Puget Thenier to St Laurent du Var on the Cote d’Azur.
The climbing starts right out of the Hotel door after crossing the River Var.
Same old – upwards to a Col!
The Climb up to Col de St Raphael was very nice – it’s upwards – but not for quite so long – its only 8km long with an average grade of 5.8% gaining only 465m of elevation. The other huge difference is that the starting altitude was about 400m so the air has just as much oxygen in it as it does at sea level. Additionally after having spent the last few days on cols over 2000m, I think maybe my body had made some short term adaptations which may be making the climbing a bit easier.
Jausiers to Puget Thenier.
Today’s ride of 135km took us over what is often regarded as the highest paved road in Europe at 2855m and then onto a completely different environment with a Mediterranean feel.
The highest paved road thing is actually incorrect. There are more road passes whose altitudes are higher in Europe.
The road to the Bonette links the Ubaye and Tinée valleys and allows the direct connection between Barcelonnette and Nice. It was originally a mule path, a strategic route operated and maintained by the army as evidenced by the constructions along the road (camp des Fourches, Fort de Restefond). The Spanish troops took it during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). The path was widened and transformed into a road in 1832. The final road was completed in 1960.
I left the Hotel in Jausiers at 08:00 to begin the 24km climb to Col de La Bonette. Once more it was a perfect day with a clear blue sky.
The start of the 24km climb up Col de La Bonette
It was another long climb up an Alpine Col. From the north, the climb starts at Jausiers and is 24.1 km (15.0 mi) long. Over this distance, the climb is 1,589 m (5,213 ft) (an average gradient of 6.6%), with the steepest sections at 9%. For me this was going to be almost 3 hours of ascent with the kilometre signs marking my steady but determined progress. I had to do it as I’d bought the Col de La Bonette jersey in Jausiers already!
Today’s ride made progress South by 100 km from Monetier-les-Bains to Jausiers in the Alpe Haute Provence. It was another lovely day as we prepared to leave Monetier.
Preparing to leave Le Monetier-les Bains
There was the usual pre-roll faff as nervous adjustments were made to bicycles.
The peloton rode together along the D1091 to Briancon. When we stopped to muster at a roundabout in Briancon, my Garmin gave an average of 37kph for this 14k slightly downhill ride.
“Epic” “Ugly” “The hardest day on the bike – ever” were how this ride was variously described by a weary group slumped over dinner in Le Monetier les Bains after 150k of riding with two HC cols.
I had been kept awake by the torrential rain on the Hotel roof at La Reculaz just below Val d’Isere. In reality this is a fair way up the hill towards the Col de l’Iseran .
I had a flat in my back tyre caused by a flint I hadn’t noticed when I put my bike in the garage the evening before. This was quickly changed in the garage – sheltering from the drizzle- before rolling out through a couple of tunnels into down town Val d’Isere. Once through the town the climbs kicks in. It’s not particularly steep, generally, but it just goes on and on.
13km climb to Col de l’Iseran (Sorry about the thumb!!)
This is the way it is climbing Alpine Cols. They just go on and on, with very little respite. Val d’Isere slowly disappeared into the mist.
Val d’Isere disappearing down below on the first climb of the day
Despite the effort of climbing it was getting colder and colder.
Higher and higher, colder and colder…The reality of riding cols in the Alps
I could see the flags on the top as it started sleeting and I decided to keep going without stopping to put my jacket on.
Col de l’Iseran 2770m the highest point of the tour so far. Cold, wet and windy
It was extremely cold on top but the support bus was there and I piled on everything I had. Oh, the joy of finding my fleecy winter buff in there! Unfortunately I was already too cold to get overshoes on and I got underway with numb hands and feet with cries if “stay away from the edge” following me.
The view from my hotel window in Megeve revealed another stunning day.
There were hot air balloons flying in perfect conditions.
A more relaxing way to travel than cycling…
Getting underway from the Hotel seems to involve a lot of faff.
Morning faff at Megeve
It was uphill from the Hotel, then down through Megeve before heading up the D218B on the Category 1 climb to Col Des Saises.
The Route des Grandes Alpes goes from Lake Geneva to Nice. It is 755 kilometres long with a massive 16,212m of elevation up and over Cols.
A Col is a French word for a passage between mountains. Most Cols are categorised to take into account how steep it is, it’s length and also where it appears in the ride.
I am riding the Raid Alpine with a group from Pyrenees Multisport.
After flying from Bristol to Geneva with my Thorn Audax Mk3 bike we transferred to Thonon les Bains.
This morning we left the Hotel at 09:15
Ready to go in Thonon les Bains
It was uphill straight away with a 15km ascent of the Category 1 Col de Cou at 609m. It was immediately obvious that most of the group were going to be quicker than me as I settled down to my usual steady plod. The weather was fantastic and the views back to Lake Geneva helped to measure the upward progress.
Snowdon, Yr Wyddafa, is the highest mountain in Wales at 1085m. Snowdon was my first 3000 footer, which I went up while on Guide camp at Chester in 1966. This ascent was from Llanberis following the railway track, wearing plimsolls. Snowdon is also the busiest mountain in Great Britain largely because of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. This is a narrow gauge, rack and pinion mountain railway which carries people the 4.7 miles from Llanberis to the summit.
There are many routes up Snowdon, but my favourite walking route is the Watkin Path. Of all the official ascents, this path starts nearest sea level and so has more ascent than the other routes. However it is a very scenic route and is mostly on a well graded path.
The Watkin starts at Nantgwynant. To begin with it passes through some ancient woodland whilst gently ascending beside the Afon Cwn Llan passing some spectacular waterfalls with lovely pools.
The Watkin Path above Nantgwynant.
The path remains steady as it ascends through old quarries. The path is easy to follow and we enjoyed the well graded walk upwards. The day was cool and we could see that we would soon be up in the clouds.
On Thursday 31st July we rode away from Hollows Farm in Borrowdale.
Leaving Hollows farm in Borrowdale
It was before 9am so the B5289 back to Keswick was still quiet and we rode out of Keswick up the A591. When we reached Thirlmere we headed off round the back of the lake on a traffic free lane.
Quiet, picturesque lane around Thirlmere.
As we had arrived in Borrowdale I was stung by a wasp on my forehead. The allergic reaction resulted in a very swollen face. I decided it was OK to walk up a mountain, but I was glad it wasn’t a cycling day.
Allergic reaction to wasp sting. OK for hill walking though.
After a good night’s sleep in Glen Nevis we were rested and ready for our first days cycling. As Kathryn is quite inexperienced at cycling longer distances, we planned the first day at a modest 80km with 800m of elevation.
Ready for the off at Glen Nevis
We left Fort William on the A82. There was quite a lot of traffic but everyone was patient and considerate and gave us plenty of room.