2017 Tour of the Alps
Day 6 - Two Cols de la Forclaz

My final day was always going to end on the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin, you may remember it from last year's trip, though I had given some consideration to the Signal de Bisanne. The Tour went to Bisanne 1500 in 2016 (via both Cols de la Forclaz) - had I done my homework properly, I could have descended the Saises on Day 2 via Bisanne. But that was already an epic day and as the last few km to the summit are above 10% then it might have finished me off. The Signal de Bisanne will still be here for my next visit.

Anyway back to today, my intention was for a late lunch at the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin so I needed a route with a few miles beforehand rather than going directly there from Annecy. Originally I was going to ride the Cols de l'Arpettaz and Forclaz de Montmin today, but l'Arpettaz had been ridden out of sequence! So for today, I had a great idea - how about via the Col de la Forclaz de Quierge, the one that I chose not to explore on Day 2. What a great idea, made even better by not just riding out on the Piste Cyclable

This view was always my final destination for the week
So I rode the Col du Bluffy (again) into Thones and then the Col de Marais from the opposite side than before. Most climbs have marker signs every kilometre showing you how far you have to go, the current altitude and the average gradient of the next kilometre. There were no such markers on this climb. It was another simple climb, though there was one small section that needed first gear  but this another climb that anyone could tackle.
Col de Marais - only a true climb from Faverges
After the Marais, I descended into Serraval and then climbed the Col de l'Epine, again from the other direction than earlier in the week. This had a couple of kilometres that demanded respect, but again a much simpler climb than the side taken earlier in the week.
The view from a point just before the Col de l'Epine
I then had a glorious descent and on the way down saw my Welsh friends from earlier in the week on the climb. I was going too fast to stop but gave them a cheery wave. I soon reached the Piste Cyclable for the short ride into Ugine for the Col de la Forclaz de Quierge. The tour tackled this from Ugine in 2016 but I chose the alternative starting point of L'Ile, which meets the Ugine road after about 3km. Again this Col does not have gradient markers, but in the tour it was rated a Cat 2. It is only short, less than 7km, but averages over 6%. I climbed up over the village and into the forest. It was a pleasant, though taxing climb, but slightly disappointing not to have a proper marker post at the summit, just a sign saying 'Forclaz'. A Frenchman, who was trying to get me to ride with him via Bisanne and Aravis took a photo, but it is not really in focus. He probably did that on purpose as I wouldn't ride with him - I had a lunch date at Montmin.

I descended back to Ugine and then continued along the Piste Cyclable to the base of the Forclaz de Montmin. By now, it was very warm and this is probably the hardest climb of the week. It is only 9km, but over half of it is above 10%. Napolean would not have been happy. The climb immediately starts with an 11% km followed by a 10% km - never before have I been so glad to see a 7% marker! The worst one was with about 5km to go - next kilometre average gradient was 9%, but it started with about 250m that were almost flat, so you can imagine what the rest of it was like! At the top of the climb, I overheard Garmin-equipped cyclists stating that the maximum grade was either 15% or 25% - having ridden Winterfold Hill, I would say that there is a small section through a hairpin of 25%

After 6km the village of Montmin is reached and guess what happens - the road descends for a bit and then rewards you with the final kilometre of 11% with the finale to the Col being 15%. But the effort is worth it - the view is amazing.

The view back towards Montmin
Mixed emotions at the Col - a fantastic week is (almost) over
I had my late lunch of Tartiflette at the restaurant at the Col (is it wise to have Tartiflette twice in one week?). The food was great, the view was great but the occasion is let down by the staff at the restaurant. I was ignored for 15 minutes and was tempted to move on, but the same happened last year and eventually I had my (late) lunch and a beer on a terrace with a fantastic view. All I had was the descent back to Annecy so the wait may have been annoying but it did extend my holiday a bit! I descended the other side to Menthon-St Bernard this time (last year we descended the same was we ascended) which was the way that the tour climbed it last year. The 'easy' side is not exactly easy - the first two thirds of the ascent (the final two thirds of my descent) aren't particularly steep, but the top third also has long stretches above 10%. It was categorised 1 but was too early in the stage to cause any fireworks.

Today's ride was 70 miles with over 2,000m of climbing. Map can be seen here
Full photo gallery

So how did Annecy compare to my previous Alpine Weeks?
I have been to Annecy a few times over the years and knew that a good week of cycling was available. In a way I miss the high mountain scenery of the Galibier, Sarenne, Isere etc but the views here are also great, just different. Annecy also makes it easy to choose how tough you want it. Ideal for family holidays with the Piste Cyclable, ideal for those who don't want extreme climbs (Leschaux, Bluffy, Frene, Marais) and ideal for those who want tough days. If you want tougher days than I have ridden then Cold du Pre & Cormet de Roselend or Signal de Bisanne & Col de Saises are two options. There are plenty of non-cycling activities here and places to visit making it an ideal family holiday destination just don't forget to bring a bike.
Next year I have a change of scenery and, along with Martin Sutton, have booked to cycle the Pyrenees Coast-to-Coast with Exodus Holidays.

Today's profile - generated by GPSVisualizer.com

Back to Day 5

A note on the new maps and profiles
I trace my routes out on My Maps (Google), which can be very frustrating when it keeps 'correcting' your route, but I enjoy this as it lets me explore where the turn-offs lead and helps re-live the day. I then export the data to a .kml file and then use GPSVisualizer.com to convert to a .GPX file. I then delete the route that I have created and import the route from the .GPX file . Sounds crazy but creates a better map for future reference and doesn't take very long. The .GPX file can also be uploaded into Garmins and other devices. I also use GPSVusualizer.com to create the profiles from the .GPX file.
I prefer maps to Garmins and though they are very useful devices, I always prefer to know where I am going first by studying maps of the area. I have a phone for back-up but technology should not be relied on. You should always take a map if you are venturing off-road.

Martin Harris
September 2017


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