DAY 1 : SNCF Lyon Part-Dieu
train station / Geneva - Chanelax
On this day of July, everything is ok. We are ready with a big smile! we are clean, well shaved, dry despite of the morning rain, we feel good, we had a good night in a very comfortable bed, the bags are filled with good things to eat... but for how long? Meeting is scheduled at the train station of Lyon Part-Dieu at 10am. All stories have a beginning, excitement is palpable, envy of the project has grown for months, legs are sharpened, the route is in the head ... That the show must go on !!
After a rainy morning and a train journey, it's an grey arrival in Geneva, the first laps are held back by a downpour, forcing us to take refuge in public toilets on the banks of Lake Geneva. Cool. The road becomes more enjoyable, especially after Nyon ... when it goes up. Less people, beautiful scenery, greener, with beautiful views of the lake and the forests of the Jura. It arises in an area of bungalows, nobody ... tonight is the final of the World Cup: we will know the result three weeks later! Gut!
DAY 2 : Chanelax - Creux-du-Van
The morning is wet, but we are dry.
We start with a 8 km straight-line acrossing the plateau of Amburnex
and green landscapes (with all that rain, there is no surprises). The
road is wet, then we are wet in Vallorbe, we take a real shower! After
a bit in France, we cross the border on a small path (not even marked
on the map) to get to St. Croix. The evening climbs up a little, then
a lot ... and passionately on the grass. I'm on top of the Creux du
Van, I'm the king of the world! Deep breaths.
For the first time, we go down (and under the sun!). Lake Neuchâtel is as blue as the Mediterranean sea and Val who dreamed of spending her vacation at the seaside... The next part is a dense jungle to cross in Cudrefin: trunks, vines, prickly shrubs, mud up to the ankles. We put the tent on the heights of Suchy, facing the Mt Blanc. Peaceful evening in the countryside. With the sunset, it's another day in paradise.
DAY 4 : Suchy - Villeneuve
During the trip there are beautiful landscapes, but some are breathtaking. Having Mont Blanc face to face is a luxury, worse... it's priceless. All these efforts find meaning in a second, just by opening my eyes! Just listening the nature, feeling the wind, touching the flowing grass while driving. It is these moments that I enjoy the most... Love it! No particular difficulty for today. A small (big) thought of my last trip to Lausanne, I still love Switzerland, me!
Hard start in Lausanne: I break the fixation brackets of my bags bike (bam, everything is dropped in a second). Miraculously, at 300 meters is an automotive workshop where I spend half a day to refix everything. A big thank you, guys. Then it is a succession of beautiful cities which are crossed by bicycle path, among vineyards and Leman lake. It's crazyness in Montreux, thousand of people. There is a bit of quiet in Villeneuve, facing the Dents du Midi to settle the tent.
DAY 5 : Villeneuve - Blancsex
The day looks beautiful because everything
starts today. Hardly time to fill the cans, the climb is churning legs.
The path turns easily into the forest with beautiful views over Lake
Geneva. Then comes the drama when we get on a trail: GPS announces less
than a kilometer bird's-eye that will be done in almost 2 hours ...
the bike with bags is really heavy, the path is impractical, too stony,
too steep. In brief, we have to push... forced to catch its breath a
few seconds every 5 feets ... we are not arrived!
The next part is still a beautiful climb on a forest path, then on a more perilous single track. The camp will be settled at the Blancsex pass (no sexual meaning, please!) at 1567 meters. We spend a nice evening, rocked to the sound of cows, and mosquitoes attacking at 9 pm. Anyway, the are tired, we go to the "bed"...
DAY 6 : Blancsex - Champéry
We wanted to leave early... we took
off around 10 am from the Blancsex refuge after a long breakfast: 2
coffees and the last part of our carrot cake (sooo good!). Stops "strawberries"
punctuate the morning to the pass of Bellevue... aptly named. In
Morgins, the Mecca of downhill mountain biking, there is a little off
with our bike bags, it's like being from the same "2 wheels"
family, but we can not understand! The wind cools the machine because
it is (very) hot. Even the brakes are smoking!
Tonight we sleep under a bridge ... what a contrast with this chic village, where we find that wooden chalets and 4x4 Mercedes. Vive cycle touring.
