Three days with distressingly late starts - I'm tired, dammit - took me from the shores of Lake Geneva over the spine of the Alps to the edge of the Po valley. From Vevey it was am easy wind-assisted run up to the World Cycling Centre at Aigle, where I lunched and said hello to some of our translation clients, before carrying on up the banks of the Rhone to Martigny and then up the trafficky main road to Sembrancher where the Great St Bernard pass starts for real. I decided to get a little way up the col that evening, not least because that's where the hotels are, so I stopped at Orsieres, some 1550 metres below the summit, for fondue and bed.
The next day was simple and predictable. I didn't get on the road until after 11, which was a bit of a mistake, but anyway. Little ring, just keep pushing, look back now and then to be surprised by how much height you've gained, stop for a breather now and then. There was much less traffic than I'd feared. Up to Bourg St Pierre the climb is pleasantly rural up the valley of the Drance, then there is a long easier but less pleasant section in avalanche shelters (which did at least keep the drizzle off as I approached the cloud base).
By now it was getting decidedly chilly, and I added some layers at the point where the main road traffic heads off into the tunnel, leaving just a few idiots to climb the last 550 metres on the old road through the cloud to the sanctuary at the pass. As you climb that height in about 6 km, and oxygen is a bit harder to find than I'm used to, it was quite hard going, not helped by my bike's not running comfortably in bottom gear; 30x23 is very definitely not low enough on a fully laden bike.
Anyway, I got up there in fits and starts, and piled in to the restaurant with two German blokes who had caught and passed me a couple of km before the summit for a bowl of restaurative pasta. Then it was a case of putting on just about every bit of clothing I had for the descent. The Swiss border guard waved me through, and the Italian one didn't look up from his paperwork. The old road on the Italian side is being repaired with several sets of lights as well as random trenches and patches of gravel, so it was relatively sedate by my standards until I reached the main road again, where I did get over 70 kph once or twice. The weather in Italy was a lot warmer so I arrived among the t-shirt wearers of Aosta wearing four jackets, gloves and a wooly hat. I expect they're used to it.
I bottled out of going any further that evening, thus giving the Alps one last chance to present the sting in the tail in the form of a howling headwind for 40 km down the valley to Pont St Martin, where i was sometimes using much the same gears going downhill as I had going up the day before. It was late afternoon when it died down and I stopped for the night at Ivrea, where the mountains meet the plain.