Cycling the most iconic climbs of the Alps


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July 14th 2017
Published: July 20th 2017
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YES! On top of the Col du Galibier. YES! On top of the Col du Galibier. YES! On top of the Col du Galibier.

Day 02: from Hermillon (alt. 550m) to Hermillon. 98km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Col du Telegraphe (alt. 1566m) + Col du Galibier (alt. 2646m)
I’m still in France, waiting for the Chinese Immigration Bureau to deliver the work visa I’ve been waiting for (50 days already…) to get back to Beijing. For Bastille Day, I followed my parents on a wonderful trip in the French Alps around Saint Jean de Maurienne, where my dad and I took part in the cycling race of L’Arvan Villards. My dad took up cycling a few years ago, and now frequently takes part in amateur cycling competitions all around France. My mom goes along (and supplies him with snacks and energy drinks along the tour), and after the race they usually stay an extra day or two to visit the area they’re in. This time, my dad was about to tackle the most prestigious cols (mountain passes) of the Tour de France, and I couldn’t stay by the side of the road to cheer for him… so I also registered! And WOW, I am so glad I did! We spent 3 days struggling up the steepest Alpine mountain roads but the scenery was well worth the effort!



First, I should mention that I am obviously in an okay shape, although I haven’t followed any specific training for this competition. I run usually twice a week, and I did go cycling with my dad almost on a weekly basis since we got back to France after Sri Lanka. We did more than 100km on a few trips. We spent 3 fabulous days cycling Ardèche (400km in 3 days, early June) and a day in Alsace where we climbed the Grand Ballon d’Alsace (alt 1325m) and reached the Markstein ski-station over 25km of pretty steep incline.



What I liked about the race of L’Arvan Villards was that we would only be timed on our way up. The finish line was on top of the mountain every day, then we could go back down as slowly as we wished; time/chrono did not matter anymore. I liked that a lot, because I’m no cyclist and don’t descend well, especially when the road is abrupt and windy. But I’m rather light and quick going uphill, and I find it a lot more interesting to cycle alone on a big hill, than cycling in a group at top speed on a flat line, facing other cyclists’ butts… Plus, you can’t possibly get bored as you get above the 1000m
fantastic last laces up the Galibierfantastic last laces up the Galibierfantastic last laces up the Galibier

Day 02: from Hermillon (alt. 550m) to Hermillon. 98km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Col du Telegraphe (alt. 1566m) + Col du Galibier (alt. 2646m)
altitude. I took my pocket camera along, and I took a lot of pics along the tour, which kind of flabbergasted the other runners. They were surprised I had the energy to take photos on the way up, but actually focusing on something other than the pain in my thighs helped me relax.



My mom fixed us heavy but healthy breakfasts; we packed a few snacks just in case, and off we went… We did our best and we exceeded our expectations. During the time trials, I didn’t get to cycle with my dad. I can finally say I’m faster than him (going uphill only). But, there’s nothing to be too proud of, as my dad turned 60 this year and he only finished a handful of minutes after me! He’s hardcore and he finds pleasure in pushing himself hard. He always finishes fast and somehow recovers very quickly. I’m not as tough as he is, and I prefer going fast at the beginning when I feel good and light, and if I can I’ll try to maintain the pace, but if my legs don’t feel like it, oh well…



Here is the list
struggling in the last laces of the Col du Glandonstruggling in the last laces of the Col du Glandonstruggling in the last laces of the Col du Glandon

Day 03: from Le Corbier (alt. 1540m) – St Jean de Maurienne (550m) – to Le Corbier. 94km / elevation gain 2650m D+ Col du Glandon (alt. 1924m) + Croix de Fer (alt. 2068m) + Montée de la Toussuire
of the famous Alpine cols we climbed over the 3-day-Arvan-Villards-race:



-Day 01: From Hermillon (alt. 550m). 69km / elevation gain 2500m D+

Lacets de Montvernier + Col de Chaussy (alt. 1522m) + Col de la Madeleine (alt. 2000m)



-Day 02: from Hermillon (alt. 550m). 98km / elevation gain 2500m D+

Col du Telegraphe (alt. 1566m) + Col du Galibier (alt. 2646m)



-Day 03: from Le Corbier (alt. 1540m) – St Jean de Maurienne (550m)– Le Corbier.

94km / elevation gain 2650m D+

Col du Glandon (alt. 1924m) + Croix de Fer (alt. 2068m) + Montée de la Toussuire (back to le Corbier at 1540m).



On the firs day, I climbed fast the first 34km, but maybe too fast, as I collapsed in the last 4km before the top of Col de la Madeleine. I reached the top in 2hours and 39 minutes. My legs felt so heavy at the end of the first day, and I felt absolutely empty in the evening, I had no energy left. I was worried I had overdone it on Day 01…

But surprisingly, I felt amazing on Day 02 and I climbed steadily and much quicker than anticipated to reach the top of Col du Galibier (50km) in 2 hours and 24min. I took lots of pictures on the way up (and down too) and completely fell in love with the area!

