The route starts with an epic 22km descent through the Gorges de Cian, which should be impressive to say the least. From here we climb up the small Col de St Raphael (876m), followed by some fabulous cross country riding on an undulating gradient. The last main col of the trip is the Col de Bleine (1439m), which is followed by a well earned 27km descent into St Vallier de Thiey. The coast is in sight here. We head on over the Col du Pilon 786m (which we should hardly notice). Then there is a true downhill bias as we head into suburban Cote d’Azur. It will be a bit of a shock to enter such populated areas after the tranquillity of the route, but also there should be a definite ‘holiday’ feel about the place! We follow the quietest but least complicated (we hope!), route into Antibes and to the coast where we end our epic journey. Our hotel for the night is on the sea front of Cagnes sur Mer, just up the coast from Antibes. It is the perfect place to dip our toes (probably all of us in fact!) in the Med, enjoy a seafood dinner and partake in a few celebratory beverages!
The Raid Alpine rolls on and after today's efforts all that remains is one day and if all things go to plan I will be in Antibes in the South of France and at the end of the journey tomorrow evening.
Today was spectacular, in particular the crossing of the Col de la Bonette, the highest paved road in Europe. It's quite hard to get your head around a climb like that as it lasts for 23 kilometres and involves an altitude gain of around 1600 metres topping out at 2802 metres, certainly high enough to make you feel the altitude.
It rained towards the end of the ride, the first daytime rain of the trip which wasn't a problem at all and I was only out in it for about 15 minutes at the very end of the ride, not unpleasant at all :-)
Spent a few minutes this evening looking at a few clips from the helmet camera and it looks as if everything has been working properly so that's great, hoping to have some nice shots to work with.
So, about 90 miles to Antibes tomorrow, and no massive hills! :-)
We continue our way up the Col de Vars with a 350m climb to the top, over 7kms, as a fairly gentle ‘warm up’! Today has some beautiful riding ahead with a great descent for approx 20kms after the Vars. From Jausiers, we start the ascent of our highest col, in fact of the highest col in Europe, the Cime de la Bonette (2802m). Though it will be a tough one in terms of the length of the climb (23kms), it is a fairly steady gradient, and thanks to this col, you get your incredible 53km descent from the top, down to St Saveur de Tinee! Just one more little Col – Col de la Couillole (1678m) before we stop for the night in the lovely town of Beuil.
Well, stage four completed and it's been another hot and mountainous day, the scenery has been amazing again.
Crossing the Col d'Izoard was a real highlight and the rock formations in particular that I've seen so often when watching the Tour de France were really memorable. I hope as I get even older than my memory for these things doesn't fade too badly as I want to enjoy them in the future but I guess at least I'll have my photographs to remind me if it does!
Another nice hotel and as you can see from the photos I went out for my usual baguette when I finished the ride, I can't think I'm going to lose much weight on this trip but I've got to try to keep my energy levels up ;-) Gawd knows how much ham and cheese went into it, enough to feed a small army, I just hope the Perrier was slimming ;-)
Tomorrow promises to be a really challenging day. The main obstacle of the day, standing between us and eventually the coast, is the Col de la Bonette which I believe is the highest paved road in Europe.
I've crossed the Col de la Bonette in a car when I was travelling up from Nice with friends to ride La Marmotte and at the time I remember thinking "I'm glad I'm not on a bike" - but now I am. I'll just see how things go, could do without the cold and sore throat I've now developed, almost certainly picked up on the flight.
Another hefty dinner tonight on top of the baguette so that should stand me in good stead. Right at this very moment the Col de la Bonette looms very large in my mind.
Cesana Torinese to Vars, plus Col de Sestriere (105.5kms, 3004m ascent)
We sneak in the Col de Sestriere (2035m) for a ‘tampon’ before returning to Cesana Torinese and continuing back into France with a 500m climb up the Col de Montgenevre and then a quick 14km descent before the start of the infamous Col d’Izoard (2361m), with its monuments to Fausto Coppo and Louison Bobet. Not content with this epic 19km climb from Briancon, we also face the first half of the Col de Vars today, though only a 9km climb. It is a lovely route hopefully with great views and classic Alpine meadows. Sainte Marie de Vars is a classic ski resort and will offer us a good nights rest before our 5th day on the bike tomorrow!
Another good day with Marmot Tours on the Raid Alpine :-) The weather was once again kind to us as we crossed first the Col d'Iseran (2764m) and then the Col du Mont Cenis (2086m). I could definitely feel the altitude on the Col d'Iseran, something I've not noticed so far but there will be more of that to come!
