David Waters con The Great Bounce: A Journal of Mountain Road Cycling in France and the Dolomites
In March 2016 my wife and I decided to leave our jobs in London and tow our camping Pod and four bikes to France and Italy for six months. Two bikes for the road, and two for more rugged terrain. We wrote a journal to convey our experiences of over one hundred bike rides up the steep slopes of famous European mountains as we trained for the Maratona event in the Dolomites."I could see trails of water droplets on the window where the rain had chosen its path to trickle down the glass and it blurred the silhouettes of some people outside who were fiddling with their bikes in the dim dawn light. I rubbed my eyes and stepped down into the awning; a thin layer of moisture was clinging to the fabric. I clumsily placed the kettle on the hob and the vibrations dislodged some cold drips which fell onto my head. Our fear of rain affecting the sportive event today was palpable""To reach L'Alp d'Huez we cycled to Bourg d'Oisans, the main town of the Oisan region. The climb appears to start immediately off a roundabout. There are no kilometre countdowns but there are signs for the number of hairpin turns remaining. It is a tough climb of 13km and passes through the town of Huez. At the top are a few cafes and bike shops and today a large purple inflatable man waving his hand in the breeze.""We arrived at Les Quatre Saisons, a beautifully green campsite in Limousin surrounded by trees, hedges and the entertaining pomposity of roaming chickens.""We ate a pain au chocolat and surveyed the deep turquoise of the Grand Maison lake; how its gentle ripples glistened in the sunshine, how this vast body of water lay calm against sloping grass, how huge rocks embedded in the banks must have been the result of some ancient avalanche.""After a few minutes my damp fingers began to feel numb from the constant downhill breeze and I stretched them outwards to attempt to revive some feeling. As I was concentrating on an approaching hairpin turn I suddenly heard a gentle metallic chime, as if a child had struck a musical triangle nearby. The sound was following me and I heard another chime. I looked at my open-fingered gloves and my wedding ring was no longer there.""Mont Ventoux is known is the "bald mountain" due to the absence of trees at the summit. We read that centuries ago the mountain was densely forested but that the shipbuilding industry in the Port of Toulon had felled a huge quantity of its timber over the years. Ventoux has featured in the Tour de France fifteen times since 1951, perhaps most famously in 2000 when Lance Armstrong and the Italian Marco Pantani raced each other up, with Armstrong allegedly allowing the Italian to win. Both their careers became stained by drug allegations, with Pantani dying aged 34 of cocaine poisoning. Claire and I will be quite happy to poodle up its side, fuelled by nothing other than our goat’s cheese sandwiches.""The villages around Bollene have a medieval origin. We cycled through about a dozen; they emerge between acres of vineyards and we saw castles, forts, abbeys, inns and homes. Then the village boundaries end, just as abruptly as they had appeared. Most buildings are still in use but occasionally a ruinous castle can be seen on higher ground, sunlight filtering through archers' holes in the crumbled walls and feeding the plants that now live where an aristocrat once feasted.""We mapped out a twenty mile route for the cross bikes and rode through some off-road lanes between fields, getting stuck a couple of times along tracks which were so rocky we were forced to re-route. Cycling on stones under dark skies, past a few unmarked ruins too ruinous to attract average curiosity, no traffic, and just the squawks of birds piercing the eerie silence."