My latest tour was months in the planning, starting as far back as September 2010 with interest from a Canadian, and growing over the interim months with others from Australia and the US. The common theme was that each had an extended period of time available, so after much discussion, many Skype calls and email correspondence, I created a 15 day tour which would see us ride the Jura region of France, the French and Swiss Alps, the Dolomites in Italy, enter into Austria to ride the Grossglockner Pass, and cover in excess of 4000kms and 56+ major mountain passes.
Meticulous planning, hours poring over maps, pre-riding of routes, hotel reservations, creation of ride itineries, and co-ordination of meeting points for the group count for nothing though when you’re thrown a curved ball, the first one being on Friday morning when one of the Canadians mistakenly put diesel into his loaned Pan European, thereby creating a chain of events that involved him being stranded at the roadside for 9 hours in blazing hot sun, whilst I had to make 6 hours of round trips to and from his breakdown point to collect his stricken bike with a trailer, and then deliver it to the dealer the next day, and rescue his trip by assisting in hiring a replacement bike at a discounted rate, thanks Honda Geneve!
Draining 24 litres of diesel which literally ate away at the tarmac as it dropped onto the roadside!
Curve ball number 2 was early on Saturday morning when Eddie, our American rider, called and explained he had oil on his rear wheel. After a quick call to the local BMW dealer we were able to get the bike checked over and a faulty captor seal was replaced in ultra quick time. So now with a replacement Honda (Deauville) and a repaired BMW GS1200, the 3 of us set off to meet with the rest of the group who had been at the hotel since Friday night waiting for my arrival!
The tour should officially have started with riding on the Saturday, but as we had already lost half a day all I could do was extend my apologies and suggest we eat at the hotel and ride that afternoon, thus giving me a chance to get things back on track, give the tour briefing, and hopefully have a stress free remainder of the day.
The afternoon ride only started at 15.00 and it was 21.00 when we finally made it back to the hotel, but in line with how we had started, it didn’t pass without incident, when another of our Canadians effected a U turn too quickly and ended up with his bike on top of him! This was clearly a selfless act of heroism designed to save any repair costs, but it worked, the bike was unscathed, and the only damage was a little loss of pride and a scuffed riding jacket.
So with an eventful start to the tour we settled down for our evening meal and several beers soon cheered everyone up!
Sunday- I had returned home early to collect my wife Sue for today’s tour, but this morning the weather had turned from yesterdays glorious sunshine, and wet gear was the order of the day. After a cross country ride to Bonneville I offered the choice of a ride around option for anyone who didn’t fancy the potentially tricky ride over the Col de la Colombiere. Two opted to take it and we agreed to meet at St Jean de Sixt. Those who rode with me found the Col to actually be bone dry and we had a great ride over. We stopped for lunch in St Jean de Sixt where we were entertained by music and dancing in the town centre.
Next, up and over the Col d’Aravis
Then down into Notre Dame de Bellecombe where this massive cycle was celebrating the Tour de France
We crossed the Col d’Aravis and had an afternoon coffee stop at the Cormet de Roselend
Riders L to R- Eddie (USA), Mike and Dave (son and father Canada), Terese & Nick (Australia), Terry (Canada), “AlpineBiker”
Next a great run down into Bourg St Maurice and over the Col de Forclaz to Annecy, before returning to the hotel for a daily total of 355kms riding
Evening meal was meat cooked on skewers over a charcoal burner. In Switzerland this is called charbonade, great!
Monday and we decamp from the hotel for the South of France leaving these great views behind
A big thank you to our great hosts at the Auberge de Catray, Carine and Michael
Our destination today is the Gorges du Verdon. It’s a biggish distance at 537kms but 150 is on the autoroute.
En route to Gap
Here is the always stunning Lac de Serre Poncon
DAVE- BMW GS800
EDDIE- BMW GS1200
MIKE- BMW ST800
TERESE & NICK- BMW K1300GT
TERRY- HONDA PAN EUROPEAN/HONDA DEAUVILLE
The day was hot and after a great ride down to La Batie on the Col du Labouret we wanted a drink but couldn’t find a restaurant open, so settled for dunking our heads in the spring water trough in the centre of town, you can’t believe how refreshing that was!
We arrived in the gorges early evening and took these shots at Pont Sublime
Evening meal on the balcony directly over the gorges was a real treat, as was breakfast the following morning watching the sun light up the gorges
Sunset over the gorges
Breakfast on the balcony directly overlooking the gorges
The sun gradually lighting up the valleys
We had a quick run out in the direction of Aiguines for these views thinking we would have the roads to ourselves but 5 minutes later we were engulfed by a large group of Italian riders
Next back round the gorges to this viewing point at the Balcons de Meussia
Trying to stay cool in the shade
The mediaeval town of Trigance
Next, the Gorges du Daluis
After a long lunch in Guillaumes we rode over the Col de la Couillole with this great view
Next up to the summit of the Col de la Bonette, the highest pass in Europe. 3 weeks previously it had been blocked and we couldn’t ride beyond 2714metres
Plenty of altitude gain today!
Overnight is at one of my favourite hotels, the Bon Logis in Haut Gaudissard, Risoul.
What a great view to start your day!
So far we are only 4 days into the tour and have ridden 1553kms and spent 23hours 51 of saddle time.
NEXT INSTALMENT FEATURING WET ASCENTS OF MAJOR PASSES THE IZOARD AND ISERAN