Day 03 was long… The last 3 km of Col du Glandon (les lacets) were a killer, and I thought this was the hardest out of the 3 days. I descended slowly, taking in the view and many cyclists I had passed going up, overtook me in the downhill. I did manage to catch up on some of them on the final hill before Le Corbier. I reached the finish line in 4 hours and 27 minutes, and ranked 48th, 45 minutes before the winner. Not too bad I thought… Mission accomplished!



The atmosphere on the race was great! I’m usually not a big fan of amateur cycling competitions. There are too many fat cyclists who easily get angry and start insulting others if they don’t exactly follow their line, or if they lose 4 seconds at the water pit… they usually climb slowly and give everything they have in the
c'est dur!c'est dur!c'est dur!

Day 02: from Hermillon (alt. 550m) to Hermillon. 98km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Col du Telegraphe (alt. 1566m) + Col du Galibier (alt. 2646m)
downhill, taking uncalculated risks to save only a few seconds…I think this behaviour is ridiculous. In Alsace (on the race of Alsacienne I took part in), a guy missed a turn, and a helicopter had to pick him up… Is it really worth going so fast? But at L’Arvan Villard, I found the cyclists very respectful of road regulations (we don’t own the road, and must share it with cars) and we got to chat with all kinds of cyclists of all levels. I talked to the winner of the race, a 20-year-old marathon mountain bike champion, and he gave me some tips on training. We met a 75 year-old cyclist who raved about the Ardeche race (L’Ardechoise) and how we can drink red or white wine in every single village the race goes through! And since the competition lasted 3 days, we got to see the same people before each start, and shared a communal lunch after each time trial.



Doing sports, facing new physical and mental challenges was an amazing experience, but what I enjoyed best was the stunning landscape around St-Jean-de-Maurienne. France is absolutely gorgeous, and wherever you go in France, there is always
beautiful scenery on Col du Galibierbeautiful scenery on Col du Galibierbeautiful scenery on Col du Galibier

Day 02: from Hermillon (alt. 550m) to Hermillon. 98km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Col du Telegraphe (alt. 1566m) + Col du Galibier (alt. 2646m)
another beautiful spot to dicover: old villages, vineyards, white sand beaches, an ancient church, a castle… this time, it was the mountains with the white-snow-caps. The landscape was phenomenal! And believe me when I say that the view is always better when you fought and struggled to get to the top, when you truly deserved it. What a reward! I’m not going to describe what I saw, as pictures are worth a thousand words, but the scenery was spectacular and I can’t wait to go again (Will Becky cycle along my side next time?)!



We loved it so much that on the fourth day, in spite of the pain in our thighs, we looked at the map and decided to cycle up the last 3 cols we hadn’t done yet around St Jean de Maurienne (alt 550m). So we climbed to the Karellis ski station (alt. 1600m), then we cycled all the way to Valloire through a rocky track... we had to dismount and walk for 20 minutes… and in the afternoon, we climbed to St Martin La Porte and finished with the crazy steep wall of La Planchette (alt. 1450m) with slopes up to 16% and
fatigués mais heureux!fatigués mais heureux!fatigués mais heureux!

tired but thrilled!
18%!!(MISSING) What a way to finish!



J’ai tellement passé un excellent séjour dans les Alpes avec mes parents, que j’ai voulu immortaliser ces 5 jours par un petit blog avec beaucoup de photos ! Je suis tombé amoureux de la région autour (et au-dessus surtout !) de St-Jean-de-Maurienne. Mon père était inscrit à la cyclosportive de l’Arvan Villards : 3 jours de course où les participants monteraient les cols les plus prestigieux des Alpes. Le challenge sportif m’a plu, d’autant plus que seules les montées étaient chronométrées (je ne suis pas un vrai cycliste, et je ne roule pas bien en descente ou sur le plat… par contre, je monte plutôt bien les côtes), et puis surtout quelle belle opportunité de découvrir cette merveilleuse région ! Je me suis donc inscrit pour 3 jours de vélo en montagne. J’ai emmené mon appareil photo, et comme vous le verrez, je n’ai pas arrêté de cliquer tout en montant, ce qui n’a pas manqué de décontenancer plusieurs autres concurrents…



Le programme des 3 jours était plutôt corsé, je vous laisse juger par vous-même :

- 1er jour : D’Hermillon (alt. 550m) à Hermillon.

69km
Majestic Col du GlandonMajestic Col du GlandonMajestic Col du Glandon

Day 03: from Le Corbier (alt. 1540m) – St Jean de Maurienne (550m) – to Le Corbier. 94km / elevation gain 2650m D+ Col du Glandon (alt. 1924m) + Croix de Fer (alt. 2068m) + Montée de la Toussuire
/ 2500m D+ (dénivelé positif)

Lacets de Montvernier + Col de Chaussy (alt. 1522m) + Col de la Madeleine (alt. 2000m)



- 2e jour : D’Hermillon (alt. 550m) à Hermillon.

