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Route description and places to stay along Stage 5 of this great Alpine tour.

Stage 5 – Briancon to Barcelonette
Distance – 114km
Cols – Col l’Izoard, Col du Var
Additional Routes – Lac de Serre-Poncon (Route 115km), Col d’Allos (el. 2250 m.) – Col des Champs (el. 2087 m.) – Col de la Cayolle (el. 2,326 m) (Route 116km)

Click here for Barcelonnette Information
Click here for more photos of Route Grande Alpes

Stage 5 - 5 Stunning Passes - Click to Enlarge

The first part of this stage is a 114km run to Barcelonnette taking in Col d’Izoard (el. 2361 m.) including the strange Casse Deserte atop Izoard and then Col de Vars. The route up Izoard is a nicely surfaced road winding through forest and a couple of small villages to the summit where stunning views north and south await.

Refuge Napoleon, North side of Col l’Izoard - Click to Enlarge

At the top everything changes! On the south side is the mythic Casse Deserte (broken desert), a beautiful, strange, rocky environment, with forbidding and barren scree slopes with protruding pinnacles of weathered rock to which the road clings. Do yourself a favour, pull in and just spend a few minutes and look around to appreciate where you are.

Col d’Izoard + La Casse Deserte (broken desert) Click to Enlarge

From the bottom of Izoard you can take a left for a ride up La Bonnette on D947 or right on D902 to Guillestre.

Pinnacles of weathered rock lean over the D902 - Click to Enlarge

Guillestre is worth a stop to have a walk around the 17th century fort of Mont-Dauphin a UNESCO World Heritage Site before heading up Col du Var.

Bikers belting through Col d’Izoard

Col de Vars, elevation (el. 2108 m.) The first stretch of road leaving Guillestre is a cracking sweeping climb that will warm up your tires and blow off the cobwebs.

Sweeping road out of Guillestre to Col du Var

At the top is a monument explaining a bit of history about this pass since the 1300’s.

D902 along Col du Var

This was often a contested border point between Italy – France – Savoie – etc., and a couple of battles have been fought (way) up here, its hard to imagine how they managed to get army’s, guns, canon and supplies up here before roads, not to forget Hannibal who was called the Great for a bloody good reason!

Summit of Col du Var - Click to Enlarge

Along the Var you will pass a few small villages and ski stations where you can grab a coffee. From the top it’s a 30 kilometre (19 mile) descent to Barcelonnette. This is a beautiful, easy and very enjoyable fast ride with good road and more stunning scenery to feast the eyes all the way to Barcelonnette.

Barcelonnette, a good-sized town with a few hotels in and arround it, a couple of good bars and good value restaurants make it a good stop over for a night. I’ve stayed in Hotel Cheval Blanc in the centre of town, it’s a bit run down as it’s still stuck somewhere in the 1970’s, but its clean, friendly and close to a good bar to service my typically Irish drinking problem, i.e. lack of oppertunity 🙂 The run to Barcelonnette from Briancon is only 114km if you dont take a detour to La Bonnette, and assuming you have chosen to stay here you can dump your gear at a hotel and take your choice of two afternoon rides.

Ride 1. Barcelonnette, Lac de Serre-Poncon and back.

Lac de Serre-Poncon - Click to Enlarge

This is a nice easy run along good fast roads around Lac de Serre-Poncon with a few good sweepers where you can open up your throttle. A good route if your feeling tired and lazy and easy on a pillion, but it wont get your blood running like ride 2.

Yours truelly by Lac de Serre-Poncon, worth a run if you have the time.

Ride 2. Barcelonnette to Col du Allos, Col des Champs, Col de la Cayolle. This route is the dogs bollox, I really can’t recommend it enough. Scary, even terrifying and bloody dangerous in places on Col du Allos, the exhilarating and desolate isolation of Col des Champs, and a stunning ride through Col de la Cayolle.

No room for error on Col d'Allos - Click to Enlarge

This may well be the highlight of the whole trip, 114km of adrenalin fulled fun. Col du Allos is a very narrow road clinging to the side of a cliff for a large part, with, as of last May parts of it crumbling into an abyss. Going up is fine, but if you’re coming down towards Barcelonnette and you meet an SUV like I did forcing me to pass inches from the edge and a long long fall to a very messy death then God help you!!!!! This road was not built with a fat, heavy RT in mind.

