Mountains are Hard

This is a fact. They are hard: hard weather, hard surfaces, and really, really hard to climb. This past week we went for our annual pilgrimage to the Alps for some beautiful vistas, fresh alpen air, catching up with friends and of course, cycling.

What to do when the motorway is jammed? Get off and explore the small routes to find beautiful gems like Nyons.

What to do when the motorway is jammed? Get off and explore the small routes to find beautiful gems like Nyons.

We were lucky to arrive to a lovely first day in Bourg d’Oisans where we found a delightful little hotel right in the centre of this charming quintessential Alpine village. After a bit of relaxing we set off to climb the ever-brutal Alpe d’Huez which seems never to get easier, go figure. It’s a beast from the minute it starts. In fact, the beginning hairpin turns are truly the worst, and it seems to ease just a bit as it goes on. And the stunning views do help to keep you motivated. This year I definitely made it to the official Tour de France finish line. The last few times I didn’t as it’s not that well marked, or I was just too exhausted to care. But it was nice to finally see the finish line and know I made it all the way.

The next day the weather was just a bit less welcoming, but we set off to climb the Col du Glandon. It was chilly and this col was no slouch. Incredible ascents and descents, it seemed to go on forever and ever. The top of the Glandon is very close to the top of the Croix de Fer, two well known Tour de France climbs. It really feels like a whole different world up there, so vast, so empty, so desolate. But truly stunning and worth it if you can force yourself to continue upward.

What I found fascinating were the thoughts going through my head as I climbed up and up. It’s not like I was singing happy songs or smiling from ear to ear. No, there is pain, there is suffering, and one has to wonder why anyone does it. Everyone suffers, yet the roads are littered with cyclist wanting to conquer the mountaintops. I don’t know about anyone else, but I kept myself occupied with practicing French, trying to remember just how close I was to the finish, and calming myself for the cold and often frightening descent that inevitably ensued. Each time I found myself asking, “why the hell am I doing this”? It’s so strange, in that moment it’s actually rather horrific. But after, I never regret it or wish I didn’t do it. There must be some form of amnesia that occurs so that you keep pushing yourself. Or, all cyclists are just a little bit nuts, that’s quite possible too…  

Thankfully, we ended our weekend getaway with a lovely visit to Chambéry with Didi and Didier. They plied us with a comfortable bed, endless in season cèpes and chanterelles, wine, beer and good company. So, that is the reason I really go to the Alps. The cycling is lovely, but my dear friends are truly the best part!