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Day 9 Besancon to St Croixe 58m(91km)

Into the Alps Approaching the Swiss Alps, you not only see them looming in front of you, you also “hear” them. You may be familiar with the characteristic sound of mountain cattle bells. Very evocative.

The route No sooner do you leave Besancon but you start some very serious climbing. I had to take the RN along with all the commuting traffic. And yes, I did keep a promise to myself, and set off before sunrise…………only just, by a few minutes. But the day was going to be cool as I climbed into the mountains.

The three climbs The climbs were 450m, 850m, and the big one, over the Col des Entroits, was 1153m (just a shade lower than Ben Nevis). Climbing these heights has to be done at a steady pace with a comfortable cadence, because you are in it for the long term. You can forget “attacking” such climbs, unless you fancy yourself on the back wheel of Alberto Contador! When I got to the top of the Col des Entroits, sadly there was no finishing line and no points in the King of the Mountains competition, so I sought my own reward: I bellowed out my personal victory to some nearby cows, and four of them, wearing bells,  lazily raised their heads and gave me a peal of bells! What greater recognition a cyclist ask for?

Vallee de Loue Delightful 4km descent into this valley and a climb up the other side was truly stunning.  This was my frequent excuse for stopping and taking photos. Too many Kodak moments! And the valley leads right up to the rising of the River Loue.

Other pilgrims Like the Clapham omnibus, you see none for days, then several come at once. On the outskirts of Pontarlier I met an English couple, Kite and Polly, who had walked from Canterbury and had been 33 days on the road. They expect to arrive in Rome sometime in October. I coyly revealed I had left Canterbury just 7 days before. Unlike some walking pilgrims, they kindly avoided any reference to me possibly being a ‘cheat’ pilgrim ;0)

As we were talking, Alke-Brigitte chanced by, from Germany, and had started her route in Switzerland, heading north.  We stumbled on in French until we mutually decided that English was the best medium of communication. As we were talking, a local resident stopped by and gave us all a bottle of  water each, and a rose especially for Alke-Brigitte!

The weather Ah, the weather! It has finally arrived. The forecast is for heavy rain in West Switzerland, and as I write this (Tuesday morning) I’m looking for excuses for not climbing on that saddle!

The rain is definitely falling softly on my fields!