Monday 18 July – Gap to Pinerolo
Tour says “high mountains”, we say – yes, magnificent mountains
Miles cycled: 112, Average speed (mph): 14.5, Max speed (mph): 38.3, Time pedalling: 7 hrs 40
An inspiring start to the day cycling off at 7.15am with cool, crisp air, a few low-hanging atmospheric clouds and dazzling dawn sun shining on spectacular mountains. We were all then delighted to keep dry all day – sunny but not too hot and we could enjoy the fantastic views without them being blocked by clouds / sheets of rain. A cyclist told us that Galibier was blocked to cyclists due to snow yesterday! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen tomorrow.
A really beautiful day, even though some of the route was on quite main roads, starting with going alongside & across Lake Embrun with its stunning mountain backdrop.
Photo: Lake Embrun
We did 4 climbs today, all very pretty in different ways. The first was smallest & had good views of rugged rocks, the second was the very steep road out of Briancon, and then up Montgenevre, which is the border with Italy and which we’d also done last year. From here we
had a long sweep down before climbing to our second ski resort at Sestrierre- a really beautiful climb with huge views down valleys & we even saw 3 marmottes playing on the steep grass bank by the road on the way up!
Photo: top of Sestrierre
Also good to see that national stereotypes prevail as our first interaction this side of the border was a cyclist calling ‘ciao bella’ to Sarah! We celebrated being in Italy at the top with Italian coffee & ice cream before a 30 mile descent (great to do this today but we have to do it the other way round tomorrow…)
Then, similar to yesterday, instead of heading straight to Pinerolo, at the last minute we had to take a very unlikely looking detour to the final climb through dense trees on a tiny & rough road. In classic italian style, there was some pretty haphazard & last minute Tarmac-ing hastily being done but it’ll be a test for the TdF, especially the narrow steep descent.
The finish line was by a bar back down in Pinerolo where we & bikes were able to refresh under lovely italian arcades before a final couple of miles to our hotel.
Rehydrating with prosecco & water
The bikes enjoying their finish at the bar
Now some serious recuperation is needed before tomorrow which is the stage we’ve all been most nervous of – lots of long & steep climbs – we’re going to be out there for hours & unfortunately heavy rain is also forecast which would make it even harder.