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I'd planned a cycling jaunt to the Alps with some friends for a bit of R&R after a busy few months chez Yapp and a stressful flat move. As we packed the bikes into the van under the clear blue London skies at 5.00AM on Tuesday morning we harboured high hopes of sun on our backs as the road rose to meet us. By the time we hit the new Reims bypass, however, a steady drizzle had begun and by Burgundy even the Côte d'Or was looking moody and threatening through the driver's window.  On arrival at the excellent King of the Mountains cycling lodge after 12 hours on the road, our delightful hosts Guy and Helen did their best to put a positive spin on the forecast for the next few days over salmon en croute washed down with a perfectly potable Pays d'Oc Cabernet, but the signs were ominous.

Chris Hayes, the landlord of the Marquis of Westminster, would like to call time on the Alpe d’Huez.

Chris Hayes, the landlord of the Marquis of Westminster, would like to call time on the Alpe d’Huez.

The next day we set off to tackle Alpe d’Huez, an iconic climb of 14km rising a vertical kilometre above Burg d'Oisans over 21 hairpins that always makes its mark on the destiny of the Tour de France and has a special place in the hearts of dutch cyclists. The last time we'd rode this beast it had been 40 degrees on the valley floor but by switchback 7 the sleet had turned to snow, impressive for 1st June.  On reaching the ski station finish we dived into the first café for a welcome hot chocolate and a Croque Monsieur.  Suitably sated and partly thawed out we took advantage of the next door cycle shop to buy dry socks and warm hats, all of which we had consigned to drawers back in the UK. Yet as we descended the sun broke through and by the time we were riding back to our base two-thirds of the way up the Col d'Ornon we were shedding layers. Such is the way in the mountains and we'll treat each day as it comes. Meanwhile we've stocked up on Jacquère and Roussette from the local Savoie vineyards and stoked-up the wood burning stove.

Sheep stop play on the approach to the Col d'Ornon....

Sheep stop play on the approach to the Col d'Ornon....