98km / 2500m D+

Col du Telegraphe (alt. 1566m) + Col du Galibier (alt. 2646m)



- 3e jour : Départ du Corbier (alt. 1540m) – St Jean de Maurienne (550m) – Le Corbier.

94km / elevation gain 2650m D+

Col du Glandon (alt. 1924m) + Croix de Fer (alt. 2068m) + Montée de la Toussuire (retour au Corbier à 1540m).



On n’a pas été ridicules sur ces trajets pentus. Nous avons même roulé plus vite que prévu. J’ai démarré trop vite le 1er jour et me suis donc un peu écroulé dans les derniers kilomètres de la Madeleine. J’ai mieux géré mon effort lors de la 2e étape, et je suis monté très régulier au sommet du Galibier. Mon père qui vient de souffler ses 60 bougies arrive juste une poignée de minutes derrière moi (heureusement que ça monte, car sur le plat et la descente, il m’aurait allumé). Pour la 3ème étape, j’ai trouvé les 3 derniers kilomètres du Glandon les plus durs de la compétition. Mon dieu que ce fut raide ! Mais encore une fois, que de beaux paysages !



Nous avons beaucoup aimé l’ambiance. Après chaque étape, nous mangions tous ensemble lors de la remise des récompenses, et comme la course s’étalait sur 3 jours, nous avons pu rencontrer les mêmes personnes à chaque départ, et nous plaindre tous ensemble de nos douleurs dans les cuisses ! Le niveau était relevé, mais les vainqueurs (pros ou semi-pros) restaient accessibles et sympas. On a discuté avec des gens des 4 coins de la France, ainsi que des anglais et des belges. J’ai bien ri en parlant à un vieux monsieur Ardéchois qui nous conseillait vivement d’aller courir l’Ardéchoise Verte, où l’on boit du vin au ravitaillement de chaque village ! Douce France !



Papa et moi avons pris tellement de plaisir sur ces 3 étapes, qu’on en a remis une couche le 4e jour en montant le Col des Karellis (alt. 1600m), puis jusqu’à La Planchette (alt. 1450m), où nous avons fini en beauté avec des pentes de 16%!!(MISSING) De la folie ! On adore !
Gorgeous view above Saint-Francois-LongchampGorgeous view above Saint-Francois-LongchampGorgeous view above Saint-Francois-Longchamp

Day 01: From Hermillon to Hermillon (alt. 550m): 69km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Lacets de Montvernier + Col de Chaussy (alt. 1522m) + Col de la Madeleine (alt. 2000m)


Voilà, il y a beaucoup de photos (trop !) mais c’était tellement beau !


Additional photos below
Photos: 230, Displayed: 30


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en route vers le col de chaussyen route vers le col de chaussy
en route vers le col de chaussy

Day 01: From Hermillon to Hermillon (alt. 550m): 69km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Lacets de Montvernier + Col de Chaussy (alt. 1522m) + Col de la Madeleine (alt. 2000m)
Et c'est parti pour la 1ere journée!Et c'est parti pour la 1ere journée!
Et c'est parti pour la 1ere journée!

Day 01: From Hermillon to Hermillon (alt. 550m): 69km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Lacets de Montvernier + Col de Chaussy (alt. 1522m) + Col de la Madeleine (alt. 2000m)
Overlooking HermillonOverlooking Hermillon
Overlooking Hermillon

Day 01: From Hermillon to Hermillon (alt. 550m): 69km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Lacets de Montvernier + Col de Chaussy (alt. 1522m) + Col de la Madeleine (alt. 2000m)
Que ça monte! What a climb! @ Col de la MadeleineQue ça monte! What a climb! @ Col de la Madeleine
Que ça monte! What a climb! @ Col de la Madeleine

Day 01: From Hermillon to Hermillon (alt. 550m): 69km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Lacets de Montvernier + Col de Chaussy (alt. 1522m) + Col de la Madeleine (alt. 2000m)
on est arrivé en haut du Col du Galibier!on est arrivé en haut du Col du Galibier!
on est arrivé en haut du Col du Galibier!

Day 02: from Hermillon (alt. 550m) to Hermillon. 98km / elevation gain 2500m D+ Col du Telegraphe (alt. 1566m) + Col du Galibier (alt. 2646m)


20th July 2017
c'est dur!

Follow that Road
Must be great to tackle your French Alps Jeremy as a relaxing sojourn from tackling the frenetic streets of Beijing. By the way, do you bicycle in Beijing? I have heard they were trying to ban electric bikes but what about the pedal variety?
21st July 2017
c'est dur!

Cycling those roads
Thanks for the message, Dancing Dave! Cycling the Alps was sensational! I can't wait to go again! I do cycle in Beijing, and it's actually one the best places to do so in China, as there are tons of cylcing lanes everywhere. I lived in Fuzhou for 7 years, and cycled every day there, but it was a bit risky! Beijing is so big, so spread-out, it can take a while to cycle from one place to another, and when it's polluted, it aren't pleasant! But I'd rather cycle than take the bus or subway...

Tot: 0.098s; Tpl: 0.026s; cc: 12; qc: 39; dbt: 0.0154s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb