And one thing yet:
By each of my five bicycle tours when I bicycled in the French Alps, I have pleasant weather, rarely with showers and rainy days. This region almost always gave me ideal cycling weather.
Becasue this tour (in the year 2011) was planned for the middle of June, I knew that I would have cool nights, but I hoped for pleasant weather. But anyhow I was sure, nothing could stop me! I learned that there is nothing to be afraid of rain, but with wearing properly clothes no serious problem can happen during cycling even above 2000m (as I did it for excample on the Sustenpass ascent in rain, under 10 degrees Celsius â€“ in the year 2006.)
10th June, 2011: BudakalĂˇsz â€“ TRAVELLING - Gramatneusiedl (A) â€“ Schwechat, airport â€“ FLIGHT - Milano Malpensa â€“ Ponte Ticino, camping = (by bicycle): 43,7 km + 60 m heightdifference
After some hour long travelling by train I cycled in pleasant weather to the Schwechat airport. I love cycling there: stopping by the South end of the airport, by the airstrip and watching the landings. I always stop there for a few minutes. After taking off, my airplane flew through and above a not too large rainzone, but by landing the sunset lighted into the airplane, while the drizzling rain hadnâ€™t stopped. After waiting more than half an hour for the packs, I prepared the bicycle for using it, and then I cycled hour long in the darkness to the camping, situated by the Ticino river. This camping gave me the opportunity to reach the train in an hour in the following morning, to be able to reach the Alps on the following day.
11th June, 2011 : Ponte Ticino â€“ Novara â€“ TRAIN â€“ Torre Pellice â€“ Rifugio Barbara Lowrie (1753 m) â€“ Barge â€“ Paesana â€“ Pian de Re (2020 m) â€“ wild camping next to Paesana = 114,2 km + 2806 m heightdifference
After a rain in the early morning, I reached Novara after pleasant cycling: the wheels were spinning well and fast. I travelled few hours to Torre Pelicce through Torino. I planned two climbs for the remaining half day: the first is one of the hardest italian climbs: Rifugio Barbara (1753 m), a 9 km long ascent with 11,2 % average steepness! The second climb wasnâ€™t too steep, but long: the climb to Pian de Re (2020 m) is situated by the Po quaelle / stream, but the ascent starts at the height of 500-600m. At the end of Torre Pelicce I found an ideal park to hide most of my packs. Because of the brutal steepness and the fact that I had to come back there, there was no point in carrying the packs with me. I have to notice: because of the 22-24 % max steepness with my gears it would have been impossible to cycle up carrying the heavy panniers on it.
The climb itself started in a leafy forest, next to a fast stream. The road was paved, but the asfalt wasnâ€™t always perfect. Although the steepness-diagram showed often 10-14% steep kilometers, in fact the steepness often changed: 8-10% steep and 16-18% steep sections changed each other. After a while the narrow valley became wider a little bit and offered some views towards the partly snowy, higher mountains. After shepherd houses and cows the last 2 kilometers ascended on the right side of the stream and reached the rifugio after a short, 20-22% steep section.
By the way, the ascent is the 132th hardest of the www.climbbybike.comâ€™s list with more than 10000 ascents in its database.
After arriving back to my hided panniers, I had to hurry, because the time went by. I cycled an hour on not too interesting terrain, but after Barge (355 m) I turned towards the mountains: approaching to the Po valley I climbed a no name, 613m high pass. That was the first place to try myself cycling on a climb with carrying the heavy panniers. After a few kilometers I started to cycle the first such ascent (Pian de Re, 2020 m) thatâ€™s end was situated above 2000 m.
When few months ago I prepared my schedule I found no camping in that valley, so I had no other choice than sleeping between trees in my tent: wild camping. Not much after the start of the ascent fortunately I found a great parking place which western part had place for tent and I found a fire place, desk and benches and a lavatory box there. It was ideal night place for me. I left most of my packs there, take some clothes and food with me and kept on ascending to Pian de Re (2020 m) at 7.45 pm, one and a half hour before sunset. The remaining climb was 17kms long with 1290m heightdifference.
