Col du Lauraret

Col du Lautaret (2057 m.)

Col du Galibier

Col du Galibier (2642 m.)

Ride to the Alps day 2: aiming for the Col de l’Iseran, at 2770 m. it’s said to be highest paved road pass in Europe.

Col du Télégraphe

Col du Télégraphe (1566 m.)

Fort Victor-Emmanuel, Avrieux

Fort Victor-Emmanuel & Redoute Marie-Thérèse (1355 m.)

Lanslebourg

Lanslebourg (1375 m.) choice of Col de l'Iseran or Col du Mont Cenis and Italy

Bonneval-sur-Arc

Bonneval-sur-Arc (1793 m.)

solar mountain bike

Solar mountain bike

Col de l’Iseran

Col de l’Iseran

Col de l’Iseran

Col de l’Iseran

Valley of the Arc

Croix de Savoie with café double

Croix de Savoie with café double

Col du Galibier

Col du Galibier - north road

Col du Galibier

Col du Galibier - north road

Col du Galibier

Col du Galibier - south road, view to Briançon

Hotel - La Grave

Hotel - La Grave

La Meije - La Grave

Dining under La Meije (3984 m.) rock and glaciers - La Grave

Sunset on La Meije

Sunset on La Meije (3984 m.)

Alps rideout August 2020 - 2

Well that WAS a pretty special ride. The Col de l’Iseran is 2770 m. high and listed as the highest paved pass in all the Alps, so it’s right up with the Stelvio and Bonette in the altitude league table. It’s also one of the first Alpine cols which fired my enthusiasm, along with the triangle of cols in Switzerland: Furka - Grimsel - Susten plus the Nufenen. That all came from studying the map when I was working in Lausanne between school and university.
The Iseran is one of the more difficult cols to access from Marseille, and as the limitations on travel seem likely to get worse before they get better, I wanted to seize the opportunity of the good weather and being within reach.

The route from where I was staying in La Grave (1500 m.) is back up over the Col du Lautaret (2057 m.), on the through route to Italy so long wide curves but lots of traffic. Then the Col du Galibier (2642 m.) with a clear view of Mont Blanc (4810 m.) away to the north. Then the skiing and MTB / VTT off-road bike village of Valloire (1405 m.). It’s bigger and spreading every time I go there, ever more lifts. Down the Col du Télégraphe (1566 m.), that’s getting on for a a vertical kilometre of height change in one stack of hairpin bends, so lots of corner practice.
50km ride up the Maurienne valley, one of the classic Savoy valleys with history back to Hannibal. There is a complex of five forts (La barrière de l’Esseillon) built at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the Kings of Savoy to defend the Mont Cenis pass, this area was Savoy not France at that time.
Lots and lots of bikes coming towards me, Italians on a day or weekend out. Their route from Milan or Turin is over the Mont Cenis col, functional but it’s not one of the more interesting cols from the biker point of view.
But I continued up the Maurienne. The traffic lighter after every ville and village. Finally on the road which is labelled the Col de l’Iseran.
Once up the hairpins on the rock step out of the main valley, the result of glaciers long gone, you have a straight ride along the wide hanging valley above. They’ve built the through route bypass the villages. I took the long way on my return to enjoy them, they’re all charming in their different ways, many granite stone houses with granite slabs for roofing.
But there’s a new horror come out of Belgium. We know about the chocolate: excellent. Jean Claude van Dam: abs to admire. But solar-powered bikes on a mountain col? This is a new one. Looks ridiculous, a 2 m. panel over a rider and unfortunately, a complete menace on the road,
Once at the col, an immense number of motorbikes, bikes and motorcaravans. Turnaround time and back down the same road. I found an artisan boulangerie and enjoyed a Croix de Savoie patisserie and a double espresso in the shade at the side of the road.
Another stop high up on the Galibier road, just watching the people going by and thinking back the ride I was nearly completing, and the trips in the past when I’ve ridden the Iseran and those bikes I no longer ride.
Over the Galibier col like it is on my daily commute, same with the Lautaret col, then back down the main road to the hotel in La Grave. Dinner in the garden of the hotel watching the sun’s terminator shadow climb up the La Meije (3984 m.) rock and glaciers opposite. With a half of a fine bottle of 2016 Vacqueyras from the patron’s wine cellar.