I slept like a baby all night, and woke up feeling much refreshed. Mike remarked that he still didn't sleep that well, but nevertheless was ready to do some serious riding. But first, breakfast was found at the bakery down the street which we had walked past the evening before. 2 butter croissants and 2 chocolate croissants (2 Euros) later, we were ready to ride.
We followed the directions the woman at the tourist information center gave us the night before, and rode about 5km before Mike had to stop to adjust his saddlebag, which was sagging onto the tire. Now, Mike is 6' 4", which meant that by all rights his seat height should be so high that it shouldn't be an issue, but he has two disadvantages. First, he has a missing calf muscle, which meant that he set his seat height lower than would be expected for someone his size. Secondly, he bought a saddlebag adaptor for his saddle, rather than using a saddle with integrated loops, which costs him some effective saddle height.
After the adjustment, we rode on up Col de la Columbiere, which starts off as a suburban climb and then disappears into the country, giving us pretty views of mountain villages until it tops out at 1613m, where we stopped for pictures and to calibrate my altimeter. The 600m descent from the Col to St. Jean was rapid and gave us both a reminder of what descending felt like. At the bottom of the hill we immediately headed up towards la Clusaz and Col des Aravis, which at 1486m was an easy climb for us. Near the top of the Col, I got ahead of Mike because he was having trouble with saddlebag drag, and waited for a bit before descending to find him just a couple of switch-backs around the bend. I circled around and stood up to catch him when I heard a sudden hiss coming from the front. "Mike, I got a flat!" Mike stopped and I fixed the flat --- mysteriously enough, the flat seemed to come from inside the rim. What I should have done then was to put in a new rim tape but in my hurry to get going again I forgot all about it.
The top of Col des Arravis had a restaurant and some stalls selling cow skins, but we decided to forgo that and eat at the bottom of the hill at Flumet (917m), where right past the fountain we found a pretty good restaurant that Mike would claim was the best of the trip. I didn't think of that restaurant as being anything special, but obviously I should have ordered whatever Mike had.
The lunch being big and heavy, we went back to the sheltered fountain to fill our water bottles and take what we thought was going to be a 15 minute nap that turned out to be an hour! When we woke up our bikes and gear were still there, so we had no choice but to climb the 3rd Col of the day, Col des Saisies (1633m). Earlier in the day, Mike had complained about how hot the weather had been. I said to him, "Be careful or you might just get some rain."
Sure enough, after a couple of switchbacks on Saisies, we heard some thunder and then rain followed. The rain was warm, however, so we did not even bother with rain gear. We did stop, however, so I could activate the rain cover on my handlebar bag and put a saddle bonnet on my B-17. Climbing in the rain was safe and relatively easy, and Mike, being the stronger of the two of us went on ahead. On the way up, however, I spotted what looked like a good rain shelter, and went in, sitting there for 10 minutes to try to out wait the rain. When the rain went from a shower to a drizzle I got out and kept riding.
The top of Col des Saisies wasn't pretty, being mar'd by a ski resort, among other buildings. Mike was lying down by a sign taking a nap, and when I asked him how long he waited he said about 10 minutes.
There wasn't much to do but to descend. I had spotted an alternate route down on the Michelin map, but decided that we weren't going to risk it if there was a thunderstorm brewing. Sure enough, we heard a thunderstorm as we descended the fast twisty road, and took the direct route down. At the bottom I spotted a hotel and asked if we wanted to stay there. "How far is Beaufort?" asked Mike. "About 3km," I told him. "There'll be more choices of restaurants there." We barrelled through the last 3km and got to the tourist information office to be told that we had a choice of two hotels in town. We rode down to the first one where we saw a bunch of fully-supported cycle tourists checkin. Mike found a room (with 3 people) for 57 Euros, and we were worn out enough that we didn't bother checking with the other hotel. Mike didn't think we'd find another hotel for 57 Euros again for the rest of the trip, but I was pretty sure that good deals would still be forthcoming.
I chatted with the tour organizers, and he told me there were 16 cyclists from their trip, all from Britain. They had come over Cormet de Roseland that day, and Petite Grand St. Bernard the day before that, and would reverse the route we did today tomorrow. They seemed pretty impressed that we carried all our own lugguage.
Dinner was at a pizzeria down the street that turned out to be pretty bad. I would have bad luck with pizza all throughout the rest of the trip.