Last June, Mercier teams and friends gathered at Serre Chevalier. This valley located in the French Southern Alps is known for its beauty and its sports-related history. Indeed, it links the town of Briançon and the Lautaret pass and has three mythical passes: the Col du Galibier, the Col du Granon and the Col d’Izoard.
We met up on Thursday night in a cabin located in the town of Monêtier-les-Bains. The views we have on the Ecrins range, in itself, is an invitation to ride higher, but it will have to wait for the next day. For this first reunion night, we are to be together and most of all to welcome two riders from Quebec, Canada, members of the excellent Cartel store. Everybody was in a great mood and was excited about the idea of the different high-altitude rides ahead of us. Even more so that the weather was set to be perfect. Few bottles were emptied during this festive night, including an excellent Lapierre Morgon in a bottle rather… familial.
Day 1: Galibier and Granon
Day 2: Clarée Valley and Izoard
New day, new start! On this Saturday morning, we hit the road towards the valley of Clarée located between the valley of Serre Chevalier and the mountains which represents the physical French-Italian border farther east. This luxuriant valley, which is a cul-de-sac, allows us riding along the river and climb up to the Col de l’Échelle. The group forms a peloton, and we are even joined by Marine, who is a lodge keeper during summer and a great bike rider.
It was the opportunity to try out the new outfits for women which were just produced by the Italian factories. Jeanne and Camille join us for lunch with a large picnic. We really needed to regain our strength because if the morning ride was like a bucolic getaway, the climbing of the afternoon was set to be more demanding. Indeed, at the beginning of the afternoon we went towards a pass which name is known to all, the Izoard.
From Briançon, we were set for a 20 km ride with an average of 6% elevation. If this percentage is not a major drawback, the length of the climbing and the absence of any plateau make it a compulsory step for many editions of the Tour de France. Few kilometers away from the summit, the forest disappears to leave the ground for the high-altitude mountains because the pass is 2,360 meters above sea level. Everyone reaches the summit at their own pace. Some riders are tough, some others did not really have the time to train beforehand, and they needed to be brave and go forward, step by step.
The finish of each rider at the summit was celebrated as it deserved to be by all the team, as if it was the finish of a Tour de France stage at the Alpe d’Huez. We quickly went to the Casse Déserte a few kilometers down the pass, toward Queyras, to pay tribute to the memory of two cycling legends, Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet, as a stele celebrating their achievements has been erected there.
Back to the cabin, apéritif, diner and a good night sleep.
Day 3: Galibier in the early morning
Thanks to all the people involved who were friendly enough to be there and allow moments like this to happen. This comforts us in the raison d’être of Mercier, the effort, of course, but also sharing, togetherness, happiness and nature which offered us an exceptional landscape for these three days cycling.
Now, there is only next year destination to choose. Some ideas?