Refuge on summit of Col d'Allos - Click to Enlarge

Also at one point I had to stop the bike and clear a small avalanche that had dumped snow and rocks over the road. This can easily happen in late May and early June when the snow ploughs have just opened up the roads and the sun starts melting the snow built up to as much as 3 meters at either side of the roads.

Col d'Allos, better road on south side - Click to Enlarge

Col de Champs starts outside Colmar (another fortified town and worth a look) and is a wonderful ride through rugged high alpine scenery and jagged peaks, some parts of the road can be a little dodgy, especially along deep paved drainage ditches, also common here is gravel spilling off the mountains so you really need to watch the road on corners.

First bridge on Col de la Cayolle - Click to Enlarge

This connecting road/pass leads to the village of St. Martin where you can join the D902 back to Barcelonnette via Col de la Cayolle which is a right little beauty.

Col de la Cayolle feels very remote - Click to Enlarge

Again unfortunately you probably wont be getting above 4th gear as much of this road clings to cliffs above a gorge, but it’s a visual treat you wont forget.

Nearing the summit of Col de la Cayolle - Click to Enlarge

The road along Col de la Cayolle can be a little rough and extremely narrow in places but it’s definitely not to be missed with jaw dropping views from bridges spanning the gorge.

Col de la Cayolle summit, despite the snow it's actually really warm!

At this stage you will probably begin to realise all these high passes are stunning, but each one is so different, with every one of them throwing something different at you in such a relatively short distance that it seems you have traversed a continent, the memories will take months to process, this is what makes Route des Grande Alpes so unique in Europe for a motorbike trip. And it’s not over yet, in the next stage the landscape changes drastically from the highest road of La Bonnette to the red rock of Gorge du Daluis, and the epic Gorge de Verdon, oh hell yes!

Route Instructions

* Start: Just head south from Briancon on D902 and you cant go wrong!

Biker friendly hotels along Stage 5 of the route;

Auberge L’Echauguette – Mont Dauphin Fort
Hotel Restaurant Le Catinat Fleuri – Guillestre
Le Grand Hôtel – Barcelonnette
L’Hôtel du Cheval Blanc – Barcelonnette

Downloadable GPS Routes for Stage 5 are as follows;
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage5.gdb
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage5.gpx
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage5.kml

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Nord
Bison Fute

Next Stage 6 – Barcelonnette to Castellane, why not sign up to the Email Subscription to stay posted, email address’ will not be given to any other party.

Coll de Champs

South side of Col d’Allos

South side of Col d’Allos

Col de la Cayolle

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Route description and places to stay along Stage 4 of this great Alpine tour.

Stage 4 – Lanslebourg/Val Cenis to Briancon
Distance – 110km
Cols – Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier
Additional Route – Including Col du Lautaret, Col de Sarenne, Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon (300km)
Click here for Briancon Information

Stage 4 - Click to view large map

First, the Col du Telegraphe, a 12 kilometres pleasant ride that winds it way up through the woods before a 5km descent into the ski resort of Valloire, then its a straight shot (8kms) up through the valley with high Alps looming down on either side. At Plan Lachat the road then goes up over the mountains at Col du Galibier

More curves then a porn queen - Col du Galibier - Click 2 enlarge

The Col du Galibier is at 2645m, the 4th highest mountain pass in France links the towns of Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and Briançon via the col du Télégraphe and the Col du Lautaret. From the top, the route descends down towards Col du Lautaret, dropping 585m over 8.5km

My beloved RT on the Galibier Pass

What can I say here, this stage starts as another good ride that turns into an epic climb through good twistys to stunning views on the summit of Col du Galibier then a good smooth run down through a glacier valley into the ancient roman town of Briancon.

 

Briancon is has some UNESCO listed buildings with an interesting fort, the old town is worth a look if that’s your thing but to be honest you’d be better off getting here about lunch time, finding a hotel, dumping your gear and exploring some of the biketastic roads around this town before starting stage 5. The Ibis hotel is conveniently located in the characterless new part of town, clean, cheap, good buffet breakfast, shit bar and walking distance to plenty of good restaurants. For a bit more Alpine character I’d recommend Auberge l’Arpelin 12km out of town on the D902 as this would will be your last chance to experience real alpine food, lifestyle etc as in the next stage you’ll enter the Cote D’Azur region where the buildings, colours and lifestyle will change markedly from Barcelonette south.

Col du Galibier is a seriously enjoyable run - Click to enlarge

I usually stay 2 nights in Briancon as from here you have a few route options depending on how much time you have to spare.