DAY 7 : Champéry - Barberine
Today is an early morning departure: we must move quickly forward, because we were told that storms arriving on us within 2 days. Time to liquidate our Swiss currency to buy a piece of bread and cheese (God, that life is so expensive for French guys), here we are trudging to climb around the Dents du Midi. Nobody on the road, big elevation gain difference (again!), pretty lights in the morning, beautiful view of the Rhone Valley, it heats in the sun.
It takes beautiful lanes to Martigny,
back to 400 meters above the sea.
DAY 8 : Barberine - Courmayeur
At 8am, weather is ok. Just the time to pack our stuff in the bags, it's raining. We hesitate before leaving, the sky shows signs of hope, so let's go. The panchos are out a few minutes after departure. We look smart in bright red and canary yellow panchos... well it's mostly my flip flops that gzt me really cool: I have the greatest look at the col des Montets Pass.
We can not say that the landscapes
are fantastic, Mont Blanc and red Needles (aiguilles rouges ) are in
the fog, roads are soggy in Vallorcine and Argentière.
DAY 15: Prés nouveaux - Col Nazié Pass
Anothey evening in paradise. The trail follows the stream of Valletta, then moves South in the valley. The dream is too good... after a few pedal strokes, this "too perfect" trail becomes too stoned, cows and rain turned the ground into a real battlefield! Not too rolling, shame! We went shopping for the next days in Besse-en-Oisans, before climbg to the plateau Emparis. We camp at the Nazié pass, where 1500 sheep and their shepherd are waiting for us. Beautiful evening at 1902 meters.
DAY 19: Pont Baldy lake - Clot Henri
Hey, hey ! Very big day, but it is not known that morning! For a grocery store Cervières could use some work ... That Izoard right ahead! There is madness horns; the summit at 2340 m, a mom welcomes me "Congratulations, you ride it!" I will be ashamed, so I put a little sunscreen. Val is not bad defending, 15 minutes behind the red jersey. Descend Casse Desert, lunar where you have lunch and then we continue through Lake wheel, so peaceful, before swallowing faisselles Chateau-Queyras.
The day could have stopped in Chateau-Queyras at 5 pm but the fate decided differently... 11 km to ride and 800 meters -evation gain to climb on a forest road to Bucher peak. We even find time to interview Oscar, a retired lumberjack who talks about his larches. All a story. We arrive at the Clos Henri refuge, where five young hikers warmly welcome us. Hardly we stop bikes, that we put the feet "under the table" to eat sausages and chops. It is truly hungry, nothing remains in the plate... Nice evening!
DAY 20 : Clot Henri - Ch. Elisabeth
The breakfast is big, orange juice, milk, nutella with brioche, apple compote. For how long have not we had such a feast? In any case, it changes from the honey with bread & pasta 3 minutes cooking, meals eaten daily for the last three weeks. Memorable! The morning is cool, full slagging with cold water of the fountain and washing clothes! The refuge is perfect, we would almost stay a few days in our new cottage. It was hard to leave, especially as the onlookers come to visit us. Welcome home.
The descent to the Aigue valley is just amazing, rolling only on great single tracks. Amazement, we ride easily with our bike bags in any tight turns... the habit perhaps? In Molines, we bought 1.5 kg of bread, cheese and jam for the days to come (we will need big energy) and then we continue through the pretty village of St-Veran, one of the highest in Europe. Night break in a hut, successive rains cut momentum and give color to the evening. Great day, even if it was not very violent, only 12 km!
DAY 21: Ch. Elisabeth - Chalet Ollivier
Foggy and chilly wake up with a drizzle light in the way to the refuge Blanche, at 2499 m (4.50 € for 2 coffees, I almost pay with a credit card!). We opt for the Rocca blanca/Blanchet pass instead the Black pass, 3000 meters! We will never know if the choice was better, anyway, it was hard during 2 hours and a half. The summit at 2897 m, it is freezing, it blows and the mist invites itself ! We stay two minutes by my watch! We lunch in Italy, the sun is almost with us when it is not behind the clouds.
ne more pass, the Longet, over 2650 m and we are back to France at the source of Ubaye, a magical and very beautiful place. The track is extraordinary flat at this altitude, we go fast. The descent goes well until a tragic noise resonates through my mountain bike ... ohoh ... the derailleur dangling in the rear wheel spokes. I repair as I can, but I have not the stuff. Pfff! A scree spices the day because there is no more path, completely buried. We stay in an alpine chalet with stunning views of the valley. Let's go to bed!
