My Cycling Challenge http://www.cycling-challenge.com Cycling in the Alps Sat, 10 Dec 2016 15:06:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7 Cycling Above the Clouds and Sunsets http://www.cycling-challenge.com/cycling-above-the-clouds-and-sunsets/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/cycling-above-the-clouds-and-sunsets/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 11:39:09 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=18077 Lately, I’ve been enjoying some good “photo shoots.” As happens here in November/December, most days have been overcast, dank, and miserable down low. But higher nothing but glorious sunshine. Last week I had fun with sunset photos as well as cycling-above-the-clouds photos, which then inspired me to try and combine the two.

First, the inspiration: Behind where I live the roads go up steeply, and just a few minutes away there are some nice spots for sunset pics.

Separately, higher up, Mont Salève offers endless views above the clouds of the Jura mountains, the Alps, etc.

A favourite “secret” road above Geneva (La Thuile)

Mont Blanc

Lake Annecy is below the distant clouds

My Tiny Bike and the Juras

Last weekend, exploring off-road atop Mont Salève I came upon this fabulous view. (The tricky part of photo is ensuring my profile is against the clouds and not the dark ground).

As I took in this fabulous location I couldn’t help thinking how perfect it would be for a sunset shot. But I couldn’t quite convince myself to hang around in the cold and wait two more hours. 🙂 So I decided to return another day. And it was worth the effort.

The view is near the Parapenter launch point

Happy Bike

I am a little nervous riding in the dark, especially as the descent from here includes 4 kms at 12% – around dark hairpins – below Croisette. But I was able to dash down before it was completely dark.

I am truly fortunate to live below such a great mountain with such diverse views.

PS – in the below photo I have just emerged from the clouds on a very low-cloud day. On the distant right is the part of Mont Salève where I took the top sunset profile photo.

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Col des Annes and Col de la Colombière http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-des-annes-and-col-de-la-colombiere/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-des-annes-and-col-de-la-colombiere/#respond Sun, 04 Dec 2016 15:54:54 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=18037 It’s not ski season yet! A very fun ride up the super steep (paved) Col des Annes, then an unpaved traverse through some Le Grand Bornand ski slopes into the next valley, and finally a quick dash up the currently closed Col de la Colombière.

Beyond dressing appropriately, the best advice for cycling in the Alps in winter? Pick south/west facing climbs (low sun means dark/cold north-facing roads), wait for a sunny day, and no recent snow.

Col des Annes is one of the highest paved roads in Haute Savoie (1721 metres) – the super high north French Alps stuff is further south in Savoie. It is a dead-end side road that starts in Le Grand Bornand – on the Route des Grandes Alpes. .

It’s very steep, but quiet and scenic. In summer there are a couple of nice restaurants at the summit and hiking everywhere.

It was cold, but sunny. It hadn’t snowed in some time and I was hopeful the route would be open to the col. The first few easy kilometres pass the cross country skiing and biathlon area, then the road turns up. Tough. On the right (south) the Aravis Alps towered above. Beautiful.

out of focus :(

out of focus 🙁

After some hairpins, the route straightens out and the Col is visible in the distance.

Col des Annes in view above

Col des Annes above

With perhaps a kilometre to go the road finally showed signs of winter. I could generally find a lane but I walked a couple of nasty looking ice stretches

Careful!  But scenic.

Careful! But scenic.

The paved road ends at Col des Annes, although – in summer – it is possible to descend the far side on a mountain bike to Reposoir (half way up Col de la Colombière north side). But it’s tricky and technical – requires some hiking. See here.

I pushed the bike above the col and fooled around briefly with the camera:

Above Col des Annes

Above Col des Annes

Next, from the Col I joined a hiking path that leads slightly up onto a ridge that is part of the Le Grand Bornand ski area. I needed to walk a lot of this, but the snow wasn’t deep and occasionally it was even clear enough to easily ride:

Col des Annes behind on left

Col des Annes behind on left

On the ridge is the top of several ski lifts. I followed a track made by a snow-mobile and eventually came to a gravel road that descended the far side. I passed a fantastic artificial lake. (for snow making?)

