2017 Tour of The Alps
Day 2 - The Massif de Aravis - Cols, Cols and more Cols

If Day 1 was un Jour Sans, then today was definitely un Jour Avec. The most miles that I have ever done in day in the mountains, and 4 cols. It started the previous night with a Tartfilette for dinner. You may not have come across this regional dish before - calorific food for the shepherds. It is made of potatoes, lardons, onions and cheese. Lots of cheese - the local Reblechon in fact. Oh, and cream. High in calories but perhaps not to be enjoyed too often. Being a believer in natural remedies, I had spied a bottle of 4 Roses Bourbon behind the bar - very good for colds and as I have been on a Bourbon discovery over the last couple of years, I was pleased to try a new one. Bourbon and Ginger Ale is a fine drink, but the measure of a good Bourbon is whether it can be drunk neat. This was quite harsh to start with but once the ice melted, it was very good. Anyway, back to the cycling.

Today's ride started on the western shore of the lake. Over recent years, work has been taking place to extend the Piste Cyclable around the lake but on the western shore there is not a convenient disused railway line to hand so there has been enterprising ideas to make space. For the section from Annecy to Veyrier-du-Lac, the pavement has been converted to the cycle path and a new wooden board pavement constructed in/on the lake. Through Veyrier, the cycle path shares the road with a narrow residential street that has tactical one-way sections to stop the traffic using it as a cut-though. Maybe I will see the rest of the western shore later in the week.

In Menthon-St Bernard I climbed away from the lake past the Chateau (famous for being the birthplace of St Bernard, he of mountain passes and dog fame) and up to the Col du Bluffy. Alberto Contador won a time trial here a few years back - he was accused of drafting a camera bike, but the real reason he won was because he was quickest up this climb. It may be less than 200m, but it is a proper climb, first gear was needed earlier in the day than expected. The Col is not even marked, it is just the junction where the minor road joins the main road. From here I had a nice descent into Thones. First impressions were not great, lots of industrial units on the edge of town (the locals have to work somewhere) but the town centre was delightful. I had my Nutella baguette that I had liberated from breakfast as the fun was about to start with the 15km Col de la Croix Fry.

This was a lovely climb, generally about 7% but with the obligatory 10% section above the village of Manigod. It reminded me of the upper reaches of the Col de le Croix de Fer - only no snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Col de la Croix Fry - a shade under 1,500m
Then there was a short descent to the village of Les Etages where I met up with an old mate of mind - Le Route des Grand Alpes. La Route from Lac Leman to the Mediterranean, as the name suggests, passes most of the highest cols and is a magnet for German Mototcyclists and Middle Aged men in Sports Cars - yes those people that haven't discovered cycling yet. The climbing continued to the Col des Aravis, a climb that reminded me of the Glandon, though the valley is a little wider and the road, thankfully, not as steep. The Col was quite interesting and busier than any that I have crested so far this week.
Col de Aravis - very similar height to the Croix Fry
If you need some spiritual sustenance to continue your journey...
Is that Cow hides to the right - perhaps the bikers are ordering new jackets
I stopped for some lunch a little further down in La Giettaz as the highest point of the day was yet to come. I still had the Col des Saises in front of me, but first a descent down to Flumet next to an amazing gorge and then a 15km, 760m climb. The main point of note at Saises is that we are moving out of the Reblechon region and into the Beaufort region - another lovely cheese of the same family as Comte, Gruyere and Abondance. My favourite style of cheese. The climb to Col des Saises was quite pleasant but the arrival a disappointment. I was expecting a cafe on an Alpine pasture - but no, the pass is on a small plateau and it is a huge winter and summer sports complex. I know the region needs them, I just wasn't expecting it at the pass!

The descent down towards Beaufort was amazing - I would hate to think how fast Russel or Jamie would be going down here. At one point I was catching up with some German bikers, but they soon realised that they weren't camera bikes for some small cycle race and sped off. At one point I could see over the valley to the descent from Col de Pre that I have been down a couple of times and soon enough the road met the Beaufort to Albertville road that, back in 2011, saw our guide Ollie from Bike Village , Terry Butcher, Martin Sutton, Mike O'Kill, myself and an American gentleman whose name I cant remember, ride a 6-Up TT all the way into Albertville. I am fairly sure that I didn't do a single turn on the front.

Towards Alberville, I had the choice of a short-cut to Ugine via the Col de la Forclaz (not to be confused with either the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin that we shall see later in the week, or the Col de la Forclaz in Switzerland) but even know it was only a 5km climb, I wasn't sure if I had another climb in my legs, so opted to continue to Albertville to pick up the Piste Cyclable for a leisurely ride home. Only it was not so leisurely...

I caught up with a pair of Welsh Audax riders who today were checking out their route for tomorrow's 200km ride and we rode together for a bit but after doing my turn on the front, I was cooked so dropped off. They were very strong riders, doing a 200km ride once a month certainly puts it into your legs. But when the piste was passing the town of Faverges, there was protection from the wind so I caught them up again and we seemed to pick up speed. We were also joined by a French Gentleman, who after sitting on the back for a couple of km went to the front and did his turn. Well, when 3 or 4 are gathered together, then they will perform a chain-gang! My leisurely ride home had turned into a 20+mph blast into the wind. The Welsh pair stopped for a drink and I continued a bit of through-and-off (though mostly off) with Bardet's Grandad but when we were passed by a couple of youngsters he gave chase and I could return to a more gentle pace. Until I caught him again when we upped the pace again and 2-Upped into Annecy.

I got back to the hotel with 92.7 miles showing on my computer. How tempted was I to ride a small loop to bring up the hundred? Not one little bit. This is a metric country, 93 miles is enough.

Here is a map of today's ride - though again I don't think it quite right due to Google corrections (as I don't have a Garmin and don't often record rides on 'Map My Ride' I have to trace my routes on My Maps, which I enjoy apart from the un-editable auto-corrections that it likes to make) The profile below shows in excess of 2,000m climbing. 7hours and 10 minutes of riding.

Profile of today's ride - produced by GPSVisualizer.com

Back to Day 1
On to Day 3


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