Tour Reports

The 2011 Tour was 6500+ km through the Alps and the Pyrenees taking in 38 of the highest passes, many made famous from the Tour de France cycle race in 10 days.

Starting in Albertville I rode through the French and Italian Alps down as far as Gorges du Daluis where I rode along Gorge du Verdon, Gorges de Nesque, Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles mountain range. From there it was through the vineyards of the Rhone Valley and into Cathar country before crossing over towards the west coast to ride along some of the highest passes of Route des cols Pyrenees winding in and out of France and Spain before heading further south into Alicante and Murcia.

Download This Route »
Note: You will be asked to log in or register with RoadTrooper.com to gain access to downloadable .KML (Google Earth), .GDB (Garmin), .GPX (Generic) files.

Day 1

Sunday the 25th of September 2011 at 11:30am Cherbourg. I just rolled off the boat and I had to pull over almost straight away to peel off some of my kit, with clear blue skies it’s already 24 degrees and I’m burning up, fecken marvellous! As it’s Sunday the roads and motorway should be quiet, so my 700km run to the Ibis hotel in Avalon should be relatively stress free. I often stay at the Ibis in Avalon (250km north of Lyon) which is as good a motel as you will ever find, just off the A6 and perfectly located within an easy next day 350km run to Thonon-Les-Bains which is the official start of Route des Grande Alpes. This year however I’ve planned to start the trip in Alberville just south of the 1st high pass of Col de la Colombière and 400km south east of Avalon.

As hoped, the roads were quiet, and better still all the motorways north and south of Le Mans were toll-free for motorcycles as there was a big bike rally on in Le Mans, so saving myself a few spuds on tolls and with no que’s it was an almost clear run to Avalon with the exception of heavy traffic around Orleans. I pulled into my 1st nights stop at 18:35 with 698km done in almost 7 hours flat, not too bad considering I took a fair few breaks and mostly kept to the speed limit . This route south is longer but quicker then taking the Paris route which can be a traffic nightmare for 100km north, south, east and west of the city. You can download this section of the route as a .GPX, .GDB or .KML files from the download page (2011 Alps Pyrenees Motorbike Tour. Day 1: Cherbourg to Avalon).

Day 2. Avallon to Albertville

Another fairly easy day, the downloadable route to Albertville from Avallon is a quick 400km ride taking the eastern motorway bypass round Lyon (A432) which proved to be quieter, and quicker than the western route (A6&A7) allowing me to roll into Albertville around 3pm. After finding my hotel for the night I quickly checked in, dumped my gear to lighten to bike and headed for an afternoon spin up the Gorges de l’Arly which links Albertville with St Gervais.

2011 Tour - Old Town of Albertville

2011 Tour - Old Town of Albertville

Albertville, host to the 1992 Winter Olympics looked like a good place to stay on the map and I had booked into Auberge de Costaroche. The reason I chose to stay here was because of it’s location close to some great roads beings a gateway town to the Alps. However it turned out a rather depressing industrial rather than tourist town, and while the staff at the Auberge de Costaroche were friendly enough and the price was cheapish, it was a bit of a dive. It was yet another 1960′s throwback that are so common in France, best avoided along with it’s “please shoot me I’m that depressed” restaurant! Most of the restaurants clients that night looked possibly suicidal, certainly miserable, single middle-aged men, probably recently divorced and unable to cook for themselves or bewildered fellow travellers like myself just driving through to somewhere “anywhere” else and were unlucky to choose to stop here. At the start I had to wonder if I’d inadvertently booked into a gay diners club, but as a certain level of genetically repressed, typical Irish catholic homophobic terror set in I realised these guys were just too dam depressed looking to get up to any Parisian style cheese mongering shenanigans. It certainly didn’t stop me however from making sure the door to my frayed, overworked and depressing bedroom “which seemingly hadn’t been seen a lick paint since the days of Charlemagne” was bolted and with my panniers stacked up against the door for good measure. On a positive note, — no wait, sorry there isn’t one as the food in the restaurant was over priced junk food. The grizzled steak with fermented pepper sauce, hollow chips and side salad would have been shameful to any self-respecting chef at the price they charged and it really pisses me off when restaurants claim that a “side salad” constitutes of just 3 dry leaves of lettuce! A small glass of beer set me back 5 euro, and a half pichet (2 glasses) of cheap table wine was 8.50 Euro, and to make matters worse the waitress who had a face like the wrong end of dead camel got offended and told me I was wrong when I said the pepper sauce had gone bad.

