A few weeks back, I had some time to kill, but none of that ordinary kind of time, this was European time. Like everything from Europe, the time is better than the stuff we have locally. Euro sock height? Better. Euro bar tape colour? Better. Euro time? Better.
Anyway, back to the story that I was telling, I figured with all this better time up my sleeve, I should see if the mountains really were better than ours. 6 hours of driving a tiny car on the wrong side of the road got me to a little town a mate had recommended, a place called Le Bourg-d'Oisans. My first impression was it was dark but that might have been due to the time of night.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of silence (no not the Simon and Garfunkel song), hopped astride my bike and headed for Le Alpe D'Huez. A climb fabled and feared, a road paved in tears and tarmac. An ascent that hit me in the face when I wasn't looking. Seriously, I was busy minding my own business warming up in the valley, I turned a corner and it sucker punched me right in the face with a 9% gradient.
The names of past champions, riders who'd tamed it during the fabled Tour d'France were painted across it's face, were stuck up on signs, were mocking the agony in my legs. I was on holiday, surely this amount of pain was inappropriate.
Eventually, through switchback after switchback (they call them "lace" over there), past photographers, cyclists and motorbikes I reached the top, amazed at the number of Aussies hanging around, then turned around and went back down with a great big grin on my face.
So was it a better climb? Probably not. I found it rude and inconsiderate of my needs. It didn't speak a word of English and treated me with disdain when I tried to beg in broken French.