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01-07-2021 | Frank Jansen

A quick trip to the French Alps

The GFNY La Vaujany on June 20 had been in the agenda for months. The idea: a short and powerful trip to France, a few days of cols, the gran fondo on Sunday, driving back on Monday. The idea was to decide as late as possible and only go when the weather was good.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast up until the Monday before was horrible. I'd already written of the trip to be honest. But suddenly everything improved hugely. On Wednesday, I decided to go. I wiped the agenda, took time off work, booked hotels and arranged childcare for the children.

Thursday after work I drove to Nancy in 5 hours. From my Ibis Budget I see the Netherlands win 2-0 against Austria. The alarm clock is set early and after a quick breakfast I am behind the wheel again at 6:15 am for the last 600 km. Around 12:00 I enter the village of Bourg St Maurice

Col de l'Iseran

Col de l'Iseran, with its 2770 meters, is the highest col in Europe. The weather is perfect, the sky is blue and it is not too hot. It is still wonderfully quiet on the climb, which only opened last Wednesday. Unfortunately I have pretty bad legs, but that should not spoil the fun. Until Val d'Isère the climb is nothing special, from there its magnificent. The views become more beautiful and more beautiful. The higher I get, the more snow there is, until I finally see those famous snow walls. How beautiful this is!

The Iseran is fortunately not a difficult col, but a very long one. More than 46 km of climbing - no walk in the walk. On the way I meet a group of Germans who are eager to shoot some pictures of me.

At the top there's theobligatory photo and then I return the same way. That is still a reasonable effort because of the length of the road, especially since there are still some parts to climb. But finally I reach the village again and I sit down on a terrace for a half liter of beer.

This night I sleep in Brides-les-Bains, which is about half an hour away. My hotel listens to a name every cyclist knows: Belvédère. Except for the fact that there is only a bath and no shower it is a good place to spend the night. I eat something in the village and in the evening watch the England - Scotland match from my hotel room.

Col de la Loze

I chose Brides-les-Bains with good reason. Around 8:00 the next day, I leave the parking lot for another bucket list climb: the Col de la Loze. The first 13 km take me to the posh ski village of Meribel. The weather is fine, the temperature is still ok and it's quiet on the road, which is wide and in good condition. Sections of 8% incline with easier sections of 5-6%. As a child, I often skied in Les 3 Vallées, long before Meribel became unaffordable. The memories flash through my head. My legs fortunately feel a lot better than yesterday. There is curiously no sign in Meribel. Fortunately, I have the route on my bike computer. Without any difficulty I find the beginning of the cycle path to the Col de Loze. My expectations are high and I am not disappointed.

The first 3 km run through a forest and are quite doable. Steep sections alternate with easier ones. But as soon as you come out of the forest, it goes crazy. It's like a roller coaster, because it doesn't always go up vertically. But if it does, it is immediately very steep. Strips of up to 15% are no exception. I love it and take as many pictures as possible. Along the way at least 5-6 marmots on the road. Once at the top, of course, the obligatory photo and then I ride back to the hotel via Courchevel. What an incredibly cool ride this was. The figurative highlight of this short trip, without a doubt.

At the hotel, I put my by bike in my car and leave right away. It's still pretty early so there's still time for a second stage. I set my navigation to the Intermarché in La Chambre. While I eat and drink something, I drive there in an hour on the perfect and deserted French highways. I take my bike out of the car again and it's time for the sequel.

Lacets de Montvernier

After a few flat kilometers, I ride under the D-road that runs right through the Maurienne valley. Montvernier is my goal and the experts know immediately which climb I want to check off: the famous Lacets de Montvernier. A small road with numerous hairpins that is beautifully carved against the steep mountainside. Almost 4 kilometers of enjoyment. Actually, this climb is just a the beginning of the Col de Chaussy. As soon as I reach it the top of the Lacets, I briefly consider turning around, but I decide to carry on. It's now quite warm. I take it easy, pausing occasionally in the shade and hanging my head in the local village fountain. Keeping in mind tomorrow I really don't want to blow myself up. Actually, the 80 km / 3000m+ I will do today is already too much.

The Col de Chaussy is not a difficult climb but the conditions still make it quite tough. From the end of the Lacets it is still about 9 km of climbing. After reaching the top, I start the descent. The last part descends a part of the famous Madeleine. With just under 40 km on the clock (and 1150m+) I am back at the car.

The disadvantage of this second stage is that I now have to cross the Glandon by car. However, is that really a disadvantage? I find it wonderful to ride up there and down again. What a beautiful col! I decide to go to Vaujany right away to get my bib and then drive to my hotel La Douce Montagne in Allemond, where I get a warm welcome. I am ready for the gran fondo (more about that later), but my trip is already successful!

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