Col de la Colombière directly below/right of those peaks behind me

Col de la Colombière directly below/right of those peaks behind me

This gravel road eventually joins the main Route des Grandes Alpes road perhaps 3 kilometres below the summit of Col de la Colombière. The road up to Colombière was closed here but it was completely clear, so I continued higher.

Tour de France graffiti

Tour de France graffiti

Perhaps 1.5 kms from the summit I passed some great artwork on a bridge. A young Bernard Hinault!

Near top of COl de la Colombière

There were a few shaded sections where the road was completely covered in snow. But all were very easy “portages.” Woohoo, a traffic-free road.

Finally, I just descended back down the main road back to Le Grand Bornand. Cycling the Alps in winter takes some planning. I had a good foot/finger strategy, I had waited for perfect weather, and I was ultra cautious on various slippery/ice stretches. But on a day like this, winter cycling is special.

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Mont Salève Above the Clouds http://www.cycling-challenge.com/mont-saleve-above-the-clouds/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/mont-saleve-above-the-clouds/#comments Sun, 27 Nov 2016 18:34:06 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=18019 Mont Salève is my home mountain, I cycle it a lot without usually posting, but I was pleased with today’s photos. 🙂

We are in the time of year where it is often dark, overcast, and depressing down low. But sometimes it is possible to cycle above the clouds into glorious sunshine. I am lucky enough to live at the foot of Mont Salève. So I headed up, soon entering the clouds:

heading higher

heading higher

After a long, great climb through some woods the route reaches a lookout with the first peek at Alpine peaks. I was in no rush and would leave the main road and have some fun with my mini tripod. Lake Annecy can be seen from here on a clear day. It is directly above my head (Le Semnoz is loaf of bread to the right).

Lake Annecy in distance behind me, below the clouds

I often go on about why Mont Salève is a fun mountain for cycling – a main reason: there are several kilometres of road run along the top with views of the Jura mountains on one side, and the Alps on the other.

See here for details of all five road bikes route up Mont Salève. And see here for a bunch of mountain bike routes up Mont Salève.

Below are the Jura mountains (my house directly below the clouds, and Geneva below on the right. (I was quite happy with this photo, I jumped over a barrier, placed camera on a fence post, and rode along a steep field).

Jura mountains in distance, Geneva below/right

Further on, an Alps view. Mont Blanc. (another fence post, field dash)

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

But the views from the road are great too.

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Mont Blanc and the Alps from the top of Mont Salève

Mont Blanc and the Alps from the top of Mont Salève

See this 3D video of today’s ride:

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Autumn Cycling http://www.cycling-challenge.com/autumn-is-over/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/autumn-is-over/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 18:07:11 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=17961 I haven’t posted a ride in a while, but I have been doing lots of local cycling on trails, as well as various routes up Mont Salève. It’s been cold, wet, windy, sunny, warmer, foggy, snowy, etc. I love autumn on a bike. Some photos:

My Favourite Local Hairpin:

My Favourite Local Hairpin

Snow rides atop Mont Salève:

Atop Mont Salève

Enjoying a sunset with my neighbour (moo):

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Autumn Colours:

autumn-trails

Cycling past Cows:

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Happy to be above the clouds:

above Flaine

above Flaine

Perfect Autumn Jura ride with Tim:

Perfect Autumn ride with Tim
Sadly, hay surfing season is pretty much over:

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I survived an attack by a pack of ferocious dogs:

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It’s been a great autumn. But I must admit, being Canadian, I am looking forward to winter. Enjoy!

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2017 “Cycling the Alps” Calendars http://www.cycling-challenge.com/2017-cycling-the-alps-calendars/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/2017-cycling-the-alps-calendars/#respond Sun, 06 Nov 2016 18:22:27 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=17927 Busy doing your Christmas shopping? Looking for a 2017 alpine cycling calendar? Well look no further.

