Report from our Man in the Mountains

CTC Northampton member Phil L loves his camper van and riding his bike up high mountains.  He reported for us in summer 2012 (“Mountain Pass Junkie”).  This year he writes:

I’m up in the High Alps, Bourgeois d’Oisans, the centre of the cycling universe!  Am sure you’ve been here yourself and of course everything is in preparation for the TdF which comes through next Thursday, 23rd.  I don’t often get good wifi but it’s ok here.
I had a few days down in Provence – Bedoin – to do Mont Ventoux the conventional way which was ok, despite there being hundreds of cyclists churning their way up!  Was going to do it the next day a different route and got a few miles up when the rear dérailleur on my Trek gave up the ghost, fell apart, chain snapped etc. so a longish walk/ scoot back to camp.  Was touched by the number of cyclists who stopped to see if I needed help – one Dutch guy even offered me an emergency chain link to get back.  Wasn’t too far though.  The bike has done well over 2 months I suppose and is going to need a whole new drive train so I thought I would wait til I get home to get it done and switch to the MTB. Nobody rides a Trek over here and with one busy bike shop in the village it would be an expensive wait for parts I guess.

Top of Alpe d'HuezJPG

Top of Alpe d’Huez

Col du Glandon

Col du Glandon

So I came up here to do some of the TdF passes.  Did the Alpe d’Huez the other day along with hundreds of others and yesterday the Glandon and Croix de Fer.

On Alpe d'Huez

On Alpe d’Huez

Col de la Croix de Fer

Col de la Croix de Fer

Done them all before but not on a MTB which I have to say was fun.  When you’re churning uphill, those extra gears are pretty handy.  I am amazed how many riders are doing these passes with a compact and rear cassette with too high a ratio – hardly moving some of them.  You’ve got to spin up in my book.  Need a front 50/34 and 32 rear at least which of course a MTB will have.

Col de Sarenne

Col de Sarenne

Anyway, the motor-homers have already moved in to “bag” the best lay-bys and viewing spots; some have already been here a week!  The gendarmes are being a bit stricter this year and insisting that up the Alpe you can only park on some bends and you have to face downhill – to avoid the million point turns that have to be made to get down I suppose.

Alpe d'Huez from above

Alpe d’Huez from above

Phil's  home for two months!

Phil’s home for two months!

The roads maintenance people are out mending guard rails, resurfacing, cutting back verges and sweeping.  (Makes me think we need a couple of TdF stages in UK every year to put our roads right!)  And there are a host of road closures and deviations coming up so I have to keep an eye those ‘cos I have a date with Mr. Froome up in Paris for the Champs Élysées finish next week and I don’t want to get grounded / hemmed in and stuck here!
I’ll be back for the London-Surrey 100; great to think CTC Northampton has at least six riders in it – almost a TdF Team peloton!

Don’t forget: you can sponsor Phil in the London-Surrey 100 here!  He’s using his place to raise funds for Headway Northampton.


Cyclists’ slide-show, Wednesday 27th February

This year’s CTC Northampton winter slideshow is happening on Wednesday 27th February and features three great topics:

  • Riding the Classic Cols of the Tour de France (Phil Letts)

SEPT 11 033_med

  • Giant’s Causeway Coast Sportive (Philip Gray)


  • The Elbe Cycle Path from Hamburg to Dresden (Ian Macsporran)

For a preview see

Date & time: Wednesday 27 February, 8.00 p.m. Doors open 7.30 p.m. Refreshments available

Venue: Park Avenue Methodist Church, Park Avenue North (corner of Abington Avenue), Northampton NN3 2HT

Entry £3 (suggested donation).  Refreshments available

Further information: Tel 07909 992468

Everyone is very welcome – hope to see you there!