In the same region as Alpe d'Huez, this climb has been featured 16 times since its introduction in the TDF in 1947. The top of the col is at 2067 meters, a full 200 vertical higher than Alpe d'Huez.
Col de la Croix de Fer.
I opened my eyes and saw that it was light. In fact, the sun was shining. Maybe the God of Weather had decided that me and Roddy had been punished enough on Alpe d'Huez. Then I realized the implication of it being light out - my alarm should have gone off while it was still dark! I sprung out of bed and into a flurry of small preparations.
By the time breakfast was ingested, my jersey was stuff with snacks, and the water bottles on my bike were filled with sugary energy drink, the day had really dawned, and I thought that maybe this would be must easier than Alpe d'Huez. We had the weather on our side.
I biked over to Gières to meet Roddy and the two Germans, Jonas and Andreas, who joined us now that the sun was shining.
|From the left: Roddy, Jonas and Andreas are ready to go!|
|German disguised as a Frenchman|
|(Slightly blurry) action shot of Roddy and Andreas on the road towards Vizille.|
We had reached the start of the climb.
|A quick snack near Lac de Verney|
The road was pleasantly isolated, winding its way up through the forest.
|Follow the leaf-strewn road|
|What. Am. I. Doing.|
Col de la Croix de Fer is psychologically very different from Alpe d'Huez. There are no 21 numbered switchbacks with the altitudes signs. Col de la Croix de Fer starts with a seemingly endless road up through the forest, with no indicators as to how far you've actually gotten. You then arrive in the tiny town of Rivier d'Allemont.
|Rivier d'Allemond - look at those mountains.|
I started to think about the boys. How long ago had they descended the switchbacks? Were they waiting for me at the top already? What if I was way slower than them? How long would they wait?
The road climb painfully steeply upward again, and I ground stubbornly away on my smallest gear. It then mellowed out and opened into a whole new world of scenery. I had turned another corner in the valley, and a shafts of light illuminated the mountain tops and slivers of the hillsides below.
I was alone, just me and the mountains. And then I heard a noise. Vroooooom... Suddenly three motorcyclists came flying passed my, snapping my tranquility in two and leaving me with the brutal reality of my aching legs. I really don't like motorcycles.
It was then that I encountered The Sign. It looked like this:
|The second line reads: Col de le Croix de Fer 11|
I figured this would take me somewhere in the vicinity of a hour. Breath in. Breath out. Pedal. That's one of the beauties of cycling, really. It takes almost now effort to force yourself to turn the pedals one more revolution, even if you're tired. And then you do it again, and again. And all of a sudden, in the distance, you see the iron cross marking the top of the col.
|Shortly after cross into the region of Savoie, with the Lac de Grand Maison in the background. I can see the top!|
|The boys with the Alpes stretched out behind them.|
I ate the rest of the my snacks, and put on some more clothes before we took a couple of photos using timers:
|The iron cross for which the Col is named, and the proud climbers.|
|Lac de Grand Maison in the afternoon light|
|Andreas, diggin' it|
|Best beer ever. The goat above my head is on the building of the shop where we bought the cheese.|
We stopped for snacks in Vizille, and a got a mini quiche and some sort of chocolate pastry that disappeared mysteriously before I was able to photograph them.
|The patissier in Vizille in charge of the caloric needs of 4 cyclists who have done 135/150 km.|
- The Wild Bazilchuk