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Europe 2004

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Journal for 15-September-2004 : Lanslebourg

Long but pleasant climb up 1600m over 25ks out of Susa and back to France. The longest climb we've done since the rockies.

After 6 or 7 ks we'd cleared the permanent haze that seems to envelope all of northern Italy and the sun shone brightly on us. This is a really nice road, and the only road in Italy I derived any pleasure at all from cycling on.

Switch back after switchback followed as we crept up the side of the mountains, shepherded by the occasional old railway tunnel right next to the road. Before the great alpine railway tunnels were constructed in the early 20th century, a little coffee pot steep train plied this route, up a rack railway.

Linda spotted a pair of beaver like animals as we approached the small hydro dam just on the French side of the border. We think they were marmottes. At the physical border there is a small sign, and a short stretch of very narrow road where the respective governments have not agreed who should widen it.

Between the border and the main dam (100m high wall) that keeps the Lac Mont Cenis water wholly in France is a staircase of switchbacks. The information sign shows an old map where the lake was named Lake Della Moncenisio, from the time this area was in Italian hands. The switchbacks precipices are guarded by large stone and cement obelisks, only some of which have been crashed through.

We had a decent break here, where I started to feel rather disappointed with what we've done. Then Linda reminded me that's just because we've had an enjoyable day, and that's because the road was relatively quiet, and that's because the road doesn't go anywhere in Italy.

More great views at the top of the lake. Lots of icy wind though. This time the summit was shrouded in thick fog, actually clouds from the French side billowing through the pass.

The descent was freezing. We had to stop half way down to revive our fingers, and even though it was bright and sunny on the Italian side of the alps (at least above the haze), it was overcast and the roads were wet on the French side.

It was good to have an enjoyable day again, but I'm a bit bummed out about going backwards. But I'm still in no mood to turn around again and head back to Italy.

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