The first part of the ascent went through a forest without any views; I listened music, that helped me not to feel cycling boring. The road became narrower above Crissolo (1320 m); above ca. 1700 m I could see the Po stream down in the valley. I had ca. 2 kms left to cycle when it became dark. I reached the tourist house at 10.10 pm; I just put on warm clothes and descended down to my tent. Setting up my tent and eating something before the night I could hear the voices of the stronger wind, that brought stormy wind and thunders for the night.
Video & map about the day of. Rifugio Barbara & Pian d Re (2020 m)"
12th June, 2011 â€“ 2nd touring day: Paesana, wildcamping - Saluzzo â€“ Busca â€“ Cuneo â€“ Borgo san Dalmazzo â€“ Limone Piemonte â€“ Colle Tenda â€“ Tenda tunnel â€“ Ventimiglia â€“ TRAIN - Nizza â€“ St Laurent du Var = 177,9 km + 1633 m heightdifference (3920 kcal)
I woke up for a minimum 170 km long day to Nice with 3 middle high climb. Leaving the Po valley behind me, I indulged in nostalgia when I was cycling to Cuneo on the same road, where I cycled in 2006. The clouds of the weather front seemed to end by the town.
Because of the pleasant and memorable Granfondo Fausto Coppi, bicyclemarathon that I cycled in 2005 I returned to the main square of Cuneo with pleasure. As I arrived there, the Sun came out of the clouds. I cycled around the square with smile on my face and took some pictures.
From Borgo san Dalmazzo I had to push the pedals for hours long in the very lightly ascending valley to Limone Piemonte, where I ate something from my pack by only 20 degrees Celsius. In the valley there was no sign about the fact if the Tenda tunnel is allowed for cycling or not. The steepness- diagram didnâ€™t showed at which height the tunnel is situated, or how high the small mountain road turns right up to the Colle di Tenda. The road reached the parking place by the tunnel at 1300 m high, where I realized the narrow, 1,5 lane wide tunnel and the light that directed the traffic. A sign showed: cycling isnâ€™t allowed in the tunnel.
Although I could feel furious, why it hadnâ€™t been written before, but I remained calm. For me it was obvious that I would cycle across the tunnel. Why ? I had two other choices: by the bad, windy, in a short time lightly rainy weather to cycle up the Colle di Tenda carrying the heavy panniers and to take the risk of flat tyre downwards on the gravel / dirt road on the twisty french side, full of hairpin bends. The other occasion would be to cycle on a more than 100-130 km longer route to Nice, because by every case I wanted to reach Nice.
Because I was there, I wanted to visit Colle di Tenda (1871 m), a BIG listed climb. Already the start of the ascent was steep, but by the 1st bend I could hide my panniers into the grass and I could cycle above with minimal packs. The road twisted and turned along a cable-car line on a panoramic meadow, so I was happy when I could cycle in the forest for a while, because in the the forest I could feel less wind. It wasnâ€™t joyful cycling experience, but I thought similar to this: â€ž-I donâ€™t mind about the awful weather; Iâ€™m here, so I had to collect this climb in the face of the bad circumstances.â€ť
During this bicycle tour that was the 1st occasion, about which I could say: â€ž-By such an awful weather people usually donâ€™t let their dog out of the house.â€ť Looking around from the col / pass, more and more mountains were covered by clouds, by few places it started raining and the wind was blowing.
After I took some pictures I remembered an alerting from a movie, like this: â€ž-Leave the spot immediately!â€ť It was 7-8 degrees Celsius. After returning back to my hided panniers I arrived at the tunnel at 5 pm. As I cycled into the tunnel, first I didnâ€™t think any risk, because it was a little bit more than one lane road, and the cars overcame me without any problem.