DAY22 : Chalet Ollivier - Jausiers
A cool day today, just 65 meters
of gain elevation. As I can not realy ride my bike ... that's perfect!
I try a rush job with an electric drill given by a worker in Maurin,
without success. I have to remove links in the chain for at least to
get one one gear: you are the weakest link, goodbye! The
path becomes a main road then a national, with its flow of cars and
motorcycles. In Jausiers, I go directly to the only sports shop downtown:
2 days to order the part ... 2 days to take care of ourself, tonight
is pizza! Great!
Another day we decide a hike at the Cuguret peak, over 2,900 m. We overloook Jausiers and its valley. Pretty simple walk where we have to paste hand on the rock to climb (4a cotation?)? Anyway, it is easy, after the climb of the Aiguille Mount! Great panorama, assured by an alpine atmosphere.
DAY 23: Jausiers - Ferrero / Ferrière
My technical bike problems change our route, we skip the Stroppia pass to the Arche/Ark pass to reach Italy: which avoids retracing our way. What is certain is that the new route is neither flat, nor direct, I guess we make it on purpose. So we go forward to the Ubayette valley, Fort Roche Lacroix, a bit of culture does not hurt. The narrow trail do not exist longer, we have to cross the river on foot, 50 cm of cold water to the knee. With a strong stream, we must not get out of hand the bike or... the bags!
We continue to the end of the Lauzanier valley, far away from the main road. The scenery is amazing, next to the Mercantour park (a first for me). We reach the Arche/Ark pass at 1991 meters, a stop is required at Mateo's truck, Italian seller of Italian cheeses. The little mouse Valérie nibbles soon as I turn my back ... Up and down is made of: beautiful descent to Bersezio and beautiful climb up to Ferrero, end of the day. We bivouack with the pass that we will go up the next day. Sweet dreams into perspective.
DAY 24: Ferrero / Ferrière - Fiandin
The sky is clear and the Becco Rosso peak in sight. At the beginning, the trail climbs a bit, but we hold on our saddles, the summit seems close to hand. Not to mention a beautiful descent into a valley that we could not see ... the place is really beautiful, but now we must go up agin, 450 meters -evation gain with hyper stiff and brittle slope 15 endless loops with parts grassy that finish us! Hard! Same blueberries have a bitter taste ...
The pass is so closed that minutes are interminable under a blazing sun. Hungry and exhausted at the top, we eat like 4 guys (as usual we eat like 3!). This quiet moment gives us back a bit of mind and strength to go forward. Bingo! The afternoon is rejoicing with stunning alpine views of the Stura Valley. The trail is pleasant to go down, we swallow 800 meters -evation loss in few minutes of pure happiness. Using brakes make the arms tired ... with painful fingers! What is next? Small roads in the valley. Time to do some shopping, it's time to arrive to Fiandin. Quiet night on straw in a barn.
DAY 25: Fiandin - Col de Tende Pass
We leave our comfortable cottage to start the day with a climb to the Madona pass, easy and very pleasant. Italian tifosi acclaim us: we are aliens mountain bikers... Crazy guys! The descent to Valdieri is also great with a succession of laces before taking a path on the edge of forest and river to have lunch. Barbecues are out but not for us, alas, we needed good meat to climb the Goderia pass. No sun, but the weather is heavy, heavy sweating too!
We ride to Limone Piemonte Valley with very easy single tracks. The two passes of the morning open the appetite: on a bench we have melons and yoghurt (it is better by 500 gr) because the road is not yet over for today. Direction: Col di Tenda. A lot of cars to the tunnel of Tenda, a lot of crazy racers! There is one hour more to climb to the pass of Tenda (500 meters -evation gain), the last meters are rough, hard to go on with a face wind. We settle the tent in France. The nightshow is sublime.
DAY 26: Col de Tende Pass - La Brigue
The wind dies down, Italy is under the clouds while France brights, we have lunch in the sun with the panoramic view of the Southern Alps. The return on the saddle is hard ... even when the military road goes down. It runs along the ridges, alternating between forests and passages over cliffs; the mountains are always more beautiful. 1250 meters -evation loss done in a (too) short time to reach Tende, a quick stop to fill in bags. We ride the cobbled streets, difficult to set foot on the ground. A little break, and here we go again!
