There could be a million things on your mind as you start climbing the Col du Galibier.
Modern life is busy, it could be your upcoming marriage, your recent or imminent divorce, the birth of your first child. The boss you hate or the job you love.
These essential considerations will eventually be reduced to just one concern. Getting to the top of this climb. If you can still remember your own name by the time you crest the summit, consider going pro.
Five kilometres in, you could be forgiven for thinking the Galibier isn’t so bad. Well into the climb, and apart from the initial ramp out of Valloire, nothing has really tested you. All that training must have been more effective than you thought. You might even consider a coffee or an ice cream at the lovely little cafe by the side of the road.
That is all about to change.
Crossing the bridge over the stream and the Galibier changes its personality in just a few pedal strokes. You will need to be super fit and have brought your A-game. Otherwise, by the time you are halfway up that first serious 11% ramp, all the training will have melted away like ice cream in the midday sun.
What’s left is determination, grit, stubbornness, and pride.
Any two get you to the top, or at least the fork in the road leading to the tunnel. After that, it’s just pride. There’s no shade or shelter on the Galibier, barely a tree in sight, nowhere to hide or recover, no let-up to the relentless gradient. But if you insist on visiting the home of the cycling gods, you can’t expect it to be easy, can you?
As John F. Kennedy said, “We don’t do it because it’s easy. We do it because it’s hard”.
Climbing the Galibier from the north in around an hour gets you into the Strava top 500. Of course, we can’t all be on top of the Strava leaderboard, nor do we want to be. There’s a different, often very personal reason to climb this iconic mountain road for everyone.
Sometimes there’s no reason at all, but with more than 17 kilometres of climbing, the altitude reaching over 2600m. and kicking in with a vengeance, reaching the summit is justification enough.
© davidt 2023