Ca. 3-400 meters before the tunnelâ€™s end, the last car went out of the tunnel and I understood the problem: after a time the cars from France would enter the tunnel on the only one lane, when I was cycle opposite of them yet. I started to push the pedals as fast as I could and fortunately I could came out of the tunnel before the traffic started: â€ž-Huh, that was tight!â€ť
I entered France, but the weather changed only a little bit. I kept on cycling to South in drizzling rain for a while, but as I left some distance behind me, the clouds became lighter and towards the Sea I could see the sky. I didnâ€™t look around, I only pushed the pedals and tried to hurry and was thinking about what to do: the remaining distance to Nice through the mountains seemed to be too much before sunset. At Breuil sur Roya I found the solution: because one of the two climbs I had visited in 2008, I decided to cycle down to the Sea, to the italian Ventimiglia along a river and from then by train to Nice.
I cycled that distance already in the year 2004. I could get the information about when the train leaves Ventimiglia so not too much time I had to catch that. I cycled by a normal speed, but 8 kms before the Sea I had to face with facewind. With 150 kms in my legs I struggled, I used all of my strength, but then I felt I didnâ€™t have enough and stopped hurrying. I wasnâ€™t able to cycle fast enough. After another 3 minutes I felt better and tried again, increased my speed and time-trailed again. I arrived by the station few minutes before the train, and just as I got on it, the doors started to close.
In my favourite town, in Nice I looked around a little bit, I cycled slowly on the plage and by sunset I tried to find the camping at St Laurent du Var with using my memories. I was fortunate, I found it.
13th June, 2011, Whit Monday â€“ 3rd tour day : St. Laurent du Var â€“ Nizza â€“ Isola (camping) â€“ Col de la Lombarde (2350 m) â€“ Santuario St Anna (2010 m) â€“ Colle della Lombarda (2350 m) â€“ Isola = 156,4 km + 3168 m heightdifference (4995 kcal !)
One of the most memorable day of my cyclotouring career was 24th July, 2008, when I cycled from sealevel to the 2802 m high la Bonette by my bicycle carrying 25kg weighted panniers on it. In 2011, on that day I planned a similar, but lighter one: cycling from Nice to Isola, set up my tent there, then up to Col de la Lombarde (that I had already cycled in 2005) to ascend a 2km long italian climb: Santuario St Anna (2010 m), and then back to France, Isola.
Despite it was Whit Monday, some shops, bakeries were open, so I didnâ€™t have any problems to buy enough food. In the morning I was cycling on the lightly ascending nice valley of the Tinee stream, river, sometimes through narrow canyons, rockwalls. I indulged in nostalgia, because I like this valley and I cycled there for the 3rd time in my life. After setting up my tent in Isola (873 m) I started to cycle up to Col de la Lombarde by pleasant weather that unfortunately changed worse at the half of the ascent. I stopped for the half an hour long rain, but then the landscape, with some clouds between the mountains were beautiful.
Sometimes I heard the voices of thunders as I twisted and turned on the serpentine road. The last 4 km was an interesting section, because it was closed, but I thought that couldnâ€™t be done because of the snow, because the snow had already melted. 1 km before the top I was just cycling upwards when I caught sight of a chamois. I just started to record it for my videocamera, when I noisy biker arrived on the closed road and made the chamois run away. I was very angry for that biker; that situation confirmed why I hate the motorbikers very much: they are noisy, too fast and disturb the nature. (few seconds about the chamois can be seen on my video)
Reaching the top (2350 m), I saw a sign, why the road was closed: road construstion was done on the italian side, but it seemed to be finished. An hour later, when I ascended back to Col de Lombarde (2350 m) the italian sign about the col showed: â€žOpenâ€ť. The situation was funny. The french informed me that it was closed, but the italians finished the works, so they informed me, that the road was open. I got a wonderful view to the italian side from the col, because clouds came upwards from the valley, but it covered only the left half of the valley. After few kilometers descending I started to climb the missing 2 km long ascent to Santuario St Anna (2010 m), when it started raining heavily. I stopped for a while by the monastery, so when I left it, the rain was away, to start again an hour later. When I was cycling backards to Lombarde, as I looked back, the lights were turned on at the monastery and orange lights mixed with red on the sky above the mountains. I descended on the french side of Colle Lombarda (2350 m) in total darkness and by rain again. For 2-3 km long I had to be careful because of the fog, so it was an adventurous descent. I went to sleep after midnight.