For some of the day I was convinced that it was going to rain but it held off for us and the views on both of the climbs were spectacular. Lorena and I will I hope be out here in due course in a campervan and that will be excellent, might be an idea to drive the route of The Raid just for the enjoyment of it, without the exertion :-)
Tomorrow's first climb is the climb from the hotel up to the ski station at Sestriere. We were given the option, if we felt we wanted to, to tack the climb onto the end of today's ride which would make for a shorter day with less climbing tomorrow, and a lie in :-)
I decided to take that option so tomorrow's first climb for me is now done, so tomorrow I have the Col de Montgenevre (1865m) followed by the mighty Col d'Izoard (2361m) to deal with. These will be followed by a far from insignificant climb at the end of the ride up to Vars, our stop for the night at the end of day 4.
So all going well so far and in terms of days ridden I'm at the half way point, onward!
Tignes La Reculaz to Cesana Torinese (127kms and 2620m ascent)
We only have the last 17kms of the Col de L’Iseran (2764m) to do today (easy!), before another whopping descent of 31kms! A quick nip up (600m of climbing) the Col de Mont Cenis (2,081m) and then another lovely descent, this time taking us across the Italian border into the town of Susa. We head uphill from here (though not steeply) for approx 35kms to our end destination for the day, the small town of Cesana Torinese, just below Sestriere, which was home to the 2006 winter Olympics.
[The offical route was amended a few years ago to avoid this section of main road from Susa to Cesana Torinese. The amended route takes us over the col de Finistre and the col de Sestriere, however the final 8km of the col de Finistre is unsurfaced and is unsuitable for road bikes, hence we have opted to stick to the original route, but taking in the obligitory 'control' by riding up the Col de Sestriere from the east]
Another super day here in The Alps, this picture was taken looking back towards where I had come from as I climbed the Cormet de Roseland before the long descent into Bourg St Maurice.
Very hot again today which made the last climb in particular rather a drag as it was on a busy road leading up to Val d'Isere but as is always the case the top always comes in the end. Staying at a little place called Le Reculaz which overlooks a man made lake generating clean HEP energy.
The descent off the Cormet de Roseland was long (about 20km) and spectacular, very enjoyable and I also noticed gentians and orchids by the road, I hadn't seen gentians since Lorena and I were last walking in The Alps. It's so easy to just pass these things if one is in too much of a hurry and I'm enjoying riding at a steady pace.
Seems strange after the TdF ride in 2010 that I've been riding for just 2 days and already I'm a third of the way through the route, that took me a week last year!
Anyway, tomorrow takes us into Italy, to Cesena Torinese, slightly longer stage again but slightly less climbing and the majority of the climbing comes in the first half of the route with another drag to the finish, should be fun!
Praz sur Arly to Tignes La Reculaz (105 kms and 3079m ascent)
A beautiful days riding today, visiting some of the most well known areas of the Alps in both winter and summer. We have a meagre 2km warm up from the hotel before we start on the lovely Col de Saisies (1,633m) with a great descent to the pretty town of Beaufort. Our next climbs come one after the other, starting with the Col du Pre (1740m), with a quick descent before climbing back up to Cormet de Roselend (1968m). Oooof! But, then we get a 26km descent before starting on the mighty Col d’Iseran but only as far as Tignes La Reculaz (just before Val d’Isere), where we stop for a well earned rest.
Well, that's stage one completed which went just fine. Arrived at the hotel in Megeve a few hours ago and have since been out and bought a cheese and salami baguette and a Danish pastry to tide me over until dinner time :-)
The Col d'Ramaz was probably the highlight of the day but it was all lovely and the weather was amazingly kind to us and I'm not going to even think about complaining about it being hot, it was excellent.
The ride was very well supported by Marmot Tours throughout with no logistical problems at all, they were there where they were needed, couldn't have been better.
The other point worth mentioning is that the .gpx file supplied by Marmot Tours for the ride worked perfectly which meant there were no route finding issues at all and I rolled right up to the door of the hotel without any troubles at all, terrific stuff.
Had the helmet camera in operation and have also taken some clips at various stops so hopefully I'll be able to put together something for the stage combined with some stills I've also taken so hopefully that will make a nice little record of the ride.
So, off the La Reculaz tomorrow, slightly longer and slightly more climbing.
Random musings of a UK based cycling coach. In July 2010 rode the entire Tour de France route starting and finishing 3 days before the pros came through, particularly interested in power based training. Other interests include technology, video recording and editing, photography, sailing, the outdoor life and pretty much anything else!