WHEN someone offers to drive you and your bike to the top of one of the highest mountain passes in the Alps, there’s only ever gonna be one answer…oui s’il vous plaît!
At 2,645m altitude the Col du Galibier is the the sixth highest mountain pass in the Alps. It’s also the natural border of the Haute-Alpes and Savoie départements, in our little corner of France. And when included in a stage is the highest point on Le Tour…if you’re that way inclined 😉
But more importantly, there’s an awesome 30km trail from the summit down to my front door…happy days 🙂
From the the road it’s a little hike with the bike up to the actual summit which is about 50m alt. higher, obviously with an amazing 360° panoramic view across the this part of the Alps. It wasn’t exactly warm at the top and there seemed to be some clouds building up from the west so I didn’t hang around admiring the view for too long, put my gloves on and got to the business at hand, of riding down a mountain…fast
There’s some real sketchy, steep, rocky stuff coming down off the summit which had me carrying the bike a couple of times but once you hit the trail it’s fast and fun. Although you’re soon squeezing the brakes as you have to cross the tarmac that runs up to the top. But after that you’ve got an uninterrupted 5km of fast, rocky descent with some nice big switch-backs as well as the odd local hanging out on the side of the trail
After that section you have to cross over the road that goes up to Col du Lautaret and climb over a gate and then you’re into the best part of the descent. A very fast, loose and rocky track where you really have to look way down the trail, pick and stick to your line ‘cos a crash there is gonna be very, very painful indeed. There are lots of nice features to hop over including streams and rocks as well as little sections of flowy singletrack next to the main trail that you can cut through. Because of the rain last weekend the trails are nicely damp which gives your tyres some much appreciated additional grip
That continues for probably another 10km before you link up with a mixture of tarmac and singletrack weaving it’s way through villages, woods & fields as you slowly descend toward the ski villages of Serre Chevalier. It’s a nice run as it involves a fair bit of peddling too with some short uphill climbs and some pretty hairy rock gardens where you’ve just gotta stay loose on the bars and let yourself go, skittering over the top of the constantly moving surface and trying to avoid the big stuff. When you get through that lot things chill right out and you’ve got time to enjoy the scenery a bit more as you wind your way further down the valley, towards home…