Today's ride down to Die and back would be considered by some to be quite ambitious at this time of year. Depending on the route you take, it's anywhere between 140 and 170kms, unless you want to add on the Col de Penne, like Michael last year, to take it over 200 kms or do an epic 250 km Tour of the Vercors like Josh a couple of years ago.
Our trip today measured in at 160 kms and we think is a great ride for this time of year as it doesn't go too high (the Col de Rousset is at 1254m so I guess it's high enough), the roads are well cleared of snow and all the climbing is at a gentle gradient. It's just long. However, when Phil called into the bakery in St Jean for his customary sustenance this morning, the owner, who is also a cyclist, had some words of advice for riding back over the snowy Col de Rousset, concerned that we were adequately equipped. 'I am now I have my 'pain aux raisins', Phil assured him. On the way up to Leoncel, a fellow cyclist on his way down, stopped in his tracks and called out to me, concerned that I was heading up to a 'Route Barré' sign. This evening Dom was flabbergasted when Phil called in for his customary post ride pizza and told him how he'd earned it.
Their concern was well meaning but unnecessary; it was a fantastic day for taking on such a ride. The trees have no leaf cover so the views are more visible in winter. The snow at the top adds a contrast to the first signs of spring in the valley. The hardest thing about a ride like today is how to manage the extreme differences in temperature. It was sunbathing weather in the salon de thé in Die for our coffee and cake stop whereas the top part of the descent down to Vassieux-en-Vercors, where we happened upon the sledging dogs packing up for the day, was pretty shivery. But a few moments of discomfort did nothing to spoil the immense enjoyment of the day.