Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round: Col de Vars

Departure: Saint-Paul-Sur-Ubaye
Length: 9.3 km
Altitude: 2,109m
Height Gain: 645m
Average Gradient: 7.5%
Maximum gradient: 10.6%

Tomorrow’s 179-kilometre, Stage 18 race in the Tour de France, involves three climbs, a category 3, a  category 1 and a hors categorie climb, which finishes on the summit of the Col d’Izoard. Before reaching the climax up the Izoard, the peloton will have to negotiate one of the most underrated climbs in the Haute Alps, the Col de Vars. Its’ 10-kilometre-plus stretch of road leading to the village of Saint-Paul-Sur-Ubaye, gives you no idea of the gradient ahead. Its steepness towards the top will no doubt provide a brutal setting for the few remaining cyclists who still consider themselves a chance to win the General Classification. 

Below is an extract from my book, 'Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round'. It briefly describes my first of two ascents up the Col de Vars. Both were very late in the day, after I'd ridden almost 150 kilometres.  

…. Following the long descent off Bonette down to Jausiers, I soon began my final climb for the day, the 22-kilometre stretch of road up the Col de Vars (2,109 metres). Lying at its base, and within 10 kilometres of the Italian border, is the Fort deTournoux, which held up well against the invading Italians until Hitler’s troops marched into Paris and France fell.

Like Bonette, the Col de Vars was very easy to begin with, just a gradual and steady climb, but the gradient became steeper and steeper, with lots of hairpins the closer I got to the top. By the time I reached the summit I was pretty spent, and without a drop of water. Thankfully, there was a bar-restaurant that hadn’t quite shut up shop for the evening and I was able to grovel to the woman behind the counter to refill my water bottles. The rather displeased look on her face made me think that I wouldn’t have got a drink for anything less.

The final 24 kilometres was, luckily, downhill all the way, and it wasn’t too long before I reached our night’s accommodation in the charming little of Eygliers. As the view from our hotel window at La Taverne du Roy testified, we were well and truly entrenched in the heart of the Alpes de Haute-Provence...

The descent down the other side, eventually towards Guillest
Books by Mark Krieger:

‘High Spain Drifter’ is available on Amazon , Barnes and Noble, Booktopia  and other online bookstores. 

‘Lycra, Lattes and the Long Way Round’ is available on Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books

Both books are also available at local bookshops on the Mornington Peninsula: @ Rosebud Bookbarn and @ La Brocante

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”

                           English author Iris Murdoch

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