My Cycling Challenge » Cycling the French Alps http://www.cycling-challenge.com Cycling in the Alps Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:32:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3 Sanctuaire Notre Dame de la Salette and Col de Parquetout http://www.cycling-challenge.com/sanctuaire-notre-dame-de-la-salette-and-col-de-parquetout/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/sanctuaire-notre-dame-de-la-salette-and-col-de-parquetout/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 09:17:20 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14401 parque250Two quiet, scenic climbs in the Hautes Alpes region of France, both starting from the village of Corps on the Route Napoleon.

The climb to Notre Dame de la Salette is a big, wide road, but barely a car. The weather was supposed to be 100% sunny, but unfortunately I got caught in a cloud that wouldn’t clear. So the famous views from the summit were mainly a rumour.

1757 metres: The views are supposed to be superb.  :)

1757 metres: The views are supposed to be superb. :)

In 1950, an airplane with 51 people, 49 Canadian, crashed into nearby peak Grande Tête de l’Obiou. The victims are buried at a very well tended cemetery/memorial a few kilometres along the road.

IMG_1530 - Version 2

The climb is not too steep, but has plenty of nice curves:

Road to Sanctuaire Notre Dame de la Salette

Road to Sanctuaire Notre Dame de la Salette

Foggy, near the summit of Notre Dame de la Salette

Foggy, near the summit of Notre Dame de la Salette

In 1846, two children had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Long story short: There is a now the Sanctuaire and Basilica – built in the 1850’s – perched in a spectacular location at almost 1800 metres.

Notre Dame de la Salette

Notre Dame de la Salette

I had considered bringing a mountain bike as I “think” it “might” be possible to get over the ride behind the sanctuary. But given the fog, it was probably a good decision to be on a road bike.

Half Way up - Notre Dame de la Salette Hay Man Notre Dame de la Salette Route Napoleon

Two more interesting Italian cycling climbs: Santuario di Oropa is the largest Santuario in the Alps – details here. Santuario Sant’Anna claims to be the highest Santuario in the Alps – details here.

I descended back to Corps. It’s a very nice village with several inviting restaurants. I kept it simple and had a panini and then set off again towards Col de Parquetout.

My mapped route below is excellent. A very, very quiet, scenic road that takes several kilometres to join the main west side of Col de Parquetout.

Near Col de Parquetout

Near Col de Parquetout

First, the road would climb past Col de l’Holme – 1208 metres – before gently climbing to Parquetout. I haven’t put the profile for the west side of Parquetout as my route was a fairle gently climb perhaps 550 metres of ascent over 14kms, roughly 4% average.

parque250

Strangely, Col de Parquetout is at 1382 metres but then immediately heads steeply UP to roughly 1450 metres before descending down a very, very steep road through the woods. I was quite scared descending, mainly because I realised I would have to turn around and climb this monster (see profile above). Hard work, but I was pleased that I had descended to the bottom of the far valley.

Parquetout:  Steep, but quiet

Parquetout – Steep, but quiet

Road to Col de Parquetout

Road to Col de Parquetout

There is no easy way to make a loop and avoiding the busy Route Napoleon, so I just cheerfully returned to Corps the way I had come.

Hay Surfing Parquetout IMG_1542 - Version 2
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Surprisingly (ha!) my time to Notre Dame de la Salette wasn’t in the Strava Top 10.

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Lac de Mauvoisin and Above http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-mauvoisin-and-above/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-mauvoisin-and-above/#comments Sun, 23 Aug 2015 11:28:49 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14365

I’ve been a little un-motivated recently, so I decided I to ride an old favourite route to cheer me up.

Starting from Le Châble – the start for Verbier – there is a much better climb: The 20 kilometres up to the barrage (dam) and lac de Mauvoisin. The road is paved and a great route. But I brought a mountain bike as the real fun starts above the dam – even if it took me a long, long time just to reach the barrage (1970 metres). Note: The profile above is only until the dam. The route goes 14 kilometres further into the remote Valais Alps.

Wikipedia says the barrage de Mauvoisin is the 11th tallest dam in the world (6th highest arch dam), and second tallest in Europe (there are several huge dams in the region including a bigger one on the far side of these mountains: La Grande Dixence).

