Today we decided we would tackle one of the Cols around Annecy. We chose The Col Des Aravis as it is a Tour de France mountain and is allegedly one of the favourite climbs of the Scottish cyclist, Robert Millar, a former King of the Mountain winner in the Tour de France.
It was a nice day for ride, the first stretch of which was on the cycle way we explored yesterday. We then turned off towards Thones which is at the start of the climb of the Col. On the way we passed through some picturesque mountain villages and minor climbs through typical mountain meadows, very nice in the sunshine !
Thones is an interesting and picturesque old market town right down in a valley. It happened to be market day there, so we weaved our way through and out the other side to begin the climb. If you click on the ‘Thones’ link you can see the start of the climb right in the middle of the picture, disappearing into the distance.
It is a climb of about 23km (14miles) The first part of which, up to the ski resort of La Clusaz is a steady climb of about 1 in 12 for 15km. After that it gets a little steeper for the rest of the climb, especially after La Clusaz for a while. It then develops into a series of hairpin bends up to the summit which is a bit of shanty town but had a couple of restaurants, one of which did a nice plate of ‘chips’ and a coffee. Much appreciated after the exertions.
The journey down was quite an eventful one. It was pretty steep, steeper than the way we came up. It weaved through a couple of villages in a series of short sharp hairpin bends on some pretty rough services. About halfway down we came across a barrier half way across the road with ‘Route Barree’, and a diversion indicated that went UP! which we ignored as we were able to cycle past it. Thinking that it was only for cars and that we would be OK.. Wrong!!! after about another 5 miles we came across lots of tree branches cut down and to one side of the road which we duly rode past as well at great speed. Another couple of miles descending and we came across a big problem! The cause of the ‘Route Barree’ was the fact that they were building an avalanche shelter across the road and the road was physically blocked by a concrete barrier and some heavy wire mesh extending out and over the edge the road. There was no work going on as it was the weekend. There was no way where we going to ride all the way back up again and round wherever the diversion took us. So I managed to climb over the wire bit going over the side and Cyril passed me the bikes and followed himself. So off we set again and rounding a bend saw a construction portable building and a van outside. I said to Cyril, we are just riding straight past that, if anybody yells just keep going as we would be doing about 40mph. However, just around the bend and within sight of the hut was the next barrier !! a similar one to the previous one but higher and with wire spikes on top. Somehow we managed to scale this one in a similar fashion and off we went again. Not the typical pensioners activity I thought, smiling to myself as we rolled down the rest of the way down into Faverge at the foot of the climb and to the start of the cycle way all the back to our campsite 15 miles away.
It was a good day all in all and quite a bit of fun when I look back. It was a total of 67 miles but would have been much more had gone back to take that diversion.