 

Option 1 – (40mins trip – 20km) From Briancon take a short run to Montgenevre, excellent road surface, good set of twisty’s. You can always make this a day trip up to Lac Cenis from here.

N94 from Montgenevre to Briancon - Click to enlarge

Option 2 – (Full day trip – 240km) From Braincon head back on D1091 through Col Lautaret, take D25 at Lac du Chambon through Col de Sarenne (2000m) with an incredible 21 corner set of arse clenching technical twisty’s that will leave you a sweaty grinning wreak, or dead if your not careful, best to leave your panniers etc in Briancon to really enjoy this! I met a lad who said his front break disk warped on this stretch, and I believe him 😉

It's Col de Sarenne for a twisty overload!

The Col de Sarenne is a narrow undulating road that continues on past the Alpe d’Huez ski resort and tops out 9 km further on at 2000 metres. It is a beautiful road that, although it is close to civilization, feels really quite remote, partly due to the fact that parts of the road are a little rough.

Col de la Croix de Fer - Click to enlarge

Then it’s another climb up to Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon via the D526 where you can swing back around to Briancon again via Col du Galiber.

Col du Glandon

This really is a fantastic route with a unforgetable mix of hard technical riding and fast sweeping high alpine roads with incredible views throughout. It’s a good 140km run that will leave you with a stupid imbecilic smile and gagging for a few beers. You could incorporate this into the Stage 4 run from Lanslebourg, but it will then add up to at least a 300+km run which is a hell of a long way on these roads, especially if your loaded down with luggage/pillion passenger. You could also consider staying over night in Valloire, a good sized ski town between Telegraphe and Col du Galibier with a number of hotels.

Looking down the south side of Col de l'Izoard - Click to enlarge

Option 3 – From Briancon head up Col de l’Izoard on D902, on the other side at 1st T-junction go left on D947 to Château-Ville-Vieill with its big ass castle, cross the river on the next bridge to the D5 through Molines en Queyras with its ancient and striking chruch and well worth a closer look.

Restaurant Marmot Saint-Veran (dont order the Marmot, see stage 3)

Then on up to the magically beautiful old stone alpine village of Saint Veran, this is a really cool village and well worth a look around. Up from Veran the road gives access to Col Agnel (Italian – Colle dell’Agnello), the third highest paved road in the Alps, after the Stelvio Pass and Col de l’Iseran.

Col de Agnel, France on left, Italy on right - click to enlarge

At 2744m it’s worth putting on your list of things to do, as its not well known its quiet and with the landscape you can really feel like your on another planet. At the summit is another ridiculously beautiful view now becoming just part of the course, it’s also the border into Italy.

 

Route Instructions

* Start: Lanslebourg
* Exit town to the west on D1006
* At Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne cross the river onto D902
* At Monêtier les Bains (Col du Lautaret) go left on D1091
* Follow D1091 to Briancon

Biker friendly hotels along Stage 3 of the route;

Christiania Hotel – Valloire
Hotel les Melezes – Valloire
Ibis Briancon – Briancon
Auberge l’Arpelin – Cervieres

Downloadable GPS Routes (Inc. Options 1-3) for this post are as follows;
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage4.gdb
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage4.gpx
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage4.kml

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Nord
Bison Fute

Next Stage 5 – Briancon to Barcelonette, why not sign up to the Email Subscription to stay posted, email address’ will not be given to any other party.




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Route description and places to stay along Stage 2 of this great Alpine tour.

Stage 2 – Grand Borand to Bourg St Maurice

Stage 2Grand Borand to Bourg St Maurice
Distance100km Aprox 3.5hrs, 4.5hrs inc Col du Pré +20km
This stage passes– Clusez, St-Jean-de-Sixt, La Giettaz, Flumet, Les Saisies
Cols – Col des Aravis – 1486 meters, Col des Saisies at 1657 meters, and Cormet de Roselend 1967 meters and the optional Col du Pré 1700m

Col des Aravis

The towns along this route are mainly just small ski stations and very quiet in the summer months, Col des Aravis is your first pass; remember at the top to say a quick prayer to Saint Anne – The Protector of Travellers in the little chapel dedicated to her at the top of the Col des Aravis..

Clusaz is located 32 km to the east of Annecy, in the Aravis Valley, a busy ski resort in winter, a ghost town in summer.

Route du Col du Aravis from Clusaz

This is a beautiful stage with three great passes – Col des Aravis – 1486 meters, Col des Saisies at 1657 meters, and Cormet de Roselend 1967 meters. Like La Clusaz, the town of Saisies is a medium size ski station. There’s a World War Two memorial at the top commemorating the Parachuting in of huge weapons supplies to the French resistance at the Col itself and the death of one of the American paratroopers..

