We are four riders on this trip which was brought about by a conversation with Kevin and Pete who rode with us in the Dolomites last September. They brought along 2 friends, Darrell and Paul, both of whom had never ridden in the Alps before. As you can imagine they had some in-trepidation as to what faced them. Chris (our drive/mechanic) picks everyone up in Geneva and takes them back to our chalet base here in Courchevel. After a quick cup of tea and some cake the lads quickly build their bikes and we manage a short afternoon ride up to the Courchevel Altiport to warm up the legs for the 6 days to follow. We then chat about the plan for the week and check the forecast which looks good, if a little hot.
We roll out at 9.00am after a hearty breakfast and enjoy the downhill ride to Moutiers. After about 45 minutes we hit the first (and a major one) climb of the day – it was a monster – the Col de Madeleine. Our advice is to start easy and try to find a nice rhythm. Chris was on the road at strategic points to provide drinks and snacks if needed. The team make their way up in between 2 hours to 2.5 hours to the top of the Madeleine. We take time for some memorable pics at the summit, a quick reviving coffee before we ride down to La Chambre for a welcome lunch. It’s always a bit tough getting going after lunch but a 10km roll along the valley helps before we tackled Lacets de Montvernier This was made famous in the 2015 Tour de France – a short climb with dramatic switchbacks but no longer than 30 minutes riding –it’s still a leg hurter! After some more pics at the summit we have an easy ride to our hotel in St Jean de Maurienne. We stay at L’Hotel du Nord where our host Valerie knows us well. It’s the perfect stopping point and the food is outstanding with the best cheeseboard ever – yummy.
The sun is out again and we are straight on to the Col de La Croix de Fer. It’s a rude awakening as we leave St Jean as the gradients are tough. It’s another HC climb but at least it offers some downhill. The guys are doing well and having had coffee and photos at the summit we have the exhilarating descent to Bourg d’Oisans for lunch. This is probably our hardest day and our next challenge is Les Alpes d’Huez. It’s only 13km but the first 4km are all at over 9% – this is never easy! It takes some time but the satisfaction of reaching the top of this legendary Tour de France climb is something special and helps us forget the pain of the climb. We are not quite finished though and we continue through the village and over the Col de Sirene topping out 2,100 metres. The weather begins to close in too and we are more than happy to meet Chris at the summit and put on some warm clothes for our final descent to Les Deux Alpes. It’s been a long day and we are delighted to settle in to L’Hotel Chamois and enjoy a great deal meal at Spot restaurant with a couple of beers to celebrate a tough day.
Yet another sunny start and it’s a perfect Alpine morning. Breakfast is at 7.30am and we are on the bikes at 8.30am. It’s a beautiful descent from Les Deux Alpes and we stop for some dramatic shots before reaching the valley floor. The Col Onron is a relatively easy climb of about 12km with 6% gradients. It’s simply stunning up on the plateau where there is a nice restaurant for morning coffee. We keep rolling on and join the Route Napleon towards Gap. It’s a fast road with a great surface and we make good time and we just make our lunch stop before the friendly French lady shuts – remember never to arrive for lunch after 2pm. Well fed, we spin on to Gap where there is a 7km uphill drag to our hotel. We are all happy to use the outdoor pool and enjoy some relaxation and swimming before supper that evening. Another fabulous evening meal.
We have had a few hard days so today’s run from Gap to Vaison la Romaine is more of a recovery day. Yes, it was 110km and we had a lovely tailwind to help push us along. We made it to Vaison ahead of schedule and actually rode on to Malaucene (one of the villages at the bottom of Mont Ventoux) for lunch. There was a great vibe about the village with it’s numerous bike shops. It was a hive of activity and was very busy with cyclists as the Tour de France arrives in a week’s time. Most of us spun down the hill to our hotel in Vaison but Kev and Pete decided they hadn’t done enough and headed up Mont Ventoux! The others settled for ice cream at the hotel pool. This hotel (Logis de Chateau) here in Vaison is beautifully situated overlooking the old Roman fort. Happy days but with the thought we have to ride over the Mont Ventoux tomorrow.
Another excellent evening meal.
The forecast says 33 degrees later today but luckily there is some cloud cover this morning and we ride over towards Bedoin. The 15km rolling roads get us ready for the legendary Mont Ventoux. It’s 20km with some tough gradients through the forest section. We all manage though and within 1hour 50mins and 2hours 20mins we all reached the summit (PIC) After some lunch near the summit we make our way south through Provence to our overnight hotel in Lourmarin. It’s a beautiful remote part of France and our hotel is actually attached to a Thai restaurant – which made for real change in menu! It’s been a memorable day and we all sat in the hotel gardens reminiscing over a Singha or two!
Provence in July – it really is special. Today’s ride was quite long at 130km but the terrain was generally flat. We roll through the lavender fields stopping for coffee and a lovely (if slow!) lunch stop in Salernes. The villages are buzzing with activity but life seems very carefree. It’s very hot but as we approach the Med the sea breezes begin to cool us down. Rather than ride though the traffic on the Cote d’Azur we use the van to take us to our hotel in central Antibes. Time for a quick dip in the sea before we walk into town and enjoy supper in the port where the atmosphere is vibrant.
The group fly home from Nice at 1000 so we leave about 0800 for the 30mins drive to the airport. Kev is staying on – as his wife is coming out tonight to send a few days enjoying Nice. Chris and I jump on the motorway and make our way home to France through Italy and the Frejus tunnel. What a week.