The road bike climb is excellent in its own right – despite a “scary” tunnel or two. Half way up in the last village (Fionnay) is a smaller dam/lake. There is an enticing view of the dam several kilometres from the summit that kept me motivated. A few photos from below the dam:

I next entered a tunnel allowing me to get on top of the dam.

IMG_0080 - Version 2

Most people turn around here, but there is a little tunnel in the mountain from the dam – maybe 1.5 kilometres long. It’s lit, and has the occasional window, but it required some courage from this tunnel coward:

LONG -- secret passage to trail beside Lac de Mauvoisin

LONG — secret passage to trail beside Lac de Mauvoisin

When the tunnel ends, the real fun begins. It exits well above the water and follows the length of the 5 kilometre long lake. It’s beautiful, remote, fantastic.

Lac de Mauvoisin (1)

At the end of the lake, the road begins to rise again. Below: Looking back, the lake slowly disappears from view:

Tip of Lac de Mauvoisin in distance

There are a couple of great hairpin stretches. This is the best one:

Hairpin Heaven

Hairpin Heaven

At roughly 2300 metres there is a plateau. The road can get to 2500 metres at Chanrion just above. I’d ridden it before, so instead I decided to follow a “road” I’d noticed that headed deeper into the mountains.

near Chanrion

near Chanrion

It’s only a couple of kilometres until the road ends at a tiny dam, well below the Glacier d’Epicoune. But it’s worth the exploration.

Glacier d'Epicoune above

Glacier d’Epicoune above

Here is my best attempt at an artsy photo:

near Chanrion

near Chanrion

You’ll have to excuse me for so many photos, but I was enjoying myself. So, finally a few more:

Note, see map: from Fionnay, I descended for a few kilometres on a different road than I’d climbed. Fully paved, very scenic.

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Col du Jandri (Glacier de Mont-de-Lans) http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-du-jandri-glacier-de-mont-de-lans/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-du-jandri-glacier-de-mont-de-lans/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 17:18:54 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14320 This is the highest I have ever been on a bike – 3158 metres. Woohoo!

jandri700

Col du Jandri is the second highest road – paved or unpaved – in Europe (Pico del Veleta in Spain is the highest). It is a service road for the various ski lifts and cable cars of Les Deux Alpes ski station.

I started just below Les Deux Alpes. However, you could add 11 kilometres and another 700+ metres of ascent by starting down the main road in Clapiers (the same valley as Bourg d’Oisans).

From Les Deux Alpes the paved road soon ends, becoming a decent quality gravel road for the entire route. Although signed as closed to motor traffic, there was the very occasional car/truck, mainly service vehicles.

This was my 4th time reaching 3000+ metres by bike. The best of the four is probably Colle del Sommeiller because of it’s beauty and given the entire route is ride-able. But Mont Chaberton is a vertiginous adventure, and Col du Caron is very fun as well.

The first few kilometres hairpin up the side of ski slopes above town. Several ski lifts and cable cars were open, most providing lazy downhill mountain bikers a ride up … all the way to the summit. While generally they stayed on groomed VTT trails, I would be passed by the occasional descender all ride.

Lazy Downhill Biker

Lazy Downhill Biker

Nice Hairpin

Nice Hairpin

Next, above 2000 metres the road heads into the mountains.

Looking back

Looking back

I passed a few lakes on the way up including these two dams/lakes at roughly 2300 metres.

Lac de Plan

Lac de Plan

Lac du Sautet - 2319m

Lac du Sautet – 2319m

This is a steep climb, but a strong cyclist could likely cycle the entire way. Me? I pushed a few times, but never for too long – although the last steep stretch required some rest. :)

Half way:

Les Deux Alpes ski slopes

Les Deux Alpes ski slopes

Another lazy downhiller:

IMG_1437 - Version 2

It was partly cloudy but clearly there are great views in every direction – even as the road was through a fairly stark, rocky environment.

roughly 2700 metres

roughly 2700 metres

Road to Col du Jandri (1)

Eventually, I could see the summit. High in the distance:

The goal Col du Jandri - 3150 metres - above me

The goal Col du Jandri – 3151 metres – above me

At the summit is the top of a cable car, and a restaurant. It is also the foot of the Glacier de Mont-de-Lans. There is a rope tow here and while it wasn’t running there is occasionally summer skiing here.

