Dassault 312 twin-engine trainer plane at Barcelonnette aerodrome (1135 m.)
Aire de Ganagobie
Ride to the Alps August 2020 day 1. Marseille to La Grave: La Meije over the Cols de Vars, Izoard and Lautaret.
Lac de Serre-Ponçon (736 m.)
Col de Vars (2108 m.)
Col de Vars (2108 m.)
Peaks and glaciers of the Écrins, the highest is 4102 m.
Col d’Izoard: Casse Déserte (2212 m.)
Col d’Izoard: Cervières (1593 m.)
Col du Lautaret (2057 m.)
La Grave - La Meije: my RR at the hotel parking with a view of the glaciers
La Grave: Mountain Trail bike and gear
Alps rideout August 2020 - 1
The Col d’Izoard (2360 m.) is one of the epic Alpine cols, the Casse Déserte just south of the summit marks a big change in the rocks and that’s reflected in the way the road climbs the contours. So there’s variety and you can ride fast or do it leisurely. Leaving Marseille in the early morning cool, the heat was building as I rode up the valley of the river Durance to the dams of the Lac de Serre-Ponçon (736 m.)
Taking the valley of the river Ubaye up to Barcelonnette (1135 m.), there wasn’t much traffic so it was easy to enjoy this rolling, sweeping road up past the dams through the contours to the upper gorges of the Ubaye, the white water of river highlighting rubber rafting expeditions. Fuel from a station near the old Dassault 312 twin-engine trainer plane outside the little aerodrome then a coffee pause at Barcelonnette, before starting up the Col de Vars. The cyclists were all riding the Col d’Allos, in the other direction from Barcelonnette, which was closed to motors for the morning. The south side of the Col de Vars is rural and slow, lots of unguarded drops with fields right up to the roadside, just an electric fence keeping the cows off the tarmac. I paused again in the cool of the summit (2108 m.) for my picnic lunch near the trout lake next to the Refuge Napoléon. Then downwards through the busy ski village, again pausing to enjoy the views of peaks of the Écrins, the highest is 4102 m. altitude, and its rapidly diminishing glaciers.
The motorbike traffic was picking up by now, mostly Italians with Turin or Milan number plates and aggressively stylish leathers. I rode the long gorge road of the Combe du Queyras with some Brits following me on bikes much bigger than mine but loaded with all the stuff you need for a ride down from the English Channel. They got left behind on the curves and the first couple of hairpins of the lower approaches to the Izoard, letting me loose to battle the contours as only a small and light sportsbike can.
Photo stop at the viewpoint (2212 m.) before crossing the Casse Déserte, chatting with a family from Le Luc near Draguignan in the Var, who talked knowledgeably about riding the circuit there - and did a decent photo for me.
Onwards and upwards, the col (2360 m.) was really busy so right onwards again but down, with a coffee pause at the sports-friendly hotel in Cervières (1593 m.), with whom I stayed last year.
Briançon (1167 m.) was a hell-hole because of the traffic. I found an artisan boulangerie and enjoyed a pain-au-chocolat-aux-amandes, the give-me-everything option. With a cool can of Coke Zero, the zero-calories option, that made a balanced snack!
Breaking free from the Briançon traffic but ever mindful of the heavy traffic coming towards me from Grenoble, up the sweeping curves to the Col du Lautaret (2057 m.). Straight on and over the tectonic plate fault where the road gets a bit bumpy, down to La Grave (1500 m.), for dinner in the garden of the hotel facing the glaciers and big rocks of La Meije (3984 m.). My RR had a really good view from its parking spot too.