Col des Saisies 1650m & WWII Memorial

You might want to think about your route a bit at Flumet because it’s very tempting to take the D1212 at Flumet and jump across to border to take a closer look at Mont Blanc. There are some fantastic roads around the big mountain but for the sake of your sanity stay well clear of the Mont Blanc Tunnel!!! Don’t even think about it, I have yet to meet a biker who would even remotely consider using it a second time! I went through it about 6 years ago and got stuck behind a string of trucks, by the time I got to the other side I felt dizzy and was close to puking in my helmet from the fumes.

Route de Beaufort/Col du Pré (D218) View towards Mont Blanc

It’s possible to go slightly off route in Beaufort to also take in Col du Pré at 1703 meters, this route is boastfully described as “Mythic” by the Beaufort Tourist office, not sure about “mythic” but worth a look. The way up has some hippy hairy hairpins, at the top the views of the lake and mountains are stunning.

The 2 routes to Lac Roselend

Roselend Dam from Col de Pré

I took Col du Pré once on fully loaded R115RT and I found the hairpins difficult due to the weight of the bike, I was a sweaty wreak by the time I got to the top, but it was well worth it.

This route then descends down for a couple of kilometres, crosses an impressive dam, a tourist attraction in itself and rejoins the classic route for the climb up to Cormet de Roselend at around 1600 metres.

Cormet de Roselend

Majestic Waterfalls Along Stage 2

Each stage of the route has something different to offer and the area along Stage 2 is known for its abundant waterfalls and vibrant green landscapes, the lake/dam of Roselend is one of the major attractions of this area which is particularly striking on the Beaufort side.

Just past the dam the D925 climbs up Cormet de Roselend where you’ll find a small car park with amazing views back towards the lake and Mont Blanc.

Great twisty road to Bourg St Maurice

Ville des Glaciers - Col de la Seigne

Here the D925 becomes the D902 and just down the road you have the opportunity to go slightly off route again and ride up the glacial valley of Col de la Seigne to Ville Des Glaciers at the base of Mont Blanc with spectacular views of the mountain and glacial valley.

Google Earth View of Col de Seigne

There is also a mountain refuge up here if you fancy it for the night, and there are some great hiking routes here, if not then double back and it’s a superb, hairpin-filled, 20 kilometre descent all the way to Bourg St Maurice on the D902.

Where the hell am I now?

One of the reasons I broke down this route into 8 stages is because I’d highly recommend regularly going “off route” at each stage and exploring the passes either side of the main route like a run around lake Annecy before starting this stage at Grand Borand if you have the time. I have yet to find a pass up here that I have not immensely enjoyed for one reason or another so if you take a wrong turn just go with it!

Route Instructions:

* Start Grand Borand, head towards Clusez:
* Exit Clusez towards South: Follow D909 and signs to Col des Aravis and Flumet
* Stay on D909 and climb and descend Col des Aravis into Flumet
* At Flumet cross the busy D1212 and take the D218b towards Saisies
* Stay on D218b and climb and descend the Col des Saisies
* A few kilometres from Beaufort the D218b ends
* Turn left on D925 into Beaufort
* Stay on D925 and climb Cormet de Roselend
* At very top, road becomes D902
* Descend on D902 into Bourg Saint Maurice

Biker friendly hotels, most with bike garage along Stage 2 of the route;

Hotel La Montagne – La Clusaz
Les Chalets de la Serraz – La Clusaz
La Coeur de Marie – Flumet
Chalet Hotel L’Eau Vive – St Nicolas La Chapelle
Chalet La Source – St Nicolas La Chapelle
Le Caprice Des Neiges – Crest-Voland
Hotel le Tetras – Notre Dame de Bellecombe
Le Calgary – Les Saisies
La Ferme du Chozal – Hauteluce
Hotel du Grand-Mont – Beaufort
Le Christiania – Beaufort
Refuge du Plan de la Lai – Beuafort
Hotel L’Autantic – Bourg St-Maurice

As usual you can download the route as a GPX, GDB or as a KML file which is a playable tour in Google Earth and is probably the best way to review the route without actually doing it. Just go to the GPS Routes Box on the top right, open the KML folder and choose the file you want..

