2017 Tour of The Alps

September is here again and that can only mean a week of Alpine cycling. A different week this year; rather than being in the Central Alps where the famous Hors Category mountains are, I am in Annecy. A lovely location on the shores of the lake. Whilst there are no 2,000m mountains in the vicinity, this should not be under-estimated. The local climb to Cret du Chatillion (renamed Annecy-Semnoz last time the tour visited, and rumoured to be a summit finish in 2018) is a true HC climb and with the lower starting altitude, has a greater vertical gain than the Alpe d'Huez. My previous Alpine adventures have generally featured a big climb in the morning and slightly less strenuous riding in the afternoon - this will not be the case this week. The routes I have planned all have multiple climbs so I think this will be a harder week than usual, time will tell. I am staying centrally in Annecy in the Ibis Styles, definitely one-up on last year's Ibis Budget - it has a bar!

Day 1: Cret du Chatillion, le Chatelard & Col de Leschaux. Un jour sans.
Where else to start but the local HC climb. I have ridden this before, once cycling when Jane and I were here to see Le Tour about 4 years ago but the first time I ventured up this mountain was back in the 90s on a motorbike - not so much a MAMIL but a YMIL (Young Man In Leather). My original plan for the day was a 80 mile loop featuring Cret du Chatillion, Col du Frene and Col du Tamie (map can be found here) but yesterday I had developed a cold had not got better overnight and whilst some fresh mountain air would do me the world of good, 80 miles and 2,300m of climbing may have been too much so I did a shorter ride, still over 50 miles and over 1,800m climbing.
Meteo France are renown for their weather forecast accuracy and despite the (very) cool start, the clouds were due burn off for a warm sunny afternoon. I took the customary gilet and arm-warmer but I was beginning to wish that I had packed my leg-warmers as the ascent was very chilly. That was soon forgotten in the second half of the climb as the gradient never drops below 8% - that is enough to warm you up! The overall stats are 16km at 7.0% but given that there are 3km that are almost flat just before the half-way point, the figures do not quite how brutal this climb is. The degree of my suffering was shown by being 20 minutes slower than last time I rode it.

A very chilly Montage du Semnoz
It was very cold at the top and I regretting not packing my waterproof, not for rain, but to help with the very cold descent down to the Col du Leschaux at 900m. After the dropping onto the Col the surface on the main road improved and I was able to pedal a bit more and hence warm up. By now the sun was out but it took a while to get the chill out. I was heading towards the Col du Frene and was a little worried about lunch. I was passing through small villages on a Sunday afternoon outside of holiday time and there was very little open. I was able to get a plate of Frites in Le Chatelard but decided to turn back to explore the roads nearer to the lake, rather than carry on original route. If I had known that at le Chatelard I was already climbed 200m to be at 800m, I would have continued to the Col du Frene as it tops out at a modest 950m, but I thought that I would save my energy for the rest of the week and headed back for the 7km climb back to Col de Leschauz. I was feeling better by now, warm and fed and reached the Col quite quickly. Rather than drop straight back down the main road to Annecy, I explored some quiet roads passing through tiny villages (with shut restaurants!) with great views of the Lake. I joined the Piste Cyclable at Saint Joriaz and cycled back to Annecy with many other people enjoying this superb facility and what was now a very pleasant afternoon.
A map of today's route can be seen here  - though a couple of section are not quite right as Google kept 'correcting'. Why can't Google realise that I know more about cycling in the Alps than their spotty teenagers or clever algorithms.

Link to Day 2 at the bottom of the page (that is to make you look at the photos)

Alpine Pastures - even without snow-capped mountains this is beautiful country
The Col de Leschaux - a modest 900m
View of Lake Annecy
Profile of today's ride - produced by GPSVisualizer.com

Onwards to Day 2


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