I couldn’t find a Col du Jandri sign at the summit, but the col is just before the road ends. I have seen conflicting altitudes but believe it is 3151 metres, and IGN marks the foot of the glacier as 3158 metres.

And best of all the bar “Le 3200” was open. I got a strange look from the bartender when I ordered a coffee and a beer. But I badly needed both.

Le Bar 3200 was open :)

Le Bar 3200 was open :)

This is a huge climb that has been on my lost forever. And it didn’t disappoint.

My only regret was perhaps not waiting until early September so I could enjoy the road by myself – without the noise of the ski lifts and the distraction of the downhill bikers.

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Mont Chaberton http://www.cycling-challenge.com/mont-chaberton/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/mont-chaberton/#comments Sat, 08 Aug 2015 18:16:01 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14260 This is the highest I have ever been with a bike – 3,131 metres. A dream.

EDIT: I have since cycled Col du Jandri – 3151 metres.

Mont Chaberton is part of the Massif des Cerces in the Hautes-Alpes department of France. Formerly in Italy, the Fort at the very summit (the highest in Europe) was built by the Italians between 1896 and 1910. After World War Two (1947) the border was moved and Mont Chamberton became part of France.

chaberton700

The old military road begins in Fenils, Italy (1295 metres). Astonishingly, it is only 13 kilometres to the summit. This is a brutally difficult climb. And even the strongest cyclist will spend most of the 2nd half pushing the bike. Not only due to the steepness, and altitude, but also due to the slippery, rocky surface.

Above Fenils the paved road soon ends. A couple of kilometres higher, at Pra Claud, the road is closed to motorised traffic (since 1987). Perfect.

The above profile uses my GPS data so may not be perfectly accurate. But the numbers add. So if a kilometre’s grade is overstated, then another’s must be understated. :)

IMG_1349 - Version 2

The official name of the road is La strada militare di Val Morino (or strada militare dello Chaberton)

The first few kilometres are steep but ride-able, through alpine meadows/forests. Expect some sheep and cows. But as the road reaches 2000 metres, it becomes steeper, and rougher as it gets above the tree line.

Going to the top of that?

Going to the top of that?

This was my 3rd time reaching 3000 metres by bike. The best of the three is probably Colle del Someiller because the entire route is ride-able. But Col du Caron is very fun as well.

From here on I would only be cycling “opportunistically.” Often slipping whenever I tried. But it’s an amazing atmosphere and route, so I was enjoying myself, despite pushing my bike for most of the way.

wooohooo !

wooohooo !

Narrow

Narrow

Begins to get steep A tricky stretch Clot des Morts - 2457 metres Col du Chaberton

The current France/Italy border is near Clot des Mort (2457m), named for French soldiers that froze to death here in 1795/6 during the war between France and the Kingdom of Sardinia.

The road climbs relentlessly up to Col du Chaberton (2674m). Briefly, choosing a track becomes slightly confusing. In 1905, the “road” was lengthened here to make it less steep, and it seems parts of both remain.

Looking down at Clot des Morts

Looking down at Clot des Morts

The second highest Fort in the Alps is nearby: Fort Jafferau is a similarly spectacular cycling climb, and more ride-able. Details here.

From Col du Chaberton until the summit there were some hikers as they usually climb from the (French) far side of the Col – the way I would later descend. Looking up from here: I still had a long way to go.

View up from Col du Chaberton

View up from Col du Chaberton

Not Easy

Not Easy

Nice hairpin

Nice hairpin

Col du Chaberton below

Half way: Col du Chaberton below

The final kilometre above 3000 metres is lung-busting. But I finally reached the summit.

The summit of the mountain was flattened and lowered by 6 metres to allow the construction of 8 towers. Each tower was manned by seven soldiers and a 149mm artillery gun. During World War 1 the guns were removed and used on the Austrian front. But during World War 2 the towers were re-armed.

