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 meters) 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 meters 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.
Next: 2010 Euro Bike Tour. Day 5 – Lake & Mont Cenis