View Full Version : One of the best rides you'll never do

02-03-2016, 03:53 PM
I mean nobody flies across the ocean to ride the hills above Tullins and Vinay. No glamour to be found there, no heroic tales out of the past, no stunning panoramic views of jagged peaks, clinging glaciers, and skinny roads tight roping up cliffs. Too bad in a way because the riding is as good as it gets and better than most. A tangle of paved roads that don't know the word straight, no traffic, lots of climbing though generally easy enough and never high, plus a rich bonus of dirt roads for those so inclined. Like me. But not when it's wet, too much clay content. Add water and it's glue city.

Four years slipped by since I last rode those hills. They came to mind recently. Remembered a little road I noticed once during a ride. More a lane than a road. Saw it when crossing a col in a low saddle, the Col de la Croix de Toutes Aures. Saw this lane coming down off the ridge to the left as I crossed the col. Wondered what was up there, where that road was coming from.

Saturday, still unusually warm, sun poking over the peaks into a blue sky, a good day to ride. Bike in the car, drop off the plateau into the valley, and into fog. Damn! But thin fog. Might be better later. Down to Tullins and into more fog. Well, at least it's not cold and fog can make for some cool photos. On the bike, into Tullins, turned right into the center of the village, Saturday morning market in full swing. Thought of shooting but the fog was thick and the light so weak I didn't bother. Plus the climb's already been joined and I didn't feel like stopping. Narrow road flanked by old buildings and parked cars that turn it into a one-laner and I'm weaving and squeezing my way past cars waiting for each other to reverse so they can advance.

Out of the village, direction Col de Parmenie. A good climb, 360 vertical meters, just under 7% average grade, steepest bits at 9,5% or so, most of which are in the village where the cars were blocked. Pass a woman rider, another rider further ahead. Pass him when he turns around to ride back down. Must be a couple because a little later when I'm shooting some pics he rides past. Fog thinning a wee bit, maybe. I ease by the guy as we're approaching the col then stop on the col to drink.

A road angles off to the right and up. Steep bastard. A dead end on the summit of the hill. The guy rides by and heads up. I wasn't planning on riding that thing, no way, we're talking bloody steep, a K plus averaging around 12% but with ramps well over that. I watch him going up, slowly but steadily. Then I spot patches of blue up above. Well damn, probably sunshine and blue up there with great views. I'm off, grinding my way up this stupidly steep road. Half way up the first ramp of pain I see him turn around. I press on. End of that ramp, have to stop. No choice. Legs wasted. Shoot some pics, back into the fray.

All of a sudden I'm in the sunlight. Look ahead and see the road doing a tight curl to the right that looks at least as steep as the ramp that wasted me. Through the bend and into the final ramp then I'm there, the top, Notre Dame de Parmenie, a chapel and retreat created by an order of catholic brothers. Or rather rebuilt by them. Between when it was first built in the 13th century and today, went through lots of changes. Destroyed several times, rebuilt, destroyed once again in 1946, rebuilt once more. All rock and wood timbers and glass and outside terraces. Damned fine looking. Didn't take any pics of it, didn't seem appropriate for a retreat where people seek some sort of peace and understanding.

Rode right on by onto a trail through the woods out to an overlook. Good call, that. Up out of the fog, the valleys still socked in, the Alps in the distance white summits glistening in the sunlight. A single tree in a field. Perfect. Lean my bike against it for a photo. Walk back for a shot. Oops, bike on the ground. Wind's howling and knocked it over. Okay, go back, do it again, only this time with hopefully enough lean to keep it upright. Yea, I like that shot.

Back on the bike, back on the trail. Stop, shoot the bike against this brilliant carpet of moss on a tree trunk. Okay, enough, time to ride. Down to the col. I always say gravity never lies; still true. The acceleration going down is fierce. I'm ripping down this road. Brake hard for the col, sharp turn to the right, and down the back side of the col, a gentle run down a soft valley. Junction in a field, turn left to a small village, left again, out of the village, like I said, small place, maybe, what, two hundred meters of riding past houses. Up through a forest, over another hill and down into an even smaller village. Choice of roads here. Left and back over some climbs to Tullins. Right then left and over some climbs and back to Tullins. Right and down a soft valley. I go right, then hang a turn at a sawmill, curl up through more forest, out into fields, big views to the right across the broad valley where the Grenoble airport is. That's where I watched the Concord take off one evening. That was amazing. I'm? strolling on a farm lane with our dog maybe two hundred meters away from the runway, if that, and watch it thunder down the strip, wings flapping, flames shooting out of the engines, nose rises, then it's gone. Pretty wild.

Into a village, yep, another small one, turn left onto a small road that I'm guessing, or rather hoping, is going to take me up onto the ridge and eventually down to the Col de la Croix de Toutes Aures. The only clue the road's name, Chemin des Aretes, which translated is road of the ridges. I'm thinking, okay, this thing is going to climb up onto that hill and as I recall that lane I saw from the col is coming down from maybe the same hill. So, go, find out.

Turned out to be 5 K of some of the finest cruising I've ever had. One-laner doing this lazy swing up and across basins of grasses past a couple of old, sprawling farm houses with the potential to be transformed into some gorgeous homes, over a round ridge, down into a shallow trough, up the other side then a quick, sharp plunge down to the Col de la Croix de Toutes Aures. Magnificent. Just not long enough. So instead of heading down the regular road, I swing off onto yet one more one-laner that plunges into a valley that I was sure would eventually flow into the valley the main road followed. Great call, I mean this was a gas of a descent. Tight turns, round turns, linked S-turns, all tied together by swaying straights. Sweet.

Got to the junction with the main road, headed down, time trial mode, big gear, in the drops, driving the bike as hard as I could. Fortunately no other riders were riding the same direction so I could settle in and enjoy my sense of supreme speed. Always a bit annoying to be feeling omnipotent then get passed by someone looking totally relaxed and just flat burning by.

Finished up with more time trialing on small roads through the walnut groves between the railroad tracks, the river, and the autoroute. Even had the wind on my back. Did 60 K with just over 1100 vertical meters. Nothing spectacular in those numbers but for pure quality, hard to beat. Like I said, you'll never ride this puppy, understandably, but if you did, you'd say the same thing, an awesome ride. A bit of everything.

Some pics, and if you haven't already, check out my book at Velodogs-Publishing (http://velodogs-publishing.com). Then order it and read it, you'll like it.