The Towers at Summit

The Towers at Summit

Cycling at the Summit

Cycling at the Summit

view of old barracks  and Col du Chaberton far below

view of old barracks and Col du Chaberton far below

Battery towers 13 km marker @ summit I made it! Steep hairpin

Italy entered World War 2 on June 10th, 1940. On June 20th they began bombarding French positions around Briançon from Mont Chaberton. But the next day, French artillery batteries, hidden in nearby – far lower – peaks, managed to knock out six of the eight towers killing 9 and wounding 50 Italian soldiers. Four days later, France would surrender to Germany (and thus Italy). After the War, it was General de Gaulle that insisted on Mont Chaberton being included in the Italy peace treaty land settlement.

The descent back down to Col du Chaberton is generally ride-able, even for me.

(I am scared of heights)

(I am scared of heights)

At Col du Chaberton I descended the far side. For a kilometre or two this is an extremely difficult descent (un-ride-able). It’s technical even for hiking. I do NOT recommend coming up this way by bike. Impossible to ride, and difficult even to carry the bike. But I cautiously made it down without incident.

Col du Chaberton above.  Very tricky descent -- on foot.

Col du Chaberton above. Very tricky descent — on foot.

Next I joined an unpaved but good quality road that descended down to Montgenèvre. I, of course, made a detour to the Col de Montgenèvre col sign, then descended back into Italy.

Note, follow the road into Clavière allows you to take the old road for a while, skipping some of the busy tunnels on the higher part of the descent. See map.

Wow, this was an adventure. I had been nervous beforehand and was excited that I’d managed to make it to the summit. Remember though, to do this ride will require lots of bike pushing for even strong riders. But the reward of reaching 3131 metres is more than worth the effort.

Thanks to my friends Bastien and Simon at www.cycols.com. I used their blog post for inspiration, and followed their route on my GPS.

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Strada dell’Assietta via Parco Naturale Gran Bosco http://www.cycling-challenge.com/strada-dellassietta-via-parco-naturale-gran-bosco/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/strada-dellassietta-via-parco-naturale-gran-bosco/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 08:01:51 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14202

A few weeks ago, I cycled the wonderful high altitude, historic, Italian military roads: Strada dell’Assietta & Strada Militare Colle delle Finestre. Truly one of the greatest rides I’ve ever done. Highly recommended. Details here.

During that ride, a couple of friendly Italian cyclists had enthusiastically described their favourite way to climb up to Strada dell’Assietta (there are several options): through the Parco Naturale Gran Bosco (big woods) di Salbertrand. Unpaved but “smooth as Wimbledon” …. which when said with an Italian accent is irresistible.

The first 2/3’s of the climb looks like this:

20350022825_569a8f2d72_b

The road – starting near Salbertrand (1032 metres) – joins the Strada dell’Assietta at Col Blegier (2381 metres).

How great is it?

  • The entire route to Blegier is closed to motor vehicles. Always.
  • At least 40 hairpins? See map below.
  • It is smooth. More dirt than gravel. It clearly gets maintained. It does get rougher higher up: It requires a mountain bike.
  • It is deserted, especially lower down even during the current high season. The first 8 kms were silent. Paradise. There is a hiking trail head (cars/parking) at Ser Blanc (1731 metres) and near there I saw quite a few hikers.
  • The summit, Col Blegier, is a junction to the amazing Strada dell’Assietta.

IMG_1337 - Version 2

Parco Naturale Gran Bosco Always closed to motor vehicles Nice hairpin Lots forbidden, not bikes

The only “flaw” to this route is that is joins the Strada dell’Assietta mid-way. So if you have never ridden it, I’d suggest my other route (linked above).

But while enjoying climbing through the woods, I tried to think of another huge climb that is smooth-surfaced, car-free, always ride-able (never insane steep) anywhere that is as nice as this. Suggestions always welcome. :)

The profile above is just for the Gran Bosco road to Col Blegier (2381m). But the mapped route goes much higher (2615m) once it joins the Strada dell’Assietta.

At Col Blegier, I decided to turn left on the Strada dell’Assietta towards Testa dell’Assietta, as I was seriously thirsty and the Casa Assietta (2500 metres) – a farm just before the summit – is the only place for drinks/snacks in the area.

