2017 Tour of The Alps
Day 5: 3 Cols of the Massif des Bauges

Day 5 already and Meteo de France are predicting a chilly start with clouds burning away lunchtime and decent temperatures in the afternoon - very similar to yesterday. Originally I had planned a couple of days out in the car; Col du Joux Plain, Lacets du Grand Colombiere or Cormet de Roselend / Col du Pre with an optional bonus climb of the Col des Saises up the side that I descended a couple of days ago, but I was enjoying the local roads so much that I decided to revisit the loop of the Massif des Bauges that I didn't feel up to on Day 1.

I omitted Cret du Chatillion (Annecy-Semnoz) instead taking the direct route to the Col de Leschaux. This was a great climb to beat the morning chill. It is 12km long and never exceeds 5%. The first 8km are at 4%, then a kilometre at 5% and then back to 4% finishing with a 2km sprint at 3% to the line. If you are in Annecy but a bit intimidated by long and/or steep climbs, then this is for you. For me it was a 15 minute warm up on the Piste Cyclable as far as Sevrier and then a controlled effort all the way to the top. The climb itself took me less than 45 minutes, riding virtually all of it above 10mph. I imagine that there are club members that would target 30 minutes for it - come and give it a go!

After descending the over side, I retraced my route to Chatelard from Day 1 but instead of stopping I continued to the Col de Frene. This is another straightforward climb. After Chatelard, the road dropped about 100m before a very gradual ascent through the villages of Ecole and Ste-Reine. During the ride I was beginning to doubt the accuracy of Meteo de France as the clouds were hanging on to the mountains, though were clearing from the valleys and the road ahead of me was no exception with blue sky in front of me. After the village of Ste-Reine, I could see where the Col was and there were only a couple of kilometers at any sort of gradient. Again this was a climb for anyone - the hardest part was way back in the valley on the approach to Chatelard.

The Col du Frene - didn't even have any gradient signs on the northerly ascent
The southerly side was a different story, Climb by Bike has this listed as 8% average from St Pierre d'Albigny, and I had an enjoyable and twisty descent with views of the wide valley of the River Isere. The descending continued 'up' the valley past this amazing chateau
Chateau de Miolans
I passed through several villages, there were a few Caves au Vin but no open cafes - get yourself a coffee machine and some Ricard and set a bar up! Perhaps the lack of passing traffic is a problem - there was a restaurant in Gresy-sur-Isere but it was closed. And it is not even Sunday or Monday.

Anyway I soon reached Frontenex at the foot of my third climb of the day, the Col du Tamie. Having been to Frontenex last year, I was confident of getting some lunch and sure enough I was soon tucking in to a plate of pate, bread and frites. A sort of Savoire Ploughmans. The pate was fantastic - a rustic coarse grain pate, none of that rich, smooth stuff that fine dining seems to like. The only problem was that after lunch I was straight into the climb and despite taking almost as long as the locals over lunch, it was not long enough. The Col du Tamie is only 9km but most of it is at 6% and above, not the toughest around but the hardest of today. It took me just under 50 minutes but I'm sure that with a longer post-lunch rest I could do this in 45 minutes.
Last year the sign for the Col was just around the corner at a road junction
Just like the Col de Frene, the southern side is much steeper than the northern side and despite the (shallow) gradient I had to pedal all the way down as I was riding straight into a headwind. I don't remember the wind being that strong in the morning.

I rode this climb last year with Nick. It was raining that day and though we made the climb and descent OK, he crashed in Faverges and ruined both his holiday and his bike. This time the weather allowed me to take in the scenery and I spotted this bridge that I definitely don't remember from last year.

Seythenex Bridge
The bridge was made in 1912 from modern materials (stone arches and reinforced concrete) but the most interesting feature is that is only open to pedestrians and cyclists. So I took a small detour over the bridge to the village of Seythenex and took in the views of the valley below before returning via a small road not visible in the picture that is under the first arch. There is also a waterfall and cave here to explore, but cycling shoes rule out exploring by foot.

I then continued my descent into Faverges, avoiding the scene of last year's accident, and re-united myself with the Piste Cyclabe for the short trip to Doussard. Rather than continue to Annecy directly, I took a detour around the western shore of the lake. Well, I did promise to see how developed the cycle route was around this side of the lake. It starts with a 500m stretch from the main Piste that dives under the main road in a new underpass - back home we would be lucky to get a set of traffic lights to help cross. The piste disappears for a few km and you must ride on the road until the village of Balmettes. There is space in some areas to build a cycle path or widen the road to include designated cycle lanes, but this would involve cutting away some embankment which may make the hillside unstable, but I'm sure they will do something soon. From Balmettes to Talloires there is a separate cycle lane - the old walkway seems to the be the main casualty, but pedestrians still have a narrow strip between the cycleway and the lake.

At Talloires there is a twist. Lake Annecy, like all lakes, is flat. The road that goes around it is not. There is the Reserve Naturel Roc de Chere which is a hard piece of rock jutting out into the lake. The road has a proper little climb to get over it. In my direction (up!) for the first part of the climb the pavement has been given to the cyclists and for the second part there is a designated area on the road. There is nothing for the downhill riders going in the other direction but they don't need it as they are going at the same speed as the traffic. The climb can be seen on the profile below after the 100km mark - it is probably 100m height gain at almost 10%. There are no gradient signs on the roadside but I was in first gear and some people were walking.

The advantage to this climb is that whilst there is no room for a cycleway through Menthon-St Bernard, you don't need it as it is slightly downhill. Unfortunately, like a few other cyclists, I missed the alterative route to Veyrier-du-Lac and had to stay on the main road. No problem in this direction as it is slightly downhill and in the other direction it is impossible to miss. Finally I rejoined the cycleway in Veyrier and got back to the hotel faster than a group of Swiss Motorcyclists as the traffic is quite bad in and out of Annecy. Perhaps more people should commute by bike.

Today's route was 72.5 miles with 1,500m climbing but really was quite gentle. There were a couple of tough kilometres and the Col de Tamie can be avoided by continuing into Albertville (mostly traffic free from Frontenex along the Isere Cycle Way) to pick up the Piste Cyclable to Annecy. A little longer but saves 600m of climbing. A map of today's route can be seen here


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

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