Well for my first blog of the trip i’ve been fortunate enough to be chosen to talk about our 2nd day -cycling from italy into france via the col’dagnel and climbing up and over the col d’izoard….all i can say is these two mountains should never ever be underestimated by anyone..they are hard enough to drive up let alone cycle but i’m extremely pleased to say we did indeed cycle up both of them .
Starting the day well rested we headed off from sampeyre , italy towards the base of the climb in casteldelfino .
The Col D’agnello is a mountain pass linking Italy with France and is not heavily used -probably due to it being over 9,000ft high which is 3 times the height of snowdon.
It is the third highest pass of the Alps. Despite being the highest international pass of the Alps,
Casteldelfino consisted of not much but a small church and some seriously deserted roads, the gradient began to get interesting from the bottom quickly rising to around 9% for too many kilometres from there it began to get really difficult averaging a gradient of 14% for way too many kilometres through gruelling hairpin bends. It was around here that we met a 65 yr old belgian and his wife who had tried to climb the mountain but turned back due to the horrendous headwind, after chatting to the nice couple- the gentleman decided he would accompany us to the top and quickly pedalled away like Lance Armstrong, setting a outstanding pace.
We followed suit and dug deep to climb the rest of the way to the the summit. I have done a lot of crazy,hard things in my life but that was easily the hardest, the length and gradient of the climb was gruelling.I’ve never had cramp in my right calf and left hamstring before whilst cycling but now i have, i must say it sucks!!Didn’t know whether to stretch the calf or hamstring first so in the end carried on pedalling till it went away!!
i’m sure the others would agree that many times we felt like throwing the bikes over the edge of the mountain, but through sheer hard work and extermination we dogged it out and achieved a phenomenal ascent of one of the toughest mountains around in the world.
Here our two photos from the summit with our belgian friend!!!
The descent from the Agnel was awesome, more hairpin bends and lots of snow higher up, before descending into tree lines and finally after avoiding some rogue deer and marmottes. We then enjoyed a quick sandwich at a bar (no beer sadly) before heading along the valley floor to the base of the col d’izoard.
Rest assured after that first climb, this was no less intimidating. I always try to look and guess which mountain we will actually be climbing but sadly it never turns out to be one you can see, it’s always hidden away and only becomes visible the higher up you get.
The col d’ izoard started off quite reasonable before becoming a gruelling series of more hairpin bends at around 11% and then heading into la case desserte (which looks a bit like mars) about 3/4 way up the climb. From there the final assault on the summit, was sharp and steep and again windy/sunny/ cold. We all arrived at the top and were thoroughly pleased with our efforts for the day.
The team all climbed so well and descended without fear speeding down the freezing mountainsides.And as for Abby her support and help was amazing, constantly giving support and encouragement in the most challenging of environments.
Finally we ended in the charming french town of Briancon and have just enjoyed a good feed.
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