Above Col Bleiger

Above Col Bleiger on the Strada dell’Assietta

Next, for completeness, I visited Colle dell’Assietta (2472 metres). Here the road splits, and I was again drooling at the start of the Strada Militare Colle delle Finestre that I had cycled my previous visit. But today I was a little less ambitious.

Strada Militare Colle delle Finestre

Strada Militare Colle delle Finestre

Colle dell'Assietta below

Colle dell’Assietta below

I turned around, but did add a detour: Climbing to the summit of Monte Gran Costa (2615m; see map) to visit the considerable Fort ruins – built in the late 1800’s it could accommodate 200 soldiers. There are lots of ruins along the entire Strada dell’Assietta. In my other Assietta post I visited several forts and climbed to the Testa dell’Assietta monument commemorating the 1747 Battle of Assietta.

IMG_1323 - Version 2

Next Stop:  Top of that.  2615m Nice views Ruins atop Monte Gran Costa Fortification atop Monte Gran Costa 2615m

Finally, exactly at Col Lauson (2497m), I began my descent. I had mapped out a route descending the Strada dei Cannoni (Route of the Cannons). The sign suggested it was only for expert cyclists. Yikes. But I “bravely” plunged over the edge.

Experts only

Experts only

It is more a single-track hiking trail than a road. But – trust me I am not talented – it was not difficult. And I enjoyed myself flying through some high altitude fields, then back into the woods, eventually rejoining the Gran Bosco road at roughly 2000 metres.

Strada dei Cannoni

Strada dei Cannoni

Strada dei Cannoni

Strada dei Cannoni

This entire route is superb. Beautiful, quiet, challenging, ZERO cars/motorcycles, great views: perfect. And for the more ambitious, one could easily construct bigger loops via Colle delle Finestre, or Col Basset, etc.

Col Blegier 2381m Monte Gran Costa above Testa dell'Assietta Col Lauzon 2497m Colle delle'Assietta 2472m Friendly stranger
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Cormet de Roselend via Col du Pré http://www.cycling-challenge.com/cormet-de-roselend-via-col-du-pre-2/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/cormet-de-roselend-via-col-du-pre-2/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 19:31:47 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14165 colpre250

This is the third, more difficult way to cycle to Cormet de Roselend. The reward for the extra effort is one of my favourite views in the Alps from Col du Pré above Lac de Roselend. Additionally, this route lets you cycle over the Barrage (dam) de Roselend and along-side the entire length of the lake. Very nice.

I started in beautiful Beaufort. From town, turn off the main road following signs to Arèche. Col du Pré is soon well signed.

For details of both the north and the south sides of Cormet de Roselend via the main road – see here.

It’s not the most remote region, plenty of chalets and little villages, but it’s certainly beautiful. Mountains in all directions. After a few kilometres the road splits. The other road is also a superb climb first to Lac/Dam de St-Guérin (paved), then an extension much higher to Cormet d’Arèches – details here.

road to Col du Pré

road to Col du Pré

As the above profile shows, the last few kilometres to Col du Pré are steep. But again, it’s worth the effort. Just beyond the col is one of my very favourite photo spots:

view from near Col du Pré

view from near Col du Pré

The dam Col du Pré is steep Photobombed by faster cyclists Col du Meraillet

I was excited to see the water levels so high – I’ve seen them low – the water colour is breathtaking. The road winds down to the lake and crosses the dam:

Blue

Blue

Crossing the dam

Crossing the dam

Damn Dam Selfie

Damn Dam Selfie

From the dam the road then meets the main road at Col du Meraillet (see map below). Next are several easy, scenic kilometres beside the lake. Beyond the far side, one can see where the road heads higher through a gap in the mountain – top middle of photo below.

Road higher to Roselend in background

Road higher to Roselend in background

The last few kilometres are thankfully easier. I was glad to see my friend the saucissons/drinks salesmen at the summit. Strangely, I passed on my usual beer and gratefully chugged some caffeine.

Cormet de Roselend

Cormet de Roselend

Dam at left Artsy? Tunnel to Lac de la Gittaz Far end of lake

I didn’t have the legs to visit the south side today. But it’s also an extremely scenic road. See link at top of post for details. And here is an old ride on the south side with a detour to La Ville des Glaciers.

I descended back down staying on the main road for Beaufort at Col du Meraillet. Just below the col though, I made one final detour to visit another dam/lake: Lac de la Gittaz.

It’s a dead-end, and this tunnel-coward braved a short dark tunnel. But the view is worth the short detour.

Lac de la Gittaz

Lac de la Gittaz

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Col de la Colombière (and above) http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-de-la-colombiere-and-above/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-de-la-colombiere-and-above/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 19:31:44 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14137 Col de la Colombière is the nearest “famous” cycling climb to where I live. So I know it quite well. But today we tried something new. Doreen wanted to go hiking, I wanted to bike. So we came up with a simple plan: A bike & hike.

She dropped me off in Scionzier and I cycled up Col de la Colombière. 16 kms uphill with the last three very steep.

For full details of both sides of Col de la Colombière see here, and for a 3rd harder route via Col de Romme see here.

At the summit she parked the car and read, waiting for me. She is a very thoughtful wife, and took this photo of me suffering 50 metres from the col (1618 metres).

12% !  The last 50 metres.

12% ! The last 50 metres.

Col de la Colombière (1)

I put my bike in the car, changed my shirt/shoes and we then hiked up a trail that starts exactly at the col.

It’s a steep hike, but well marked, climbing up into the scenic rocky mountain ridge above. One can go a long way up, we would hike above the ridge behind me in the photo below.

Half way up:

Heading above that ridge

Heading above that ridge

Friendly stranger above Col de la Colombière Nice Hike Martial arts training

We reached the tiny Lac de Peyre (2108 metres). Wildlife can be scarce cycling in the Alps – except sometimes for ubiquitous marmottes up high – but at the lake we met this beautiful bouquetin (alpine ibex).

A beautiful Bouquetin

A beautiful Bouquetin

Lac de Peyre - above Col de la Colombière

It’s possible to hike quite a bit higher. But we decided to call it a successful day, and headed back down.

Doreen and pal Bouquetin selfie HIgh above Col de la Colombière IMG_1185 - Version 2

I seem to be developing a slightly new hobby: this is the third recent ride where I have also added a hike. It’s a great way go a little further when there isn’t a convenient road available. :)

Jumping with joy

Jumping with joy

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Chalets des Auges (above Glières) http://www.cycling-challenge.com/chalets-des-auges-above-glieres/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/chalets-des-auges-above-glieres/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:45:05 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14100 I’ve often argued that Col des Glières is one of the more interesting climbs never to appear in the Tour de France. It has two challenging and beautiful paved ways up – from the east and the west.

Today’s loop is another option, but via an unpaved farm road that actually goes much higher – up to the Chalets des Auges – overlooking the Plateau on the mountainous ridge above.

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Plateau des Glières was an important site for the French resistance during World War 2. There are many statues, historical signs, graves sites, etc. including the Monument National à la Résistance at the summit.

I started down below in Entremont beside one of these monuments.

Maquis Monument

Maquis Monument

The road is only paved until roughly 950 metres. It then becomes more of a rocky road than gravel. At times steep, and quite slippery. It had been wet the evening before and I slipped a few times, but it is perfectly ride-able until the summit.

For another non-paved route up to Plateau des Glières – from the north side – see here.

Readers of this blog know I like cows, and this would be one of the most cow-filled rides of the year. :)

Mooned

Mooned

While the weather was good, unfortunately I was cycling up into a cloud

getting higher

getting higher

Toll Booth Steep and Rocky Road Block Chalets des Auges - 1760m

The road is very remote. Nearing 1500 metres there is a fork in the road. A hiking trail heads towards Col de la Buffaz (details from an old route here), but I stayed on the “road” which includes a fun cliff stretch.

Cliff!

Cliff!

It winds higher and higher, eventually reaching a group of buildings – Les Chalets des Auges (1760 metres).

In the clouds

In the clouds

This is sort of a rocky plateau well above Plateau des Glières. The road ends but there is a well signed hiking trail that head across a field before beginning a slightly tricky descent.

