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The Southern French Alps: Day One, Les Deux Alpes

Early in 2019, I had decided that the week of July 4thof this year would be a good time to grasp the opportunity to travel to France: the country that inspired the American revolution, and its independence and the creation of the Great Experiment of democracy, as we know it today.

The fact that at the time, I was deeply engrossed in Jon Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson, perhaps was partly responsible. Also, being a keen cyclist, I had always wanted to explore the French Alps, and with friends living in Les Deux-Alpes, and a race held around that very area of the Alps on July 10th, I could see that everything was converging.

Les Deux Alpes is a small village in Les Alpes Sud, the Southern French Alps. To the north is L’Alpe d’Huez, the Northern Alps and eventually Geneva. To the West is Grenoble, and the Rhone-Alpes. To the East is the Savoie and the Italian Piedmont, with Turin and Milan, being only an hour away by car.

At around 1600m, it is quite firmly in the mountains: it is a big ski resort in the winter, and a major downhill mountain bike resort in the summer. Although, it's the beginning of July and there are still skiers and snowboarders around, because the glaciers above, still have snow. So, right now you will see a skier, a snowboarder, a mountain biker, a cyclist and a hiker all in the same village. Very weird.

There are cows up on the mountains, though few in number. And since there is no dairying locally, the cows have 2 roles; grow strong for beef, and to chew the grass down. This second role is vitally important to the town: if the grass is short, the snow sticks to the slopes, so you can ski, and importantly, there are no avalanches. If there are no cows, there is long grass, the snow slides down, and all of a sudden there's no Les Deux Alpes.

Les Deux Alpes is also a meeting point of some significant food culture: with the Savoie, the Rhone Alpes, Grenoble, and the Jura all within striking distance of the area, providing Tomme de Savoie, Beaufort, Tarte aux Noix, and Reblochon fresh to the area.

But before the fun food investigations can start, there is the business of prepping for the race in Sunday. Some climbing on the bike. I flew my bike over with me, and spent 30 mins rebuilding it, before heading out on the first ride of the trip: a warm up of around 50 km/35 miles. Cruise down Les Deux Alpes, ride along the valley, before starting the first few switchbacks of the Alpe d'Huez, but peeling off onto a side road to ride back towards the bottom of Les D