Days 25 to 29: to Grenoble

20 June 2016

My inner dread probably isn’t coming across to any of the other cafe-dwellers enjoying their morning fix. Tomorrow sees me heading up into the Alpes, starting with the infamous Alp D’Huez. After some deliberation I’ve settled on a route heading over to Chamonix then down to the Rhone Valley in Switzerland to arrive in Zurich a week today. That means the next three days each has at least 2,000 metres of climbing. Should be fun; it will take my mind off this Thursday at least. And I say dread, but I’m obviously looking forward to it too. I think.

In a break from my tried and tested pattern, it’s been four days’ cycling from Magalas to get here, with over 400 kms covered to get a rest day in ahead of tomorrow’s fun. With rain predicted for two of the days, I got very lucky and was only caught out 15 minutes before arriving in Grenoble yesterday. I got less lucky with being sick.

Entirely my own fault but, enjoying the rare treat of not having pizza, I stupidly had steak tartare in a nice little place in Magalas the day before my rest day (the “rare” pun was unintended by the way). Things weren’t too terrible on the rest day itself but 90 kms into my ride the day after, following a very pleasant coastal ride, my stomach quite rightly started questioning what was going in and complained in quite a painful fashion. I hobbled through to my overnight stop in Saturargues where, when the proprietor of the place I was staying in saw I wasn’t keen on the only place in town for dinner—a pizza van—he kindly rustled up a pasta feast instead. Thankfully things started settling down the next day.

My legs welcomed the flat route between Magalas and Grenoble, with only around 2,400 metres of climbing over the 4 days. The beautiful flat countryside has been quite the contrast from Spain and the Pyrenees. I’m not entirely sure the owner of the place in Magalas quite got the gist of my trip after I explained it to him, though, as he offered to drive me to Grenoble in his van. A very kind offer but it would be quite a different experience hitchhiking with my bike between Porto and Munich.

I’ve grown to be quite suspicious of routes following rivers, after a few bad dirt track experiences lately, so when I saw the route into Grenoble hugged the Isère for about 30 kms I was expecting to have to reroute onto the nearby main road. After a chat with a restaurant owner en route (where I had a strange experience of a 75-year-old man coming over and shaking my hand for no apparent reason) he convinced me it was a great route and indeed it was fantastic. After some confusion about the hand-shaking, the owner explained that the man had been a keen cyclist and had clearly noticed my Tourmalet jersey. I’ve had a number of beeps and now a hand shake due to it now; worth the investment!

Time to go stock up on supplies for the next few days. I’ll be finding out the referendum result from up in the mountains on my next rest day so it if goes the wrong way I may just not come down. Perhaps I should buy supplies for more than a few days.

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