Downloadable GPS Routes for this post are as follows;
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage2.gdb
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage2.gpx
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage2.kml

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Nord
Bison Fute

Next Stage 3 – Bourg Saint Maurice to Lanslebourg, why not sign up to the Email Subscription to stay posted

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Route description and places to stay along Stage 1 of this great Alpine tour.

Stage 1 Thonon to Grand Bornand

Stage 1 – Thonon-les-Bains to Grand Bornand
Distance – 90km

This stage passes by Morzine, Gets, Taninges, Cluses, Le Grand-Bornand
Cols – Col de Gêts 1163 meters, Col de la Colombière 1613 meters
Cols (Stage 1b) – Col du Ranfolly, Col de Joux Plane

Great views and roads, a good start!

Col de Joux Plane. Even in June there can still be snow!

There are 2 possible routes to take in the is stage, the official route and the extended route used on the Tour de France cycle race which is around 20km longer and takes in Col du Ranfolly, Col de Joux Plane and the very pretty little village of Samoens and carries the designation of a “ville fleurie” distinguishing it as one of the most beautiful towns in France, I’d recommend taking this route i.e.”Stage 1b” downloadable from the GPX Routes Box alongside. (file name: “RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage1b” format .GDB/.GPX/.KML)

Route down to Samoens

Road D354 to Sameons

Samoëns carries the designation of a “ville fleurie” distinguishing it as one of the most beautiful towns in France. There are no less than nine chapels in and around Samoëns, not counting the many shrines and other cultural buildings visible in a landscape dotted with hamlets. Most of them were built in the 17th century and I’d recommend stopping off to have a walk about.

Col de Joux Plane

Both Col du Ranfolly and Col de Joux Plane are a magic ride and after a pretty hairy descent to Samoens, the ride turns to a scenic, fairly flat valley before starting a little climb and long descent towards Cluses and the start of the next big climb to Col de la Colombière. Pay attention around Cluses as the traffic can become heavy.

D4 through Col de la Colombière

Leaving Cluses look for the D4 to the Col de la Colombière, the first part of this road is steep and narrow but the road surface is good.

Alpine landscape of Col de la Colombière

Higher up in the Col de la Colombière the scenery is a wonderful Alpine landscape and an absolute pleasure to ride. Except for weekends there is not much traffic except for the squadrons of nutters on push bikes!!!

Decent to Grand Borand


Route Instructions

• Start Thonon-les-Bains to Morzine:
• Exit Morzine, follow D354 and signs to Col de Joux Plane
• Stay on D354 and climb and descend Joux Plane into Samoens
• In Samoens: ignore signs to Taninges, cross river towards Morrillon
• Ride past Morillon for several kilometres.
• Turn Left at D902 – a small climb – following signs to Cluses
• WARNING: the road will now become busier until exiting Cluses
• At Chatillon long descent into Cluses
• Stay on D902 through Cluses (a pretty big town)
• As leaving Cluses turn right on N205 (busy road)
• just a few hundred yards later turn left on D4 looking for Col de la Colombiere signs
• D4 is the climb, stay on D4 until finished descending Colombiere
• Just after Grand Bornand

Biker friendly hotels etc along Stage 1 of the route;

Thonon-Les-Bains
Hotel l’Arc en Ciel, Thonon-Les-Bains
Auberge le Bois du Cornet, La Forclaz
Hotel Bergerie, Morzine
Lenvala, Les Gets
Hotel Alpina, Les Gets
Hotel Nagano, Les Gets
Le Bel’Alpe, Les Gets
L’Abeille, Le Reposoir
Hotel Vermont, Le Grande Bornard
Hotel la Croix St.Maurice, Le Grande Bornard
Hotel Les Ecureuils, Le Grande Bornard

And for the serious adventurers try a mountain refuge, online interactive map can be found here;
List of mountain refuges

Road conditions; check the status of the Cols/Passes:
InfoTrafic: Alpes Du Nord
Bison Fute

As usual you can download the route as a GPX, GDB or as a KML file which is a playable tour in Google Earth and is probably the best way to review the route without actually doing it. Just go to the GPS Routes Box on the top right, open the KML folder and choose the file you want..

Downloadable GPS Routes for this post are as follows;
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage1.gdb
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage1b.gdb
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage1.gpx
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage1b.gpx
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage1.kml
RoutedeGrandeAlp-Stage1b.kml

Next week Stage 2 – Grande Borand to Bourg St Maurice, why not sign up to the Email Subscription to stay posted

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I never get tired of watching this: Alpine Adventures – Col de l’Iseran

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