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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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Jour & Nuit Restaurant/Bar/RoomsI really did not want to leave, I loved the little town of Torgnon in the Aosta Valley and for me the little place I had stayed in was perfect, rustic, full of character and charm. If your ever up there it’s worth staying with them, I’ll insert the GPS location soon, but for now you can check the place out at: http://www.jouretnuit.it/en/index.htm.

As the pass from Italy to Bourg St Maurice in France via the D1090 and Col de Petite St Bernard was closed I had to take the A5/A32 motorway via Turin then through the pass at Montgenevre, back into France and Briancon, my destination for the next 2 nights. A rather boring trip except for the pass from the French border down to Briancon which has some fantastic views and as with all good mountain roads in France there were plenty of motorbikes blasting their way up and down the pass utterly disregarding the speed limit which seems to only apply to car drivers.

It was still only lunch time when I got to Briancon, so I dumped my gear off at the hotel and went for a quick burn out of town on the iconic D902 to Col d’Izoard which is a high mountain pass (2361 metres) in the Hautes-Alpes. It is most definitely closed for the winter months and right up to the summer, but luckily for me it had been opened up a few days before. Both the road and the scenery is absolutely mind blowing. About half way up the road to the pass I hit the snow line, and it’s a very surreal experience riding a motorbike along a road where in places either side is bordered with 3 metres of snow which seems to threaten to collapse in on top of you. Upon reaching the summit the road plunges into another valley where again the scenery shocks the senses, the view of the Alps ahead, the deep valley far below is truly breath taking which is not hard as the air here at this height is getting a little thin.

Riding down the D902 from Col d’Izoard towards Guillestre there are forbidding and barren scree slopes with strange protruding pinnacles of weathered rock on the upper south side. This place is known as the Casse Desert and has formed a dramatic backdrop to some key moments in the Tour de France. I had been through this pass a number of years ago, but that had been in early Autumn and there had been no snow, now in early summer the snow transforms the road into a very different riding experience and not to be forgotten.



Tomorrow I’ll head back into Italy and up to Lac Cenis.

Denis

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Friday, 21 May 2010

As I write this, eagerly awaiting my boar stew, I look out over the mountain vista where across from the restaurant the owner’s son tends his goats, the faint sound of their bells hinting at the desert of goats cheese to come. Jesus, I wonder if I am really here or am I dreaming after getting stoned off my tits watching Heidi on the classics channel? It’s like something out of a kids story book, except I’m in it!!!

Road to CerviniaThis morning I awoke at 5:30am, got my camera kit together, hoped on the bike and headed into the Alpine valley towards the great mountain peak, and for the 30km of twisty roads with utterly indescribable views, I realised my face had become wet with tears of pure joy, what a ride, I have no way of describing the sheer walls of rock and ice with heights that staggered my senses. And I was not the only one, on the way up I pulled in beside a group of German bikers, the look on their faces and the look on mine said it all, within seconds all of us had stupid grins, shared smokes like we had known one another for years and stared in dumb struck awe at the most powerful view I have yet to see, honestly it was like kneeling in the shadow of Titans! Nothing can really prepare you for seeing this place for the 1st time. Do yourself a favour and put this place on your list of things to do before you die or you will surely die before really living.

Mont Cervinia (The Matterrhorn)Tomorrow I head back over the French boarder but as feared the best and highest pass of Col de l’Iseran is still snowbound and no place for motorbikes so I have no choice but to take the motorway south to Torino and head west over the Montgenevre pass into France and the old Roman outpost of Briancon at an altitude of 1,326 metres it is the highest town in Europe.

These photos are geotagged, so just drag and drop in to Google Earth to see the locations of each shot. These shot were taken with just a compact camera. I’ll insert the links to the really good photos when I get a chance to go through them all.

Bon Route
Denis

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