I started very early today, anxious to avoid the stifling midday heat of the Alps. It’s been getting up to around 30 degrees, and past experience of trying to ride Alpe D’Huez in about 36 degree heat told me this was to be avoided at all costs.
I headed for Samoens, located handily at the base of the Col De Joux Plane. Riding in the Alps is something all cyclists should do at least once. It’s an encompassing and fantastic experience. The height gain over some of the lengthier cols can create a strong sensation that you’re riding up onto the roof of the world. The relentless grind – especially if you don’t have anything smaller than a 25 on the back and a 39 on the front – is worthwile because you move further and further away from everything else below, it shrinks in size and stature whilst concurrently your upwards progress seems to almost tame the monstrous size of the mountains all around. The views are ample reward for the energy expended.
i took my steel-framed road bike with me, via sleazyjet. It’s the first time i’ve flown with a bicycle and was completely paranoid about the experience. i bought half a hundredweight of pipe lagging from wickes and set about buttressing frame and bike bag with cardboard. it seemed to work. it’s pretty easy to fly with a bike, you just have to be prepared. I’ve always taken the train before, and doubtless will again, but it’s a relief to know that flying can be a viable option.
On the Joux Plane itself there was a disappointing lack of road art. I saw a few paltry offerings, but really nothing on the scale of Alpe D’Huez last year.
The Joux Plane is not the longest Alpine col, i think it took around 45 minutes all told, i can’t be sure because my Garmin seems to have erased the data. Nevertheless, 45 minutes of riding uphill is quite a task. I then flew down the other side, popped into Morzine, realised that my longer ride plans were going awry because i’d miscalculated the ride time, then came back up the other side of the Joux Plane before dropping down into Samoens. With regard to ride time there is no point trying to use miles when riding in the Alps, everything takes much much longer. Once the road starts pointing upwards you have to settle for around a 10 mile an hour average speed, at best, which means a planned 45 mile route could take anything up to 5 hours. You have to base everything on time in the saddle. My friend Nick told me this a long time ago and it rung true today.
Whilst it’s not particularly long, it is quite steep and has several changes in gradient so it’s certainly a challenging ascent. There were several sections where I began to regret not putting a 27 on the back, just to have that slightly lighter gear. I was out of the saddle a bit more than I might have liked, but it wasn’t too much of an issue. I managed just shy of 10,000 feet of climbing on quite a short ride – not even 40 miles. The Col De Joux Plane is about 8 miles long. The cows with bells were a highlight. They were noisy.
Tomorrow I’m riding in the Jura Mountains. I can see them from the window of the flat. They are tantalisingly close and tempting.