Here are three calendars with my favourite photos of 2016. The first: Cycling the Alps , the second Alpine Lakes, and finally an “Alpine Cows” Calendar.

A few quick points:

  1. All photos were taken by me in 2016.
  2. I am making no money from this. The price is just what is charged by the printing company.
  3. I am not (even remotely) a professional photographer. All the photos are taken using a decent digital camera. But the quality of the photos has turned out well. This is just for fun.
  4. I have chosen a printing company that is inexpensive and has global delivery options – I have used them the last 4 years, selling a few hundred – and people seemed quite satisfied with print quality. Orders are placed directly with them.
  5. Lulu, the publisher, almost always has coupon codes available to lower the price. The code FWD15 should currently give you 15% off. If it has expired, just use google for a new code.

Each calendar has 13 photos: a cover, and one for each month. You can preview all photos in the slide shows below. For an overview at the store of all my available calendars – Click Here, or see the calendar specific links below. The purchase links also lead you to a page where you can preview the photos in calendar format (as shown below).

Here are slideshows of all photos used in the 3 calendars (each available in two sizes).

#1 Cycling the Alps

  1. Small size: $9.99 (11″x17″) – To Order Click Here
  2. Large size:$18.99 (13.5″x19″) – To Order Click Here


#2 Alpine Lakes with Bikes

  1. Small size: $9.99 (11″x17″) – To Order Click Here
  2. Large size: $18.99 (13.5″x19″) – To Order Click Here

#3 Alpine Cows Calendar

Moo! Yes this is my favourite of the three calendars. 😉

  1. Small size: 9.99 (11″x17″) – To Order Click Here
  2. Large size: $18.99 (13.5″x19″) – To Order Click Here

Maybe a Donkey calendar next year?

A Donkey Leading His Sheep

A Donkey Leading His Sheep

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Col de Balme, Col des Posettes Loop http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-de-balme-col-des-posettes-loop/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-de-balme-col-des-posettes-loop/#respond Mon, 31 Oct 2016 20:07:42 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=17827 Starting from Chamonix in the shadow of Mont Blanc, this fantastic loop is almost entirely on trails or unpaved roads. Views to die for and occasionally very, very steep.

Chamonix is sometimes called the adventure capital of Europe. Skiing, mountain climbing, parapente, etc. But it’s a lousy place for road biking – a busy main road through and not much else. Mountain-biking can also be tough as steep mountains on each side of the valley limit roads. But there are definitely a few spectacular options with some planning. And this route is one of the best.

I started near the trail-head of a few signed mtb trails and followed one through interesting, quiet, forest gravel roads/trails towards Argentière. I didn’t take many photos lower down, but this 12 kilometre stretch was a lot of fun.

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Above Argentière, I very briefly joined the main road for a few hairpins leading to Col des Montets (note a trail option is possible just right of the paved road, a touch steep). Just short of the Col I noticed a little lake with great views:

My tiny bike

My tiny bike

From the Col, I immediately left the main road joining a superb trail descending towards Vallorcine. Great autumn colours, even the coniferous trees go orange here.

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I left this trail near Vallorcine turning up onto a gravel road that is basically a ski-lift service road leading all the way up to Col des Posettes (1997 metres) and then Col de Balme (2204 metres) – both labeled on the map. It’s bumpy and occasionally very steep, but deserted and increasingly beautiful. The route runs against the Swiss border and I could see the beautiful Barrage (dam) d’Emosson in the distance (it was in the Tour de France in 2016 – climb details here).

I found a fantastic bench beside a hairpin looking straight at the dam so I enjoyed a nice break.

Nice Bench!

Nice Bench!

Emosson Dam in distance

Emosson Dam in distance

Reaching Col des Posettes the views change as the snow covered peaks of Mont Blanc and Les Grandes Jorasses come into view over the far side.