Up top

Up top

I descended to Plan du Loup and left my bike there briefly and hiked up to Col de l’Ovine for nice views of Plateau des Glières below.

Plan du Loup

Plan du Loup

Plateau des Glières

Plateau des Glières – view from Col de l’Ovine

I then descended while wandering around the Plateau on nice farm roads before visiting Col des Glières itself.

Plateau des Glières

Plateau des Glières

Nice road

Nice road

Just across from Col des Glières is the Monument National à la Résistance. Above in the photo below is the Montagne des Auges. My route had climbed from the back side and across the top then descended to here.

IMG_1122 - Version 2

The two paved sides of Col des Glières are linked by a 2 kilometre, well-surfaced, gravel road. Very scenic.

Plateau des Glières

Plateau des Glières

just below the Col

just below the Col

Finally I descended the super steep, truly fun east paved side back down to the valley below.

Col de l'Ovine Col des Glières Myrtilles Moo

Not the longest ride, but this is a superb, remote, challenging alternative route to Plateau des Glières. Fun.

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Col du Jaillet http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-du-jaillet/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-du-jaillet/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:08:25 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14070 Road to Col du Jaillet

Road to Col du Jaillet

A very steep, very scenic ride high above Combloux ski station with Mont Blanc dominating the surrounding views.

For more rides starting in the same region see here

I started down low near Sallanches (550 metres). Note, the route is paved until 1300 metres following a quiet road that is also a good road-bike alternative to much of the busy main road for anyone climbing towards Megève (see map below).

Lower Slopes

Lower Slopes

At Haut Combloux the paved road ends becoming a wide (still steep) rocky dirt road climbing through a forest.

Through the woods

Through the woods

The higher one gets the better the views, especially of Mont Blanc:

Moo with a View

Moo with a View

Road to Col du Jaillet

Road to Col du Jaillet

Getting closer to Col du Jaillet (1723 metres) the road becomes smaller and smaller eventually becoming a hiking trail.

near Col du Jaillet

near Col du Jaillet

Near Col du Jaillet

Near Col du Jaillet

I wanted to continue to Le Petit Croisse Baulet (2009 metres), and began pushing the bike up. About half way I realised bringing the bike was pointless – and tiring. So I left it in some scrub and hiked higher feeling much lighter and happier.

The views from the summit are fantastic, in both directions:

Le Petit Croisse Baulet - view north

Le Petit Croisse Baulet – view north

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

I then hiked down and a little further reaching Col de l’Avenaz (1929 metres). Here the hiking continues much higher. But I had my extra col, so I turned around here. :)

I had mapped on my GPS an alternate mountain bike trail for the return to Sallanches that I had read about online. But looking at it in person, I decided I was an old, scared, untalented mountain bike descender … and declined the challenge. :)

So I just retraced my steps, making a small detour to enjoy the views from Croix des Salles:

Croix des Salles

Croix des Salles

To repeat myself, this is steep. But it’s perfectly ride-able all the way to Col du Jaillet. A beautiful route with rewarding views.

Route 3,177,199 – powered by www.bikemap.net

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Watching the Tour de France / Col du Glandon http://www.cycling-challenge.com/watching-the-tour-de-france-col-du-glandon/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/watching-the-tour-de-france-col-du-glandon/#comments Sun, 26 Jul 2015 15:27:21 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=14010 A Young Girl Paints the Road

A Young Girl Paints the Road

Today I visited the Tour and had the good fortune to bump into an old friend.

To ensure the autoroute exit wasn’t closed, me, being my usually paranoid self, forced another friend Mathias to get up far earlier than necessary and we headed south from Geneva.

The plan was simple. Cycle up Col du Glandon and watch stage 19 of the Tour de France. The omens were good when on the very first kilometre of the climb we found some excellent hay surfing conditions.

Hay Surfing

Hay Surfing

Mathias Hay Surfs Polka Dot Lion Helicopter

Half way up, another old friend – the Glandon Fox – told me one of his famous whopper fishing stories.

