The road from north-western Italy to France crosses through the Alps. There are many possible passes to take. Since before leaving Melbourne, we had been thinking about this section of the ride, and we knew we would be crossing Col D’Izourd, a mountain in France where Grace had previously spent many months filming Audrey of the Alps. With that decision made, the most direct route across the range would first take us over Col Agnel (Colle dell’Agnello in Italian), the highest international crossing in the Alps, and a final pass over Col du Lautaret.

The climb begins slowly on the Italian side, the road winding up a river valley, passing through little towns. There are picnic tables along the way, which proved to be wonderful places to stop and make a cup of tea.

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Our first night in the Alps was spent camping in a village, still relatively low down the mountain. We found a village camp ground, designed for caravans but deserted by this time of year (early Autumn). We pitched our tent under a roof to avoid too much dew in the morning.

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The next morning the climb up Col Agnel started in ernest. The weather had closed in during the night, and visibility was incredibly low, in some parts barely enough to see 20 metres ahead. We had the feeling of climbing, but were disappointed not to be able to see the environment around us. Surely it must be stunning?

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Suddenly, to our amazement, we were above the cloud line. We could see the mountain ahead and the thick blanket of clouds below. It looked like a bubble bath.

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We still had a long way to go!

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The scenery was spectacular, with the bed of clouds below and the rocky mountainside above us we felt transfixed by the imagery. No traffic on the roads meant we could listen to the sound of the birds, the marmots and the wind. We felt very high up. Not one other cyclist came by, there were a couple of german motorbikes and a few cars that passed us this day. We couln’t help but feel they were cheating their way up to the top of this beautiful view. The climb was difficult and we were going as slow as our bikes let us. At one point there was a gradient of 14% that went for 1km. We made it through without needing to get off the bikes and push and felt a real sense of achievement.

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After a bloody long and exhausting climb, we made it to the top – and the border with France! 2744 metres above sea level. What a feeling (and freezing cold).

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And then came the downhill into France! Ahead of us, a clear valley, and a long way down!

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