Video & map about the "Lombarda & Santuario St Anna" day
14th of June, 2011 â€“ 4th touring day: Isola â€“ St Etienne de Tinee â€“ Cime de la Bonette (2802 m) â€“ Jausiers = 73,2 km + 2010 m heightdifference (2681 kcal)
15th June, 2011 â€“ 5th touring day: Jausiers â€“ Barcelonnette â€“ Col dâ€™Allos (2250 m) â€“ Allos â€“ Parking du Laus, 2110 m (Lac du Allos can be reached by walking) - Allos â€“ Col dâ€™Allos (2250 m) â€“ Jausiers â€“ Col du Vars (2111 m) â€“ Guillestre = 150,8 km + 3836 m heightdifference (4433 kcal)
I woke up for one of the hardest day of this bicycle tour: first with only a small pack ascending to Col dâ€™Allos (2250 m), that I visited last time in 2004, then to cycle up to Parking du Laus (2110 m) from Allos village then back to Jausiers through the Col dâ€™Allos again. After these climbs in the evening I wanted to ride my bike up to Col du Vars (2109 m), so to have a lighter day after it. I preferred to do that instead of the following day, on the day, when I had to visit the steep Col dâ€™Izoard and another road above 2000 m.
Last time I climbed Col dâ€™Allos from South int he year 2004, so in this year (2011) I did it from North, the more interesting, more exciting side. Opposite of the roadâ€™s beautiful landscape the col isnâ€™t nice enough, the much less views are not so interesting. On the ascent there were great views to the Cayolle valley or to the mountains behind Barcelonnette and at last to the surroundings of the saddle.
From Allos village I started the climb to Parking du Laus under scorching sunshine between houses sparsely on the mountainside or meadows, but at halfway darker clouds arrived from West. The last 3 kms of the climb â€“ with its 10-14% steepness was hard enough.
There wasnâ€™t too much views from the parking place, so I spent there only a few minutes and rolled back to the village. In Allos I had just finished my lunch from my food when the I felt the first raindrops on my skin. I pushed the pedals towards the Col dâ€™Allos by pleasantly warm weather with drizzling or light rain that didnâ€™t cooled the air too much. At a time I felt I could take off my rainjacket and raintrousers, but not much time later I had to put on again and both happened again later. I was fed up with putting on or taking off the clothes and wasting the time for it.
On the northern side I returned back to Jausiers by little bit better weather; fortunately my washed clothes remained dry. I broke the camp as fast as I could (inside 20 minutes) and kept on cycling, but from then with carrying the 26 kgs weighted panniers and with more than 110 kms and 2900 heightdifference in my legs.
I rode my bicycle on Col du Vars for the 4th time; two of them I had reached the top by bright sunsine, the other had been happened by sunset. I was sure, that after that evening the result would be equal: I would arrive at the top after 10 pm. I prepared my spirit for the steep kilometers, for struggling because of the panniers.
