Sunday, June 27, 2010

La Berarde

What is ‘La Berarde’? Here’s what my little guidebook says about it:

“This route will take you to the village of La Berarde, an old shepherds’ village, which is at the end of the road and literally at the end of the world! You will be cycling along an extraordinary road in the midst of a high mountain landscape! The silhouette of the peaks which stands out against the sky and the pure fresh air will invite you to put your feet up and just revel in this indisputably great natural wonder.”

It was a great little ride – 68km (42.3 miles) with 1000m (3280ft) of climbing. The climbing came in several forms. In some areas, it was a relatively gentle grade winding alongside the glacier fed river. In others, it steepened to quickly gain altitude. The guide book also says:

“After Bourg-D’Arud, a slope of 11% incline over 3km will lead you to the ‘Plan du Lac’ and the ….”

This was the steepest part of the ride, and I was testing out my knee a little. I didn’t push it too hard though. It felt ok, but I am really, REALLY, glad I have a triple on this bike. While these climbs are certainly doable with a compact crankset (and as Jamie proved also with a full crankset – if you are something beyond human), with my knee, I was glad to be able to take some stress off by using the small ring.

Here’s a few photos from the ride up

I did pass through several small villes on the ride. These little villes are very cool. Buildings are situated at the very edge of the very narrow road. In some cases, there is a traffic light on each end of the town (we saw this on yesterdays ride in fact) and only one direction of traffic can pass through that section at a time. In these small villes I passed through today there was no lights, but the streets were that narrow.

Sometimes too, the ville is located directly on the slopes of the mountain so the road switchbacks through the town. Really cool. Saw this today as well.

There were a lot of riders out there today. There was some kind of big event for cyclists who had come up from Grenoble. I chatted with one woman (in French of course). They had started in the small ville of Rochetaillee with a turn-around in La Barade. I am really having fun being able to converse with people here.

I had other opportunities for conversations as well. Most others were rather short, but it felt good to chat with these nice folks. It is even more fun I think when I have a chat with a person in French, then I hear that person talking to someone else in English.

At La Barade, I found a snack bar and had a croque monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) and a portion de frites (fries). Of course, I sampled a couple glasses of ‘pression’ (draft beer) with the sandwich and fries while I read my book.

Once I finished my lunch, I found a shady spot near the river where I could sit and read a few more chapters. The water in these rivers out here is just awesome! The color is almost a teal color as it comes directly from the glaciers / snow banks high on the mountains above. I tried to capture it in some photos, but they just don’t do it justice.

Like many of these rides out here – especially out and back rides like this one, the ‘out’ is uphill, while the ‘back’ is downhill. This ride wasn’t all up on the way out, so it wouldn’t be all down on the way back. However, the up on the way back was nearly not even worth mentioning. In sections, I could just coast down the mountain without even touching my brakes. In other sections, where there were switchbacks, I kept my head about me to make sure I can ride another day.

Tomorrow I’ll re-visit l’Alpe d’Huez. This time, I’m going to take a shuttle to the top (without my bike) and find some trails to do some hiking. It should be fun.

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