Sun 17 May 2009 16:37 BST
The call of the Col de la Croix de Fer has been strong since it re-opened last Wednesday. Work and wet weather since then had kept me from thinking too much about the re-opening of my favourite ride in the area.
Yesterday we woke to a beautiful morning. The trees behind the house are now in full leaf and there was just a dusting of fresh snow on the higher peaks contrasting brilliantly against the deep blue sky. It was all so new and fresh, it felt like the first time I ever set eyes upon it here. After the monochrome months of winter, I hanker for the return of colour in the form of foliage and flowers and yesterday was as vibrant as I have ever seen it up in our valley.
Both Guy and I had a full day ahead of us preparing for the arrival of 7 guests on Sunday morning, but it didn't take much to convince Guy to down tools and swap power drill for bicycle, and I was more than happy to quit the ironing board and hoover!
My only reservation was the date, 16th May. Call me superstitious, but not long after we moved here I rode the Col de la Croix de Fer on the very same date and it was without doubt the coldest I have ever been on a ride, and, the only occasion in my life that I have hated being on my bike. Time is apparently a great healer and normally softens the memories of a hard day out in the saddle. However, in the case of 16th May 2005, I can still vividly recall the headwind, rain, sleet becoming snow, snow becoming blizzard that I foolishly rode into. I was badly kitted out too - a tiny rain cape, no overshoes and not much in the way of warm kit. I am not too proud to admit that I cried all the way from the top down to Le Rivier d'Allemont where at last I got 'phone reception and unclenching my hypothermic fingers called Guy for a rescue. I will always be grateful to the owner of the hotel in this little village; he bustled me into his lounge (where, to my surprise, there were two enormous Belgian riders in the same state as me - maybe without the tears!). He sat us all in front of his log fire, took our wet jackets to dry and gave us each a fresh towel and a hot chocolate. He put a cover on the sofa to guard against our wet and muddy chamois and even put the Giro d'Italia on the TV for us. I assumed this level of care and understanding of our state must be borne from the fact that he too was a cyclist - when I asked the question he replied 'you must be joking, I'm not that daft'. He had a point! Exactly a year later we returned (by car) and took him a cake and a bottle of wine as a belated 'thank you'. Not surprisingly he did not need reminding of who I was and that day, and not surprisingly he still had not taken up cycling!
Anyway, that's old news. May 16th 2009 could not have been more different. We were so basked in sun that we took our time at the top, took some photos, chatted to some walkers and other cyclists and then freewheeled down to the summit of the Glandon to take in the views of Mont Blanc and generally enjoy the sun on our backs. There was surprising very little residual snow around, the new grass was dotted with hundreds of colourful flowers and cavorting marmottes and not a snowflake in sight!
For photos of our ride visit our Picasa album (click here)