I’m recently back from a few day’s riding in the Savoie Mont Blanc, the lumpy, Alpine part of Eastern France that borders Switzerland and Italy. The area, hugely popular with winter skiers, is making a big push to promote its many mountainous delights to summer cyclists. Not that cyclists haven’t already discovered the place. I stayed in Morzine, which has already hosted 19 Tour de France stages, including this year’s Tour’s penultimate etape (the soggy stage won by Ion Izagirre’s demon descent off the Col de Joux-Plane). The locals clearly took the Tour to heart and a month on from the big event the whole area was still decked out in white with red polka dots to match the maillot a pois rouge worn by the race’s best climber.
Whilst in Morzine I was lucky enough to try out three of the itineraries from the new cycling resource morzinemountaincycling.com. It’s a great site with tons of info for cyclists keen to visit the area, and includes a section of suggested riding routes. All the itineraries are Morzine-to-Morzine and graded in difficulty (judged by metres climbed and kilometres ridden). There’s something for everyone, from novices keen to nibble a morsel of Tour goodness, to the seriously fit keen to face a bona fide ‘as the pros would suffer’ challenge.
I tried three of the routes, itineraries 2, 3, and 13, climbed 7300 metres and covered over 260 kilometres. The Tour climbs I bagged were:
- Col de la Colombiere
- Col des Aravis
- Col de Joux-Plane
- Col de la Ramaz
Three days of riding weren’t nearly enough. My appetite had barely been whetted and it was time to catch the flight home (Geneva airport, serviced by EasyJet, is just over an hour’s drive away). Thirty days cycling in Savoie Mont Blanc and I’d still be keen for more.
Perhaps sensing my signals, Celine at the tourist office mailed me a map of the region’s Tour de France climbs and cols – so I could get an overview of just how much riding the wider area beyond Morzine holds in store. A quick count of the 41 ascents and I’ve ridden 9 (4 this recent trip, 5 during the making of The Breakaway). So, if my maths are correct, I’ve 32 left to conquer (or slog my way up); 32 very good reasons to return to Savoie Mont Blanc.
Wonder if I’ve got time to head back before the snow comes?
Ridden any of Savoie Mont Blanc’s Tour climbs? Which do you think is the best/toughest? I’ll plump for the Joux-Plane from Samoens. Ouch and ooh la la.