Col De Sarenne

i fancied a slightly quieter day today. the heat remains the same, 90° in the shade by lunchtime. at least i timed it better, having finished my riding by about 1pm on top of the alp.

today’s route took in the first five hairpins of alpe d’huez, before heading right, along what started as a beautiful wooded climb, all picturesque chalets and waterfalls, before suddenly turning into a dicey, precipitous cliffhanger, with a couple of hundred metres of vertical wall on the right. it got a bit hairy because there was room for only one car, and when cars came along i had to stand immediately adjacent to the 1 foot concrete edging, peering into the abyss. oh well, i wanted the sublime, and this certainly fits the description, a combination of inescapable beauty and grotesque fear.

i used my phone camera because i forgot the other one.

the view of bourg d'oisans, early in the climb


look closely, the road is in the top left corner. eek.

it was a fantastic climb, just a bit blimmin’ scary. the descent afterwards dropped down into le freney at the bottom of the valley. i then had to head out along the lautaret, before turning left towards mizoen to start the ascent of the sarenne. it’s a long climb on a  fairly scrappy surface that peaks out above alpe d’huez, then you drop down to the top of the alpe with an 8km descent. it was definitely my best day in terms of having the legs, but also each day seems to be more spectacular than the last. the views of the glaciers at Deux Alpes were beautiful, and whilst i bemoan the heat, the sky has been a crystalline blue and there has been barely a  breath of wind.

view of the glaciers

on the way up i passed a huge ensemble of cyclists from a grenoble club, strung out along the climb like washing on a line. this worked wonders for my morale, i felt like i was reeling them in. in truth, they weren’t that quick, but there you go. at the top some italian chap thought i was using a 42 inner, the crazy fool. i had a 39, with my standard 11-25 on the back. it has been tough at times, and the riding seems to be conducted either in the 53:11 or the 39:25, with nothing inbetween.

you can see the climb winding along the bottom of the valley, this is taken from an overhang at the top, at around 2000 metres

the valley across the top is full of sheep and goats – the ones that make chamois, not that they know that, and if they did i’m not sure they’d feel as comfortable in the presence of cyclists whose posteriors they have traditionally cosseted. the best beasts i saw were a pair of strangely alienated alpine chickens. i have no idea how they got there, sat quietly on top of the high alps, minding their own business. they were quite nosy and came over to scope out my cervelo r5. incidentally, the cervelo has had lots of admiring glances, all kinds of furtively looking over their shoulders, wanting to touch it, to finger the top tube and give it a bit of a lift.

alpine sheep with cowbells on
alpine chickens on the col de sarenne

despite the enormous peloton from grenoble it’s a very quiet climb, in stark contrast to alpe d’huez, which is the glamorous headliner. i’m heading back there tomorrow, surprise surprise, for chipped time trial. should be fun in a sort of  ‘oh my god what am i doing this hurts so much somebody please god make it stop’ kind of way.


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