
The Col du Granon was certainly tough, but enjoyable.