Photo: Cycling into the clouds. The last few metres of Col de la Bonette at 2,802 metres above sea level.
Today was about one big climb. As it turned out the last climb of the day. As a warm up the Col du Vars was quickly dispatched from the hotel.
Then a great descent followed by 10km of valley riding down hill, turn left to see this sign:
It’s controversial. The French claim it’s the “Highest road in Europe”. It’s not. There are two roads higher than the Bonette, the highest being the Veleta in Spain. The difference is that you have to descend back the same way you came with the other two. You can descend down the other side of the Bonette making it the highest mountain pass in Europe, not the highest road. Why let facts gets in the way of good story. French Fake News.
Starting in sunshine three of us ground our way up the 23km of tarmac climbing 1.2km in the process.
It was all good until we got near the top. We were amongst the clouds. In fact I saw an eagle soaring below me. Then everything changed for the worse. The weather closed in and we headed towards the rain.
There is a flat section near the top which I thought was the summit. I gave it full beans only to turn left and discover the road kicks up sharply for another 500m to the summit. Thanks.
Unlike other Cols this week we had no time to dwell at the summit. It was raining harder and getting cold. Being a member of two clubs I had to have more souvenir photos than the rest. This is what I looked like on arrival (no it’s not a photographic studio, the clouds at the summit whitened the background).
Take of the rain jacket to reveal my Pansèr gilet.
Take of the gilet to reveal my ICC jersey.
Then the descent. Rain and warm is ok, cold and dry is ok. Rain and cold is not ok. I led two medical consultants down the mountain. Soaking wet and no more than 5° with slippery roads it was not a pleasant experience. In fact we lost one consultant as he experienced symptoms of hyperthermia and decided to get in the van as he was close to blacking out. The remaining two of us completed the descent but were wet, cold and shivering when we got to the bottom.
There are times to follow the Velominati’s Rule #5 and “Harden the fuck up” and there are times to be sensible and not take too many risks. This was one of those occasions. The faster riders had managed to ascend and descend before the rain on the Col, so they continued in the relative warm of the valley despite the rain. We however were both cold and wet, so decided to take the van to the hotel missing the last climb of the day. Three of us are now officially “Non Completers” of the Raid as we missed one climb, but we made the right decision. Despite the heater on full blast we shivered in the van and only really recovered after we’d had a hot shower.
I’m gutted not to have done the last climb but it really wasn’t worth the risk. Tomorrow is our last day with a group ride into Nice. We didn’t want to miss that by being in hospital. Besides which, we’d climbed the “Highest road in Europe”.
Year to date
11,657km / 102 rides / 114 km average per ride
118,490m elevation gain (13.6 Everests)