Top middle is Glacier du Tour

Top middle is Glacier du Tour

Woohoo

Woohoo

It’s a magnificent environment. Col de Balme is exactly the French / Swiss border. While today the road linking Chamonix and the Swiss Valais is much lower, via Col des Montets, historically this was the route taken – to avoid the then impassable gorges below. There is a little board with some history. For example French refugees crossing the Col in deep snow as defeated Napoleonic forces fled the Austrians.

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From Col de Balme I began the long journey back to Chamonix. The top half of the descent is super scenic, the bottom half scarily steep. I have cycled up it a couple of times – see here. Both previous times were simple up/downs, but this loop via Montets is far superior and I’d say climbing to Balme from the Vallorcine side is a little bit more ride-able than directly from Argentière ….. but both are awesome.

Again, returning to Chamonix I mainly took trails. In fact, I was super pleased with the lower trails at both the start and end of this ride. So much better than the busy-ish main road. See map at top for details.

A 3D video of ride:

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Lac de Pormenaz and Refuge Moëde (Above Plaine Joux) http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-pormenaz-and-refuge-moede-above-plaine-joux/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-pormenaz-and-refuge-moede-above-plaine-joux/#respond Wed, 05 Oct 2016 14:47:53 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=17750
plainejoux200 moede200

Yes, I have been going through an “Alpine Lake” phase recently. 🙂

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This is another route that starts with an interesting road bike climb but then continues much higher on gravel roads. So I’ve added profiles at right for both the paved climb, and the entire climb to the high point near Le Refuge Moëde.

The ride starts near Sallanches but climbs the other side of the valley from the climbs to Bettex and to Megève that both appeared in the 2016 Tour de France. It’s roughly 14 paved kilometres to the little ski station at Plaine Joux. There are a few choices for the early kilometres but I soon joined the main road that include nice cycling kilometre markers – see map below. It’s not the steepest climb, but interesting: plenty of hairpins and killer views of nearby Mont Blanc.

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“Joux” is an old north Alps word for mountain forest. Don’t confuse Plaine Joux with Col de Joux Plane.

At Plaine Joux (1352 metres) are several restaurants, parking, and an incredible launch spot for parapenters – so I stopped to enjoy.

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

The real fun begins here. From Plaine Joux I joined a gravel road that initially steeply heads up a little ski slope. Throughout this climb I would have Mont Blanc far to the right and on my immediate left the imposing Rochers des Fiz mountain ridge/wall above me on my immediate left. I wouldn’t get a good photo of this huge dolomite-looking ridge until I was much higher.

At roughly 1600 metres there is a fun, flattish stretch, through the rocks, then passing some farms/chalets. And then the gravel road gets super steep – see profile above. While the route is generally completely ride-able, I had to walk some stretches here. But it’s a fantastic road.

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The high point of the road is just above 2000 metres. It then traverses to Le Refuge Moëde at 2002 metres. Here there are trails in all directions: straight up to Col d’Anterne, continuing to Chalet d’Ecuelle, down the far valley, etc. But I chose a fun ridge trail that leads to Lac de Pormenaz.

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It’s perhaps 70% ride-able and passes Col de Laouchet (1940) along the way. “Bagging a Col” of course made me very happy:

1940 metres

Col de Laouchet – 1940 metres

I would hike around the lake on a small trail. But BEWARE there are a few places that require very tricky bike carrying scrambling up and down some rocks. So avoid this tiny loop if this is not your thing.

The lake is beautiful and worth the detour. While views of Mont Blanc are blocked, views of Les Rochers des Fiz are perfect.

Spot My Bike

Above: Spot My Bike

lac-de-pormenaz

I double back from the lake to Refuge Moëde passing a few smaller lakes along the way:

lac-le-laouchet

It’s occasionally a tricky descent on the steep stretches so jogged here and there. But it’s so much fun despite the occasional traffic:

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As I reached the little plateau near 1600 metres with the old buildings I turned down onto a different gravel road – see map below. This eventually reaches a stretch that has been closed due to avalanches. It’s fenced off but passable/fine on bike.

I reached Plaine Joux and returned to the parapenter take-off zone to enjoy the views.

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Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

Finally, descending the paved road I took an alternate route (there are several for the lower 2/3s). They are all fine.

This fantastic route is one to save for a sunny day as it’s spectacular throughout and it would be a shame if clouds blocked Mont Blanc. Again, the 14 kilometre paved climb is good, but as is often the case, the real fun is higher on unpaved “roads.”

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Mont Salève – The Mountain Bike Routes http://www.cycling-challenge.com/mont-saleve-the-mountain-bike-routes/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/mont-saleve-the-mountain-bike-routes/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2016 21:30:14 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=17859 Mont Salève is a wonderful mountain for cycling. In Haute Savoie, France, it over-looks Geneva, Switzerland – it’s my “home mountain.” The cool part of this massif: one can ride several kilometres along the top, providing views of Mont Blanc and the Alps in one direction and Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and the Jura mountains in the other.

A few years ago I detailed the five road bike routes up Mont Salève – see here. But there are also all sorts of mountain bike options. I’ll map and describe several below. If I’ve missed anything interesting feel free to let me know in the comments.

To begin: there are three signed mountain bike routes that can be linked to make a huge loop, roughly 50 kilometres (see video at bottom). Warning!  These are not perfectly signed routes. You will almost certainly get lost without help.  So below I’ll provide a link to gpx file and detailed map for all three.

Signed Route #1
voila1

The blue route on the map. 9.5 kms, 290 metres ascent.. GPX/Map.

This loop starts and finishes at Col de la Croisette passing the Cable Car/Télépherique station roughly half way through the loop. It’s entirely up high, always above 1000 metres of altitude. Note, this route partly overlaps with the orange route – examine the map closely.

The trails ride both sides of the summit giving both Alps views and wonderful views of Geneva and the lake:

17135187187_14aff478a5_b

Signed Route #2
voila2

The red route on the map. 12 kms, 775 metres ascent.. GPX/Map.

This segment starts at the base of the mountain near the bottom of the cable car and climbs to the top station at 1097 metres. It is almost entirely on wooded trails. Lower down, it takes a great forest track beside the auto-route to cleverly avoid all traffic.

Much of the climb follows the ancient funicular/railroad line that climbed the mountain from the 1890’s until the 1930’s. Warning though, the top half is extremely steep with two kilometres average +20% – much of it too steep and slippery for me to pedal. You could avoid this stretch by taking the paved road between Monnetier and the Téléphérique.

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Signed Route #3

The orange route on the map. 31 kms, 860 metres ascent, 1500 metres descent. GPX/Map.

This incredible trail begins at Col de la Croisette initially riding along the top of the south section of the mountain. Very fun.

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At Col des Pitons the route enters the woods descending to the farm at La Thuile which overlooks the Geneva side of the mountain. Often in autumn here the road is in sunshine above the clouds:

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From La Thuile the road next takes a fairly crazy trail down to St. Blaise. Personally, I prefer a detour to this steep descent. The pink track on the map provides a superb, far more ride-able alternative, primarily on trails (it’s the top photo of this article). But either option works well.

Lower down, past St. Blaise, is a fantastic stretch on farm roads that eventually pass through the old Chartreuse de Pomier monastery grounds. It’s part of the Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle trail – be considerate to hikers. We’re near my home, I ride this section happily all the time. Past Beaumont, the trail then goes up into the woods on sometimes tricky wooded trails in an attempt to avoid traffic. This is the toughest technical section of any of the three routes. But it’s deserted, and worth the effort.

Near Pomier

Near Pomier

South Edge of Salève

The brown route on the map. 16.5 kms, 570 metres ascent/descent. GPX/Map. GPX/Map.

The south edge of Mont Salève is full of trails. This loop hits many of them. All wooded and peaceful.

Deep Woods

Deep Woods

Petit Salève

The purple route on the map. 10.7 kms, 530/429 metres ascent/descent. GPX/Map. GPX/Map.

Le Petit Salève is the smaller massif on the north side. Plenty of bumpy trails. The high point is 899 metres at Camp des Allobroges – names after an iron-age Celtic tribe settlement/fort here. How cool is that?

View from Camp des Allobroges

View from Camp des Allobroges

Above Beaumont

The green route on the map. 7 kms, 640 metres ascent. GPX/Map. GPX/Map.

This little known route is an old farm road. Occasionally very steep, with a short stretch of bike carrying. But a lot of fun. It joins the paved road near 1300 metres. From there one could join Signed Route #3.

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Final Thoughts

I’m fortunate to live on the edge of this great mountain. From a cycling perspective, it’s incredible how many route options there are …. for both road and mountain bikes. Hopefully this post gives a few people an idea or two to explore.

Here’s a 3d video of a route that does much of all three signed routes. The photos are slightly unsynched and we’re all taken atop the mountain.

An old tourist brochure page:

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Colle del Nivolet http://www.cycling-challenge.com/colle-del-nivolet-2/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/colle-del-nivolet-2/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:37:29 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=17689 nivolet250

For me, this is the most beautiful cycling climb in the Alps. Magical.

Colle del Nivolet is a gigantic climb in Piemonte, Italy in the heart of the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso. It was built between 1953 and 1963 to service the two hydroelectric dams up high. The national park, along with the Vanoise National Park (the connected French side of the highest mountains here – think Col de l’Iseran), make up one of the largest protected natural areas in Europe. Apparently the wild ibix here migrate between the two countries.

Colle del Nivolet is the 3rd highest paved road in Italy at 2612 metres. I believe it’s the 10th highest paved road in Europe.

See here for the 10 highest paved cycling climbs in Italy

Alpine dams/lakes, loads of sexy hairpins, and stunning snow covered mountains. Woohoo!

colle-del-nivolet-2

The first time I cycled Nivolet I started in Locana 40 kilometres from the summit. But the first 12 kms or so are quite uninteresting on a narrow road, with local traffic, etc. so I skipped them this time. It’s fine if you are touring, just nothing special. In fact you can start climbing 55 kilometres from the summit and enjoy a long stretch of 1% to warm up the legs.

I only had my hybrid with me, but this is of course a road bike climb.

This time I began in Noasca, just before the first steep kilometres, perhaps 28 kms from the summit. Almost immediately there is a 3 kilometre uphill tunnel – with a sign warning of 15% stretches, damn. But there is a way to bypass the tunnel on a fun old road. Just follow the road to the left of the tunnel entrance (see map at bottom) until you see a giant boulder:

The old road starts behind this boulder

The old road starts behind this boulder – it is paved

Along this old road there are house-sized boulders everywhere – I understand why they built a tunnel. It’s of course bumpy, but it is fine for a road bike. It passes by a scenic gorge, and is far more enjoyable than a long, uphill tunnel.

Note, after a couple of kilometres you are forced to climb into the tunnel. Just ride for 100 metres and then climb out on the left for the old road again. 🙂 After another kilometre the old road re-joins the main road at the tunnel exit.

Next, after a few easy kilometres is Ceserole Reale, the final significant town. There is a huge dam and lake. A hint of things to come.

Lago di Ceserole - 1528 metres

Lago di Ceserole – 1528 metres

There are a few easy kilometres, and then things becomes truly special. The toughest part of the climb is the 5 kilometres leading to the next dam, all averaging above 9% with hairpins in every direction.

still a long way to go, but getting great

still a long way to go, but getting great

I don’t know what these weed things are called, but things were very red at this stretch:

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The road goes ride by the big Diga (dam) Lago Serrù at 2275 metres. See the sign in small photo above: from this point the road is closed to motorised traffic every Saturday in summer. Wow, very nice especially considering touring motor-cyclists love it here.

2275 metres, on way to Colle del Nivolet

Lago di Serrù – 2275 metres

Next the road actually rides across the dam of Lago Agnel (2300 metres).

Lago Agnel, looking back.  Road rides across the dam

Lago Agnel, looking back.

Up to this point, this has already been a memorable, challenging and beautiful climb. But these final 4 kilometres ……. wow. Here’s a close up of the first few hairpins above Lago Agnel:

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The final few hairpins give ever better/higher views of the two lakes below. Yes, I spent some time scrambling up rocks with my mini tripod. I needed all 30 seconds of my camera’s timer. 🙂

My favourite view from a bike

My favourite view from a bike

30 second timer!

Higher up. 30 second timer!

The Italian Job leaning bus scene was shot roughly here

The Italian Job leaning bus scene was shot roughly here

There are quite a few other lakes here and there, including two fairly large ones and a couple of small ones just over the far side called Laghi del Nivolet (Lakes of Nivolet).

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Beyond that second lake the paved road ends but a rough road continues into the Aosta region. It is “possible” to traverse down into the Valsaverenche. But it requires a super steep hike down for a stretch before reaching the village of Pont (1968 meters). I once cycled up to Pont from the very far side and began the hike to Nivolet but I ran out of light and turned back. See here.

Colle del Nivolet has never been in the Giro – I assume because it’s in the middle of a National Park, so it is not as famous as Stelvio, Gavia, or other great Italian roads. But again, for me, it is the most beautiful cycling climb in the Alps.

Near the start of the climb to Nivolet is a fabulous “secret” road to another high alpine dam. Lago di Teleccio. Highly recommended. See here.

Indulge me, a few more photos:

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Lago di Teleccio http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lago-di-teleccio/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lago-di-teleccio/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 17:53:19 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=17658 telecc250

This is a fantastic little known climb to a high alpine dam in Piemonte, Italy. It’s a steep (I do mean steep!), narrow little road that starts next to the beginning of the road to the legendary Colle del Nivolet.

It’s easy to miss the start, don’t expect a sign (see map at bottom). It’s tough immediately with 6 quick, ferocious hairpins. There are a few tiny hamlets early on. How do people get up this in winter? About half way up the route is signed as dangerous, private, no cars without authorisation. Great!

This reminded me of Lac Cap de Long – my favourite climb in the Pyrénees.

The entire road is paved. I’d describe it as “adequate” for a road bike. Fine (but tighten your brakes).

Perhaps halfway the dam comes into view. It was hazy, and this photo isn’t great, but at that exact moment I knew this was going to be fun. The dam was way up there!

Dam far in the distance

Dam far in the distance

The valley is sort of a three-sided amphi-theatre. In France this would be called a cirque. The last few kilometres hairpin up the left side. It’s spectacular.

Woohoo

Woohoo

After this great stretch of hairpins, I thought I was almost there. But as I came over a ledge I saw the dam was still much higher.

Almost

Almost

The road now snakes up the right side, heading through a couple of small tunnels. And finally a bunch of quick hairpins before reaching the top of the dam.

Tunnel!

Tunnel!

Big dam

Big dam

It was forbidden to walk across the dam. Damn. But there is a gravel road along the right side of the lake. It leads to a hiking trail that climbs out of the cirque to a rifugio. I rode a couple hundred metres just for fun and the views.

img_5237-version-2

Note, the sign in photo below, the dam (diga) and lake is also called Telessio.

Here’s a 3D video of the ride. No making fun of my average speed!

This was a great surprise, as great as I’d hoped. Challenging, remote, and spectacular. Too much fun. I highly recommend it to anyone that comes to this area to ride Colle del Nivolet. (I had planned to descend and ride up Nivolet but black clouds came rolling in and I just made it down as it started to rain).

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