Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2004 – Wednesday June 30th

Bayasse — Col de la Cayolle — Col des Champs — Col d’Allos — Col de Vars — Guillestre (157 km, 3546 m, 18-34 C)

Col de la Cayolle

Started around 9 in the morning as usual. The road from Bayasse 1783 m to Col de la Cayolle 2326 m is quite nice, scenic and steadily climbing around a comfortable 6%. After around 10 kilometres and an hour I reached the col. It is regarded as one of the sweetest of the high passes in the southern French Alps and deservedly so. There is very little in the form of a tourist industry on either side of the pass.

It was nice to feel fresh still while going down the first real pass of the day. The road down south is mostly fine and seldom very steep. At St. Martin-d’Entraunes 1050 m I tried to find something to eat, but did not find much at the first place and forgot about it. (I was thinking vaguely about going down to Guillaumes to find my lost shampoo bottle, as it was less than 10 kilometres away.) However, I was now going up to Col des Champs 2093 m. I decided to take the slightly longer road up as it seemed like it could be more scenic and it was in fact quite nice with very little traffic, but it was also getting very hot now. It was pretty steep around where the two roads met again. But later the road even went down a little and there was a 100 meters or so that was only gravel (some road work going on I suppose).

St. Martin-d'Entraunes

The last bit up to the pass was once again somewhat demanding. I passed one cyclist, but never managed to catch up with the female companion to him in front of me. It is quite nice at and around the pass height, but otherwise the road is mostly wooded (especially on the west side). The way down to Colmars was not easy to go fast down as the surface was rather harsh and there were big depressions in the road instead of drainage gullies, I believe. I would very much recommend going up from the west and down to the east instead!

Col des Champs

Colmars 1230 m, another fortified village similarly to Entrevaux, but with a style of its own. I had a sandwich at a café inside the village (the same place that the couple I had met at the top had found coming from another way there). Refilled my water bottle again and off I were up to Col d’Allos. Now it was very hot and it just seemed to get hotter the higher I climbed. A very good cyclist passed me by on the serpentines above the ski resort below the top and I had no chance whatsoever to follow him. I would have to get down in weight much more, most of all, to stand a fair chance of hanging on to these more pro-like cyclists (maybe he was a professional … ;-) ).

When reaching Col d’Allos 2244 m, I was very exhausted, not physically, but because of the deadening heat. I looked at the temperature on my cycle computer and it showed 32 Celsius. A lady happily took two photos of me on her initiative.

Col d'Allos

The road and scenery down on the north side is quite a contrast to the rather boring south. Very nice road clinging to the mountainside with beautiful views almost all he way down. I was almost knocked out by the heat down in Barcelonette 1136 m. I went into a shop and bought fruits and some cold soft drinks. I could not eat anything else in this heat. It was not very cold in the shop though and I soon moved on.

Time to go up the road I travelled on back and forth in 2002 when I had an accident with my wheel down Col de Parpaillon and had to visit a cycle shop in Barcelonette. I passed by Jausiers where I had stayed in 2002 and continued up to the place where I in 2002 went over Col de Larche to Italy. On the way up here one passes by the Fort de Tournoux, which is what you see on a photo here. This time I turned north and stayed just inside France by going over Col de Vars 2108 m.

Col d'Allos

Near St. Paul on the way up, there were a lot of cows that were being moved up the valley. I thought it was rather charming and they tried to keep the cattle very much together so occasionally cars and cyclists could pass by. Just as I was saying hello to one of ladies in, someone almost drove over me with his car and he seemed to be furious about the fact that there were still farmers in France (apparently he was not from this ”backwards” part of France himself). North of the pass there is indeed a more modern France to be found and it is also endlessly more boring and depressing there.

Fort de Tournoux

The north side of his pass is best avoided altogether – go fast past these dead winter resorts and find a place to stay down in Guillestre instead! I asked a lady at the pass about a place to stay down north and she named the Refuge Napoléon, but was unsure about whether they had a shower/bath facility, so I never tried it even though it looked quite nice (the only nice part on the north side is just below the pass). (I looked up Refuge Napoléon on the web and it seems like it could have been a good place to stop.) I tried to stay at a gîte up in the Vars valley and found one that looked very unassuming and non-expensive, still they wanted over 60 euro for a night and I had to smile a little. Somehow in France they do not expect that there could occur competition in the marketplace. Well, France is the most expensive country in the Alps (more expensive than Switzerland for example). In France you have to expect to pay 40 euro for a night including breakfast where it would cost around 30 euros in most other parts of the Alps for similar or usually better lodging (soft drinks and pizzas are also more expensive in France than any place else in the world that I know of, maybe it is more expensive in Japan). In the Dolomites you can sometimes get lodging for 25 euros that compares to +100 euro lodging in France.

Col de Vars

I found a place to stay for the night in Guillestre for 31 euro, but then had to hold the shower handle while taking a shower and did not get any breakfast. I had however two pizzas downtown. The first was very good, but I was still hungry and went over to a take away place as the other restaurant was closing. The take away place had really giant pizzas though and I could not eat all (for once). I had eaten too much and had difficulty getting to sleep, but had a nice view in the night over the surrounding mountains in the moonlight from where I slept.

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