The Glandon Fox

The Glandon Fox

As usual, the locals had fun cycling decorations absolutely everywhere. Some more creepy than others:

Polka Dot Baby

Polka Dot Baby

My phone beeped, and I received an unexpected text: “You coming to Glandon today? Je suis là. Buy you a beer.” It was my old friend Yeehoo (Ben)! I think I surprised him by responding that I was only 6 kilometres below. Looking forward to seeing him again, I picked up the pace.

But the last stretch of Glandon is “tough.”

Mathias

Mathias

But in almost no time I was chatting away with Yeehoo:

Obélisk !

Obélisk !

Oops, I had made a mistake. We have met previously, but it had been a while. The above is in fact NOT Yeehoo. But he was one of the more interesting people I have ever met.

But soon I met the genuine Yeehoo and a genuine beer:

So while the day was going very well, I suddenly found myself at the top of Glandon with two Americans, Yeehoo and Mathias. Fortunately, Yeehoo’s charming (and French) better half was also in attendance. They had found a superb perched cliff view slightly above the col. So we hung out there for a while, but it was decidedly chilly/windy so we all agreed to head down to my old stomping grounds: just above the final Glandon hairpin.

Nice views:

last hairpin.  Tour day

Col du Glandon last hairpin

Here we chatted, wandered around, and enjoyed the festivities. Madame Yeehoo sang French songs imploring the sun to return while I jacket-less-ly jumped around trying to stay warm.

There were some “runners” clearly in attendance. I won’t post any photos of the scantily clad Spaniards that were everywhere, some strangely sporting TINY UK flag underwear. But I did feel a responsibility in my Canada kit to go and have a chat with (a very French) Captain America and implore him to simply cheer the riders.

USA Canada relations at the Tour

USA Canada relations at the Tour

The neighbourhood took a turn for the worse when some very confused nihilists, or perhaps anarchists arrived:

Nihilists

Nihilists

Fortunately, a huge group of chanting Colombians next made their welcome appearance. Very fun. More on them later.

We ran down from our perch to enjoy the publicity caravan. We did very well as a group: A polka dot cap each, nice baked goods, plenty of haribo, more hats, and a myriad of bizarre stuff. For example, a couple of French unions threw me some literature. Possibly their manifesto? I kid you not.

I caught this: A Cow Key Chain! I win.

Best publicité Caravan Prize

Best publicité Caravan Prize

The only disappointment – and it was a major disappointment – I failed to get some saucissons.

Saucissons

Saucissons

Also strangely, the baguette guys weren’t throwing out baguettes. Darn.

Baguette Please

Baguette Please

Cycling Coq

Cycling Coq

Publicity Caravan begins Publicity Caravan Keep moving, nothing to drink here australian fans.  Kangaroo Allez les Francais Need a Hug? Publicity Caravan Valverde Fans The Cycling Podcast

As I sipped some free caravan banana juice I was content. This had been a great day. I got my stuff together and headed to my bike. Then someone reminded there was still a bike race to come. Oh yeah.

Five helicopters arrived and all landed just above the col. The weather clouded over, the wind picked up and we worried that a storm was imminent. But it stayed dry and finally the riders and more helicopters arrived. No great photos – I had the camera on a bad setting, but here are a few:

Rolland:

IMG_0930 - Version 2

Nibali and some tense Colombian fans:

Nibali

Nibali

Quintana with friends and some jubilant Colombian fans:

IMG_0938 - Version 2

One of my favourites, Thibault Pinot:

Thibault Pinot

Thibault Pinot

Ireland’s Dan Martin:

IMG_0951 - Version 2

Laurens Ten Dam:

Laurens Ten Dam

Laurens Ten Dam

The Gruppeto wasn’t too far behind, this being relatively early in the stage. After they passed, we quickly descended fearing the dark clouds. We successfully reached the bottom as a few drops arrived. We were safely in the car heading home when the heavy stuff arrived. Phew.

IMG_0970 - Version 2

For me, going to a Tour mountain stage never disappoints. Everyone is in a great mood. We were good-naturedly encouraged while cycling struggling up the mountain by fans of all ages, and nationalities. The people-watching was superb, the publicity caravan too-much-fun for a child like me, and the passage of the pros exhilarating. And, this year, I was surprised at the summit by an old friend with a beer. Not bad.

Ben

Ben

Col du Glandon and Beer

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