Bellegarde-sur-Valserine to Annecy 101+km

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June 20th 2017
Published: June 21st 2017
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"Art shot"
(written on Wednesday)

Today was one I had been looking forward to with both anticipation and a bit of trepidation, as I intended to tackle the Col du Grand Colombier - the highest road pass in the Jura, and one I had foregone on my previous trip to this area in 2013 - and I was still not entirely sure I would be able to make it up it's steep inclines with the gearing on my bike (which is not particularly low) being powered by my now older and not-as-well-trained legs.

In anticipation of another hot day we all - even those choosing to ride an abbreviated and less-demanding route - tried to get away early, yet somehow it was already 8:00 when I rolled out of the hotel parking lot to begin my journey. Even so, I am sure I felt the difference in heat compared to having left 10 minutes later the day before, and even that brief respite was welcome. Today's route started with a 5km descent and corresponding climb up the other side of the valley as a warmup to facing the Col du Richemond, itself a prelude to tackling Grand Colombier. In 2013 I

Obligatory col shot #1
had made a side-trip to climb the former from the west side but had merely turned around at the top, so although I knew what to expect at the summit I was unsure what the approach from the east side would be like.

It turned out to be rather similar to what I had previously encountered, and although I was prepared for the lack of view at the summit, unlike yesterday's nominal ventures today's steady 10km climb meant the Col du Richemonde definitely qualified as a proper Col. But it was mere child's play compared to the 13km ascent of Grand Colombier that followed. Paradoxically, just as I was thinking how unrelenting that climb was, I encountered a stretch where the grade eased, and then even levelled out a bit, allowing me to reach an unheard of 20kph before hitting another steep uphill section that in turn yielded a brief downhill run and speeds in excess of 30! Then the climbing resumed even more seriously. Concentrating on the effort, only occasionally did I catch a glimpse of the placards on the other side of the road indicating remaining distance to the top and the average grade over the next

View part way down Col de Richemonde
kilometre, but I can report that at 5km out the grade was 12% followed by a recovery for the next km at a trifling 4.7% before rising to 9.9% with 2km to go. Mercifully I never spotted the sign for the last km, which was on the order of 14-15%.

At the top we met a local who informed us that the road we had intended to take on our descent was blocked by a landslide, which was a good thing - had we not been alerted, we would have had to climb back up 3km to the alternative he suggested. The latter had its own charm, being a long, twisty 14% decline occasionally strewn with small rocks that made descending somewhat unsettling.

Along the way we passed through the thermocline into the warmer air of the valley, and once we reached Sessey and crossed the Rhone I was again on familar ground, having come this way in 2013. After following the Gorges du Fier this time, however, our route into Annecy was different, and once we passed the presumably aptly-named Hauteville I was both surprised and dismayed to find another long, switch-backed ascent that had to be

Heading off to the base of the climb to Grand Colimbier
tackled in the oppressive heat. Even my cycling computer was feeling the effects, and it intermittently refused to recognize that I was moving at all (I wasn't going that slowly!), rendering my in-town directions - which are always a challenge in the best of times - somewhat useless.

Nevertheless, simply going on instinct and following my nose (with a bit of help from a not-terribly-detailed map that at least showed the one street I was on) led me close enough to where I thought I could recognize the hotel building. I had to circle the block and consult the map again before realizing I really had arrived at my destination, as the hotel entrance is, shall we say, somewhat unassuming.

After walking down 2 tight circular staircases to store my bike in the basement I was not above taking the funky elevator from the lobby to the 3rd floor; it had been a long (but rewarding) day. After a shower and getting laundry done (while enjoying a beer from the conveniently-placed establishment next door) I and the others wandered the few blocks from the hotel into the old section of town where I was dismayed to

Early in the climb
learn that it would not be possible to get a doggie bag for my leftover tartiflette, the very filling local potato-and-cheese dish. So I ate the whole thing and waddled back to my room thoroughly stuffed and looking forward to a day off.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19



They mean what we would call cattle guards

This isn't even the really steep bit

Note the road and the cross on top

Coming over the top (obviously staged)

Now that's a proper col!

Obligatory col shot #2

Down the other side

Tunnel in Gorges du Fier

Did I mention it was hot?

Heading into Annecy

Hotel entrance and 'lobby' in one

Suds and suds

Glamour shot in the "Venice of the Alps"

Packed into the funky hotel elevator following dinner. My hand was resting against the door.

Tot: 1.515s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 5; qc: 45; dbt: 0.0266s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.4mb