2017 Tour of the Alps
Day 4 - Le Grand Bornand & Col de la Colombiere

Last night the clouds came late and Meteo de France were saying there was a chance of rain until 11am and then after that the clouds would start to lift and there would be sunshine later. Well the roads were a little wet and the mountains shrouded in cloud when I left at about 9:30. I had a few options today, one was to drive to Taninges / Samoens for the Col de la Joux Plain famous for Lance Armstrong describing it as one the hardest climbs he has raced (he never raced the Giro or Vuelta so wouldn't have been anywhere near Zoncolan or Angliru) and for Floyd Landis' epic breakaway that won the tour. Until he lost it on a failed drugs test. Not sure that my Day 4 legs would cope very well with that and mindful of low clouds ruining the spectacle, I opted for a one-way trip today over the Col de la Colombiere to Clusas and a train ride home.

I started on the western shore of Lake Annecy but this time took the main road up the Col de Bluffy. This was a much easier climb than the minor road and gave a great view of the Chateau. The air was very muggy and it was quite warm despite the cloud cover but this climb was a good start to the day and already told me that a shorter ride with the train home was better than a bigger loop.

I did the Col du Bluffy an injustice the other day, on the main road there is a sign for it, a few metres before the junction with the minor road.

The Col du Buffy gets its picture taken
I repeated the descent into Thones but this time took the road to St-Jean-du-Sixt. I had not realised how much higher St-Jean was to Thones and despite having a designated cycle 'lane' for most of the way, this was not the most enjoyable climb as it was quite a busy road. The French traffic is very respectful of cyclists but even so climbing is better on quiet roads. I was wondering why it seemed such an effort, looking at the elevations later this road is about a 6% average despite not being marked as a climb to either Aravis or Colombiere.

I had noted that the Col de Saint Jean du Sixt was marked on some maps and as I had not seen a mention of it on the road I thought that it was between St-Jean and La Clusaz (not to be confused with Cluses, my final destination) so I rode the 3km to La Clusaz in search of this mythical bonus Col but it did not seem to exist but I had a coffee and a cake in a cafe run by an Englishman in La Clusaz so no harm done. Or maybe there was.....

On checking the map later the Col is marked just before the town of St-Jean; there was a slight descent into the town but no roadside marking. Anyway I dropped down into Le Grand Bornand for the ascent of the Col de la Colombiere. By now the clouds were starting to be burnt off - in the image below, by the time I had eaten my energy bar the clouds at the col had gone!

The Col is up there in the clouds, though shortly in the sunshine
The climb was very steady, averaging just 6% with only the final kilometre testing. Strangely I felt better here than on the road to St-Jean-de-Sixt, but I had no intention of looping home, the train home still sounded the best idea.

As the Col is on the Route des Grandes Alpes, there was a cafe at the top with a few Grand Tourers enjoying their lunch now that the sun was out.
The pass is at 1,613m
I carried straight on into a very fast descent - on one stretch I was at 42mph without pedalling but soon slowed as the road became a bit more twisty. I reached Clusas station having missed a train by 8 minutes - so that detour in search of a non-existent col came back to haunt me. Never mind, the trains are hourly so time for a coffee and a beer. Disaster - the next train did not have a connecting service to Annecy so I had to wait another hour for the direct train. Things like this used to really annoy me but today I didn't care. I was in no rush, the sun was out, there was a bar opposite the station. Time for another beer isotonic recovery drink.

Here is a map of todays ride. This was a 45 mile trip with about 1,500m of climbing. Not exactly a rest day, but nothing like the previous 2 days. The original loop I had planned for the Columbiere can be seen here -  a loop of about 70 miles with ~2,200m climbing. Oh well, omitting the Gilieres means that I will just have to come back again.

PS - Meteo de France got the weather spot on!

Profile of today's ride - produced by GPSVisualizer.com
Back to Day 3
On to Day 5


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