When you hear cyclists talking of great Cols, it is like they are talking about family members.
They often become dewy eyed, filled with love and affection, but not all of them.
Some riders become still and quiet with an awkward smile.
They may even change the subject or get angry.
Looking from the lower valley bottoms of the Alps the mountains rear up, each with their own characteristics.
The craggy rocks, scree slopes and patches of woodland presenting an almost human facade.
Like all families there are individuals that are more popular than others.
Ones that everyone likes like Alpe d'huez which are warm, engaging and hospitable.
Then there are others - the ones you avoid and only whisper their names
Periodically you may agree to see them out of a sense of duty.
It rarely goes as planned and sometimes you regret it immediately.
As you travel to see them your palms sweat, you feel sick and your lungs struggle to contain any oxygen.
The desire to turn your back and move away is not uncommon and should never be seen as a character flaw.
Proper dialogue is challenging as sentences are cut short by cruel barbs, interruptions, and the sheer presence of such obstacles.
The Col de Galibier holds such a presence.
Like a spiteful mother in law who will never accept you and reminds you that your just not good enough.
As with all family politics, alliances can help you to get close and in the case of Galibier, the Col du Telegraphe is an obvious go between.
Like a sympathetic relation who takes pity on you, always has the kettle on, and a cake fresh from the oven.
As you come into St Michael de Maurienne you know that the family engagement is about to start and you find yourself trying to work out how things might play out.
There was no obvious cut within the towering rock face to the south west but that was the direction the multiple signs were pointing.
Turning right onto the D902 I took a big gulp of undiluted oxygen and made my initial introduction to the Col du Telegraphe.
With an average gradient of 7.4% over 878 meters the meeting was not at all hostile.
The gradient gradually increased enabling you to ease into a comfortable rhythm.
The multiple soft bends soon acquired elevation where the wide industrial valley soon seemed far behind and below us.
In the shadows of thick forrest the morning air remained cool, despite the raising thermometer and the climb was enjoyable.
Well .......... as enjoyable as it could be for a human Labrador, seasoned cake eater and somebody who constantly fought gravity.
As we approached the summit at 12 km the forrest thinned out providing a hint of what lay ahead.
An increasing temperature, and a more barren and inhospitable terrain.
Monsieur Telegraph was very accommodating. He allowed us to have a brief respite descending into Valloire for lunch before providing a personal introduction to Mademoiselle Galibier.
Although the Galibier may have some natural beauty, she is so savage and unpredictable that she could never be fully tamed. I'm not sure there is another col that would be her mate.
Our ascent started just after lunch with the temperature reaching 32 degrees with no wind.
In such conditions a siesta in a dark air conditioned room would not seem inappropriate - not 18 km of climbing another 1216 meters to the summit at 2646 meters.
Although the average gradient was only 7% over the whole climb, this was distorted by a couple of flatter sections after leaving Valloire.
Most of the km markers thereafter were 8 or 9% but with the heat they felt double that.
In baking heat the long straits created the occasional mirage in the road, where for me any watery palm tree oasis was replaced by exotic ice cream parlours.
When I rode that, it was cool and my only impediment was gravitational.
On this day there were multiple impediments.
I counted down each km where the time between each increased with my fatigue.
Up until then Mademoiselle Galibier had just been ignoring me by turning her back and just being plain ignorant.
Acknowledging my apparent belligerent perseverance she now turned around and faced me.
She was not happy.
She rebuked me shouting out 'Vous êtes cycliste? non c'est impossible'
Her words were accompanied by a defiant slap of twisting broken tarmac.
The gradient increased along with the temperature.
Her rage was such that she sucked up the greater share of available oxygen leaving me gasping for each breath I could take.
Vous êtes cycliste? non c'est impossible,Vous êtes cycliste? non c'est impossible,
The words resonated with me, but rather than defeat me, they just spurred me on.
On the last km she gave it her very best hitting me with a 10% sting.
Thankfully I had my friends around me to deflect the blow.
As I crested the col I was reminded that in life we have to put up with our families,
no matter what they throw at us.
But thankfully we always get to choose our friends.