It wasnâ€™t a bed of roses, but without any traffic I enjoyed to be alone with struggling on the 9-10% steepness. I applied the usual method: I set an aim, defined a point where to I had to bear cycling, and then I extended the distance with further 200 meters or so. I reached the Col du Vars (2109 m) in total darkness at 10.20 pm. I put on enough warm clothes, a winter cap, took a picture, recorded video and then I descended to Guillestre on the pleasant road without any traffic. In Guillestre I enjoyed having enough memories to find the right camping; its name seemed to be known for me. During all of the tour I enjoyed very much that on the majority of the tour I found memories from my previous tours: I cycled here and there too, etc. I reached that level of cyclotouring in the French Alps, as I had been with the slovakian mountains after my fifth bicycletour to the High Tatras and back: I cycled in most of the noticable valleys, ascents of the French Alps; the majority of it I knew like the palm of my hand. Feeling this in the country of the Tour de France is a great experience. I went to sleep after 1 am; I finished a long, but great day again.
Video & map of the day with Col d'Allos, Parking du Laus, Col du Vars
16th June, 2011 â€“ 6th touring day: Guillestre â€“ Col dâ€™Izoard (2361 m) â€“ Cervieres â€“ towards Les Fonts (after it became dirt road) â€“ Briancon = 64,2 km + 1664 m heightdifference (2127 kcal)
In the morning in Guillestre, while I checked the weather forecast (great weather for this day, and party rainy-sunny for the following day) a group with 40-60 cyclists arrived at the center. In June, before the high season! I started to approach the ascent of the legendary Col dâ€™Izoard (2361 m) along the Guil stream by bright sunshine. Despite of the higher cols of my tour that I cycled with panniers on my bicycle, this was the steepest mountain road of this bicycle tour (with 9-10% steep kilometers at the 2nd half) that I ascended with panniers on my bike.
The traffic was detoured for a narrow mountainroad, not to use a 3-4 kms long section of the main road. First I didnâ€™t felt happy with it, but as I realized the wonderful views back or ahead, down to the valley I felt it well. I enjoyed this detour. Not much before turning left to the Col dâ€™Izoard I was overcome by a cyclist on a light bike, who told me his appreciation to me about cycling up to cols by such a bike + packs. The ascent became 9-10% steep after the houses of la Chalp. Sometimes I stopped for few minutes for taking photos or recording video.
I waited for a memorable haipin bend, that I remembered very well: in the year 2004 I took there a great photo about a cyclist and the steep bend. Unexpectedly grey clouds arrived and only less than an hour later it started raining by the panoramic Casse Desert (2210 m). From there the bare mountainside can be seen with the moraine and the Col dâ€™Izoard with the background.
Because of the rain, unfortunately I couldnâ€™t use my videocamera during cycling in the last 2 kms. By the saddle I was waiting for a time under a roof when â€žgood-weather-cyclistsâ€ť arrived and sat into a warm car that waited them to travel further in the car. I donâ€™t call them serious cyclists: thatâ€™s not true cyclotouring! Itâ€™s not the same performance / effort than cycling under the clouds, sky, sunshine, rain, by each tyoe of weather. The descent was similar to my south descending in 2008, when I had to use my schoes to help me in breaking, because the cycleâ€™s brakes werenâ€™t enough useful. The northern ascent wasnâ€™t so brutal and my brakes were better, so I could descent without any problems, but unfortunately my schoes got water, although I wore gaiter above my schoes. I cycled 3rd times the Col dâ€™Izoard and I got rain for the 3rd time.
After waiting for a bit, I turned right by Cervieres and followed the sign: Les Fonts, which is situated above 2000m. The road became dirt road after less than 2 kms, so I kept on cycling for nearly a kilometer, but as it didnâ€™t change I turned back: it isnâ€™t a paved ascent!
In Briancon I bought some food and cakes for making my mood better:) Sometimes I felt pessimistic (Why does it rain every day? I would like to have sunny days!), but as I realised this, I tried to change my mind: â€žLook the better side of the occurents! In this day I could fulfill my main aims: to visit the scheduled roads, climbs going above 2000m.â€ť They were truely important, the others not so: they are only â€žbonusesâ€ť, or icing on the cake.
I set up my tent in a camp that I had already known from a former bicycle tour. Using the internet point I checked the weather forecast and then went to sleep soon.