The Roya valley borrows at East to Brigue, picturesque village perched between two mountains. Pavers blow bikes all over the place, almost harder than a technical single track! And us? we are still on the saddle, like a rodeo ... At 5 pm, Notre-Dame-des-Fontaines is nearly closed, I just have time to take a look to the huge paintings, amazing! A place to see. I suffer in the late afternoon, no energy to climb, 4 km in an hour, we would have done better on foot! Bivouac on the wayside.
DAY 27: La Brigue - Mont Torrage
After a quick lunch, we easily continue the climb : legs are back. We hold the wheel of other mountain bikers ... who do not have bags! This is the Olympic shape to ride on Franco-Italian peaks, from the Sanson pass, at 1,700 meters. We met Francis, a 67 years shepherd, one of the outstanding figures of our trip. The man of character, passion, ardor, he loves his briguasques goats more than anything else. We talk about the wolf. No problem for him, but in the gardens of the Elysee palais in Paris!
This day is the most exciting of our journey: the carved path into the rock is 50 cm wide, on one side is the mountain, on the other emptyness. The ride is risky on this air route, and we cycle two amazing via ferrata. The trail is more technical than difficult, much more rolling it seems. Fatigue takes over as the descent is easy, and generates a series of technical faults. We stop for the night at the roadside. Evening light facing the Mediterranean.
DAY 28: Mont Torrage - Olivetta
This morning, there is not much to eat, and no coffee. Just one liter of water. The sky is covered quickly, the beautiful lights of the sun are absorbed into the gray clouds, it starts on our blank cliff path with a few drops. Hardly time to get to Muratone refuge it pours. We stay 3 hours under a 4m square rickety steel plates, but very useful, especially to fill the cans! Not much to do but laugh and drink herbal tea to keep warm, the water flows profusely.
Once ends the storm, we stay in the mist, the road is waterlogged, ruts are filled to the brim, feet wade in mud ponds! Then it is a great slippery single going down to the Saorge valley, but it is impractical with our too heavy mountain bikes ! I try artistic figures, better than in a clown show. Good laugh. Finally the trail gets more quiet, we stay at the sun on the bridge of Castou to dry stuff. Then we reach Breil-sur-Roya and Olivetta, straight south. We sleep in the olive trees, fantastic.
DAY 29: Olivetta - Castellar
We leave the road of Roya to return to France with a nice gourmet break: blackberries call us to the edge of the road. Direction: Sospel that have no interest other than to fill in our water bottles. A guy tells us the direction... explaining he cycled once to the mountain pass (?!) Whaou! Just a look on this guy, I do not doubt our success! :) It's cool for the 2 hour climb to Scuvion pass, 1154 m. Up there is disappointment because we booked a sea view but the fog is invited. We have lunch with our jackets!
After the Razet pass, the narrow single track is very nice especially when the sun comes back. The woodland undergrowth GR 52 rolls well, untim it becomes large and descents on pebbles that paralyze my arms and hurts my back. We put the tent near the Merle srping, on a terrace, next to a barn. We pick up two kilograms of plums, good for digestive transit! For the first time, we make a nap in the sun. We are used but happy. All good things end: in front of us, there is no more roads or tracks, just the sea ...
DAY 30: Castellar - Nice / Lyon
For the last morning, back hurts, arms are heavy, but the legs are still ok! On the seaside, there is no real difficulties, except slaloming between cars and avoiding tourists wearing shorts! On the coast, it's nice, it's hot, it smells... sweat! We lunch on a bench in Monaco, 4th crossed country: what an unnecessary luxury! The shade of our palm has no more value than that the one of a fir trees in Queyras or any where else. The sea is beautiful, quiet, and breaks on the coast. We keep pedaling.
This ride on the seashore is great:
Menton, Cap Martin, Monaco, Beaulieu, St Jean Cap Ferrat ... names that
make you dream. The air is loaded with iodine, our feet feel good in
the sea, but bikes are never far away. In Nice, the Promenade des Anglais
and the city center are dirty and sad. We are only two grains of sand
lost on the beach, a few hours wandering the streets ... We
returned to Lyon by train after a month of emotions. Great tourning