We thought that today's ride would be difficult because of the initial climb: eight miles up a very steep road to the pass at the top called Col de la Cayolle. Indeed, it was steep, long, and tough, and when we reached the summit at over 7,600 feet, we rightly celebrated with high fives and cheers all around! We were soaked in sweat and cooling off rapidly in the lower temperatures of the altitude, and storm clouds were dark in front of us for the 17-mile ride down to our destination. We all donned dry, warm clothes and rainproof jackets, and we started down. Just ten short minutes later, the rain and thunder and lightning rolled in fast - as fast as lightning! It's hard to describe the feeling of riding high on a mountain road with lightning strikes not so far away - and no shelter in sight - but let's just say it's disconcerting. Add to that a sudden, deep temperature drop, high winds, driving rain, and even hail, and you can understand why we were all shaking - literally and figuratively.
We still had 14 to 15 miles to go. One of our more experienced riders commented that we needed to find shelter and wait out the storm or risk a very difficult descent. But with no shelter in sight, we pressed forward. Fortunately after just a few minutes the winds abated as did the strong rain. So what seemed like an eternity was really only a 15 or 20 minute scare.
We continued down to our destination, a wonderfully quaint town called Barcelonnette. We didn't take many pictures on the way down since we were all quite chilly, not to mention that we were focused on safely riding on the wet roads.
On the lighter side we had to stop for a few minutes during our descent when about 300 sheep made their way across the road along with the shepherd and his four dogs.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we changed into dry clothes in the basement because our rooms weren't ready. We headed off to a great and very much needed warm lunch. We are in the lap of luxury tonight: our accommodations have full bathrooms and real sheets! A major improvement.
We rest now as we prepare for tomorrow's climb to the highest paved road in Europe, Col de la Bonette. After four straight days of cycling in the mountains, our legs are feeling rubbery, so we are not sure what challenges tomorrow's ride will offer.
Berton Ride - Day 14
July 23, 2016
Final thoughts and musings (I think)
There were always things I had wanted to say but never remembered them or had the time to capture those thoughts....