With the slopes rapidly turning brown, I pull the old road bike off the wall, screw on some pedals, raise the seat height and give the chain a squirt of lubricant. The corkscrew road up to Lac d’Allos has been waiting for me since we arrived, and today’s the day. I won’t make it all the way up – not without a mountain bike and snow tyres – but I’m hoping to get to the lower car park.
Get lost counting hairpins somewhere around number 12; also confused about how tight a bend has to be to be called a hairpin. That's definitely one on the left.
Up into the forested belt, the space for tyres narrows and narrows, and the snow under the trees gets deeper. Soon it's a choice between less snow in the middle, or the pine-needle path at the sides.
Finally, clear tarmac disappears altogether and I'm riding on snow. Don’t brake. Don’t change direction. Don’t put too much into the pedal stroke. Slim chance of that: lungs and throat burn cold, and there’s only enough oxygen coming in for tempo riding. Balance-balance- balance.
End of the line: the road meets a barrier of snow piled across the trail at the lower car park. Even in early December it was icy walking further than this. Climb off, lean the bike up for the obligatory photo, and climb back on before I get cold: I learnt my lesson twatting about at the top of the Col d'Allos last time.
On the way down, those little trickles of water across the road look like ice. They’re not, but it makes for nervous descending. Still manage to overtake a Peugeot coming down Grandma-style, second gear all the way. Elderly lady driver or not, it’s always fun to overtake a car on a pushbike.
At the bottom of the road I decide my legs aren’t kippered yet, and turn left to Colmars. Very pretty, very like walking through a museum, but free water at the fountains. Slog back up the valley to Allos, and I’m done.
Happy New Year.