There is the nicer old part of town (medieval town of Conflans) within 10 mins walking distance, but it’s restaurants are closed on Mondays and even here there is a bit of a depressed feel about the place in autumn. With no pubs or bars in town worth looking into either, Albertville will not be revisited. Albertville has one saving grace for the motorcyclist however, it’s location, and as I had arrived here at 3pm I had time to head up a fantastic stretch of road, the Gorges de l’Arly!

Gorges de l’Arly

Lower end of Gorge de l'Arly

Lower end of Gorge de l'Arly

The Gorges de l’Arly is a marvellous road, it’s a 14km stretch of fast twisty bliss with a good surface along the Arly River with its stunning views over the edge into the gorge. A magic ride if you get here on a quiet day, however it’s also one of the more dangerous roads in the Alps due to traffic.

2011 Tour - Gorge de l'Arly

2011 Tour - Gorge de l'Arly

As a link road it gets a fair amount of local traffic as well as the tourist sort, belting round a corner and into a truck or camper van is all too easy, or easier still is close calls with oncoming traffic rounding a corner and creeping into your side of the road. It is better to avoid in the summer, with heavy tourist traffic it’s too easy to get frustrated and try risky overtaking. More often than not it’s closed in winter leaving spring and autumn the best time to ride it.

2011 Tour - Gorge de l'Arly - Photo taken from helmet cam

2011 Tour - Gorge de l'Arly - Photo taken from helmet cam

Don’t let that put you off however, most of the corners are just right for setting your bike up for the next and even on a big touring bike like an old RT ye can have good speedy fun with more fun still on a smaller bike. If you catch this road with little or no traffic it’s a very memorable fast stretch of motorbike magic and well worth the trouble of getting here and it also swiftly leads you into the Col des Aravis.

Watch more videos on RoadTrooper/GPSRepublic YouTube Channel »

Col des Aravis

2011 Tour - View from Col des Aravis

2011 Tour - View from Col des Aravis

Just past Gorges de l’Arly is Col des Aravis (1486m) which leads to La Clusaz and on to Col de la Colombière (1613m).

2011 Tour - Col des Aravis

2011 Tour - Col des Aravis


Watch more videos on RoadTrooper/GPSRepublic YouTube Channel »

Both cols are at the lower end of the towering alpine scale, but the road surface is good and the scenery is classically alpine. While I have never exactly found these two cols exhilarating, they are an extremely enjoyable ride and set you up nicely for the higher and scarier passes further south. In between each col you will find small towns like Le Grand-Bornand with accommodation and fuel stops and up on the cols its worth stopping off for a quick sniff around the roadside stalls and have a coffee while watching the all too common stray cows wandering along the road shamelessly spreading crap all over the road and reminding you to stay awake and watch the road while riding.

Download This Route (Day 1 Cherbourg to Avalon; Day 2 Avallon to Albertville, Albertville – Col Colombière) »
Note: You will be asked to log in or register with RoadTrooper.com to gain access to downloadable .KML (Google Earth), .GDB (Garmin), .GPX (Generic) files.

Hotels
Stay the hell out of Albertville and head for hotel La Croix St.Maurice in Le Grand-Bornand or check out Booking.com for other hotels nearby.

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


Next: 2011 Alpine and Pyrenees Tour. Day 3


2011 Euro Bike Tour, Biking Routes - France, Route des Grande Alps - Roads, Links, Photos 2 Responses so far

2 Responses to “2011 Alpine and Pyrenees Tour. Day 1 & 2”

  1. Loza14 says:

    I am looking for a scenic route through france to switzerland and back again over 10 to 12 days. Any suggestions?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.