Day 5: St. Jean Mauriene to Bourg D'Oisans (81km, 2130m)

I woke up to found that Mike had used a second set of ear plugs. "You were snoring like a bastard," he said. I don't find that hard to believe at all. Anyway, we packed and went to breakfast, where Jean and Allain had already gotten started. I asked if they wanted to ride together and they said that we were too strong for them, so they'd get a headstart. We quickly determined that we were going to be riding the same route, since apparently the main road up Col du Glandon was closed due to construction. I had planned to ride Col du Mollard as recommended by the OCD via Le Collet anyway.

We had a quick breakfast, put on sunscreen, and then went on our way. Unfortunately, as soon as I rode over a few bumps, I heard a few pings which indicated that there was residual spoke twist (and the lack of stress relieve the night before), so the wheel would give me trouble the rest of the tour (repeat after me: "I will not ride tours on wheels I didn't build."). The lower part up Col du Mollard was shaded, and we very much enjoyed our climb, watching the main road on the other side in the sun (and also with long stretches in galleries, which wouldn't have been fun). We caught up with Jean and Allain after an hour, and then proceeded to pass them and made very good time up to the town near the summit, where we stopped for water, salt, and food. We used up the last of our balance bars at this point.

We finished the climb past beautiful alpine houses. "Mike, how come the alpine villages here look pretty and ours don't look as nice?" "It's because they don't have 3 car garages and monster homes." Sure enough, the houses were small, and most had at most one car garages, so all the houses were all cute and pretty. There's a lesson here somewhere for architects and city planners but I'm not either.

The top of Col du Mollard (1638m) was as pretty as any other pass I had seen in Europe. As we stopped for several pictures, Jean pulled up, and we proceeded to ride the descent together, dropping a good 500m, before meeting up with Col de la Croix de Fer (2069m), where the road started turning uphill and Mike & I once again traded helmets for caps. Jean never bothered to put on his helmet, though he did have one on his bike. We stayed together for a bit before Mike & I set a pace that dropped Jean.

This climb was done in the heat of the sun, and there was indeed construction on it, and after one particularly noisy one, I found a cafe that sold ice cream and we stopped to buy some. Suitably refreshed and nourished, we made the summit without much trouble. There was indeed an iron cross there , but it was warm enough that we did not bother with warm clothing before initiating the descent along a reservoir before dropping down alongside a dramatic set of gorges, gullies, and rushing rivers that was steep and stunning. There were a few climbs out some of the valleys but those seemed to exist only to help make the rest of the descent even steeper. Mike hit in excess of 75kph at this descent --- the new wheels we had built coupled with Avocet Fasgrip tires had clearly helped his confidence on descents to the point where speed was no longer an issue for him.

After the last climb out of a gully, I started getting hungry and looked carefully at the ads alongside the road for the next restaurant, which was advertising itself as being recommended for cyclists. Sure enough, a bunch of cyclists were sitting outside eating lunch, so we stopped also and ordered stuff that looked good on their plates.

Some of the cyclists were British so we could speak with them --- they were on a week tour of the area, basing themselves out of Bourg D'Oisans at an apartment. We asked about Alp D'Huez, and they said "your hotel will probably be happy to hold your stuff and let you pick it up later". That was quickly followed by "Start early. 4:00am would be a good time." Apparently it was a very hot, unshaded climb. Lunch turned out to be excellent, and after that we descended into Allemont, which had freshly laid asphalt with wet tar for us to ride through.

The ride from Allemont into Bourg D'Oisans was a nasty National Highway, lots of traffic and when we pulled into town, the tourist information center worked very hard to get us into places other than the usual hotel locations. We ended up with a suite on the first floor of a house right outside town for 65 Euros. It had a bedroom, a living room with a sofa that converted into a bed, showers, and a kitchen that we were invited to cook at, since there was a supermarket across the street.

Mike asked if I ever cooked and I told him, "Lisa considers it a threat if I offer to cook." "Well, I cook, so I'll go shopping for groceries." He took a shower first while I sat around and relaxed. After he was done, I took a shower, washed all my dirty clothes and hung them out to try, and then Mike showed up with fish, vinegar, pasta, bread, and several other items that are cooking related. I noted the lack of chocolate and beer, so I went across the street to get some. "I also forgot black pepper, could you buy some?"

The chocolate and black pepper was easy, but not beer. I settled on something that said "bier" on it but turned out to be nasty Chinese-medicine tasting stuff. I figured that as long as I had chocolate, the evening would end well no matter what happened.

Well, dinner took a while to cook, and unfortunately in a foreign environment without all of his condiments to work with, Mike was at a disadvantage. The result while edible wasn't super tasty. Fortunately, we also had bread and salami, which would tide us over, and of course chocolate.

Yet, disaster continued to haunt us. While cleaning up, the sink got clogged up, and despite our best efforts we could not clear it. Still, I went to bed anticipating riding Alp D'Huez in the morning.

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