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
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.
After the col there was 20km of undulating French/Swiss rural charm with cowbells for accompaniment. There’s not much flatness hereabouts and soon I started the 9km ascent of Col de Ramaz, another Category 1 climb.
This was a proper hill that climbed steadily. It was Sunday morning and the route was very popular with the local cyclists. I did actually overtake one! The road is built into the mountain and I stopped briefly to switch on the back light for the tunnels.
Mercifully there was a flatter section at the Sommand ski station before it kicked off again to the summit.
There was a great view of Mont Blanc as I blinked through the sweat at the start of the descent.
A quick lunch stop and then a long descent to the D902 which – yes, you’ve guessed – then ascends again to Les Gets. The descent to Morzine was good fun and a brief respite before the next category 1 climb, up the Col de Joux-Plane.
Officially this is 7% but it’s actually a sustained 10% for 6km and then flat or downhill to the actual col. I had a real bad patch between 4km to go and 3km to go. There are signs at every kilometre. As I got higher, magnificent views of Mont Blanc emerged.
I was greatly relieved when I did eventually reach the col.
It was very warm and the view was wonderful.
I put my jacket on for the long descent down to Samoens. I stopped a couple of times to let the rims cool off. The route follows the valley to Taninges (into a head wind) before a bit of up and over at Valley L’Arve with the river coming down from Chamonix. It was a lovely descent to Cluses and then a flat (yes, flat!) valley road to Sallanches.
At Sallanches the route leaves the L’Arve and begins the ascent of the Category 1 climb Col des Saises. With 133km on the clock I knew I just had 10km of uphill grind to the Hotel at Megeve. It turned out to be only 9km as it was downhill to the Hotel. I suppose this inevitably means that it’s uphill out of the hotel in the morning. But tomorrow is another day!