Tuesday 19 July – Pinerolo to Col du Galibier
Tour says “high mountains”, we say so high they’re covered in snow
Miles cycled: 69, Average speed (mph): 12.2, Max speed (mph): 27.6 Time pedalling: 5hr 25
We knew today was going to be huge, challenging, eventful…and it was, just a little more extreme than we were expecting. The weather forecast was bad, and the reality was even worse. We flew through about the first 40 miles on the flat/ relatively minor uphill on the really poor Italian roads before it started to rain, and then worked our way 10 miles uphill to the official start of the Col d’Agnell, the biggest climb on the whole tour (2,744 metres) and first ever TdF ascent of it from the Italian side. As we set off on the official 22k climb, the rain got heavier and we could feel the temperature dropping rapidly with altitude. We could make out the dramatic and stunning mountains, but the cloud got heavier and rain turned to snow…everyone succumbed at various points, Sarah when it started snowing & she could no longer feel her hands (about 3k from the summit), but Max managed to make it to the top in heavy snowfall & temperatures of -2 degrees C.
Photo: temperature reading in the van on Col d’Agnell
But that was the end of our day as the conditions were long since treacherous, even for driving. We crawled our way down the other side in the vans, and it was still snowing nearly 1,000 metres lower down, so we reluctantly had to accept that the conditions would be no better on the other 2 major climbs of the day and too dangerous to cycle. It was very disappointing to have to cut such an epic stage short, but our consolation is that the Tour would
never have started that climb at all in those conditions and would have been cut short or re-routed to avoid the high mountains. So we miss a bit of distance and a couple of climbs but c’est la vie du Tour.
Photo: snow on Col d’Agnell
We commiserated/ celebrated our safety together with a warm change of clothes, pizza and a beer! Now we’re staying in a damp basement and as we went to get some old newspaper to stuff our shoes, we saw this story about how 200 “cyclotouristes” doing an event on Sunday were evacuated off Galibier due to cold/rain/snow – and they even had balmy temperatures of 3 degrees C!
Photo: headline in paper re cyclists’ evacuation