This day started with the lovely balcony road high up above the Aosta valley from Cerellaz to just above Aosta. There are a couple of road choices to make along this road to be able to stay up on the mountainside as long as possible and to not climb up cul-de-sacs. I cannot detail this here very well, but I advise that you get a good map with you or find one at a local tourist information (they often have good maps for walkers that are detailed and up to date). (There is also an online road map with satellite photos that can be found on the official tourism website for Aosta).
The highest point is just before Verrogne (1593m), if my memory serves me right. I was catching up with a local cyclist a few kilometres before we reached the highest point and talked with him for a while. He was out on a smaller round, starting and stopping in Aosta. The cyclists living in Aosta have many interesting day trips they could do from home! Finally I got down to Arpuilles and then took the road down here straight into the centre of Aosta, just like the man at the hotel in Cerellaz had suggested I could do. I found the bicycle shop without looking at the map! ;-) Now, unfortunately this rather big bicycle shop had no Shimano parts for sale and could only suggest that I visited a small shop on the other side of the river in Gressan, which took me some time to locate. (On this side the pretty hard climb up to Pila starts, but it was not in my plan.) That little shop also had no Shimano cleats (though they may have had). I had to continue and hope to find another shop later on. The problem with the cleat was that it did not engage properly, so I had to think about not lifting the leg when climbing up mountain roads, which did not exactly make anything easier, but it was also no catastrophe even if I could possibly do something stupid and fall.
Aosta is a warm and busy place, so I wanted to get out of here quickly now. I also found no grocery shop to stop at on the way out oddly enough. I did not get out on the main road down the valley from Aosta and was a bit confused and at first returned a little, but then decided to take a chance and climb up the road going to a hospital and see if I could get back down to the main road further ahead. It turned out that I was lucky and in fact it was probably the best way to cycle out of Aosta. Better could possibly have been not to go back into Aosta from Gressan and instead continue in the other direction down the valley on this side of the river. After some more guesswork I went down to the main road on a short steep narrow road and then had passed by most of the industrial area down the valley after Aosta, which I was happy over. (After Olleyes, I think.) It was now just after 13 and it was very hot, but I went slowly.
I went by Nus (the next bigger village) and thought that all shops would be closed there, but then I got second thoughts and turned in from the other side and found a little shop that was open a little longer and got a good sandwich and some sodas. That was lucky as it would be some time until I would find another place to stop at. I was on my way to Col de St-Pantaléon (1655m). The classic climb and perhaps the hardest one starts in Chambavne (482m) and climbs via Saint-Denis to the pass, but I had noticed that there were several other possible roads up here that has not been documented at salite.ch (they actually do not have very many climbs in Valle Aosta listed).
A road that is called the Col de St-Pantaléon road starts in Champagne, for example and could obviously be used. Having studied the map carefully, it looked like it would be as hard and smarter to climb up from Ronchettes (510m), given that this is the first road coming from Aosta that would be hard from the start. One could start earlier in Nus also (and maybe some other place), but then there would be a long stretch of an almost flat road up the mountainside (which could be nice of course). I guess few cyclists would actually try this road (I wonder what the local cyclists would say) as it is far from obvious that it could be used to start the climb up here and it is not clear from any map that it would be asphalted. It was asphalted (slightly bad at one place) and possible to use. It starts steep but then it has a little easy section before joining the road up from Champagne.
Then it is a steady climb on a good and wide road all the way up to Verrayes, where the road is almost flat for over one kilometre. I stopped at the bar in Verrayes for a beer and ice cream. Then the road soon starts to climb again. A little higher up one could get over to the Saint-Denis road, but I had another idea in mind, so I continued up to Grand Villa a little worried that maybe this road was not all asphalted, but it is a nice road up there with quite some climbing involved. There are myriads of very big water sprinklers all over the mountainside up in valle Aosta and here the road was lined by them. I just crossed my fingers hoping they would not start them up while I was going by. I got a shower or two at some places this day, but very few were active this day.
The road continues to climb above Grand Villa and you have lovely views now. You could once again get over to the Saint-Denis road up here to just below the Col de St-Pantaléon. I think it was descending to that road from here. At the highest point, however, I turned up a little road to Col des Bornes/Col de Bornel (1774m). This is only asphalted for 500 metres or so. It had looked like it was a quite short distance then up to this pass, but it was a gravel road filled with much small stones and it was a bit loose and most of all steep, so it felt like it was very long. It could not have been more than 1.5 km though. I made it up to this pass and I am sure it was harder to reach this pass the way I took than climbing the St-Pantaléon pass from Chambavne via Saint Denis.
I actually had a decent view among the trees from here of the Matterhorn with some clouds next to, but in the photo it is virtually impossible to find the mountain, so the photo looked very much question-begging as to what the object of it was, so I do not include it here. I took the straight path down here to Col de St-Pantaléon (1655m), which was actually possible to bicycle almost all the way down (the last stretch was difficult). Col de St-Pantaléon is famous for having a good view of the Matterhorn too, but it is still not easy to believe one could see it in the photos I took here (one on this website).
No I more or less promised myself to not visit any more gravel roads during this trip – it is often exciting to try sometimes but it quickly gets too much with all kinds of troubles and now I would be happy if I could get back to Bergamo without more troubles. I followed my plan in going up to Breuil-Cervinia (which is the name for Matterhorn in Aosta), but the original plan was to continue up from Cervinia to Colle sup. delle Cime Bianche (2982m) and maybe some other gravel pass up here. I am not sure it would have been easy to get up there as the road should be a bit steep and I am still not sure it can be climbed fully with a road bike (mountain bikers go there regularly).
First I descended to Torgnon and Antey-Saint-André (1015m) on a nice road to meet the main road that goes up from Châtillon (549m) to Breuil-Cervinia (2013m). I stopped again shortly at a grocery shop and then climbed straight up to Breuil-Cervinia. I stopped by a lake on the way up for a photo and for a while thought that the village I saw ahead was Breuil-Cervinia, but that was just wishful thinking. It was Valtournenche.
Up at Valtournenche I was nearly run over by an Italian black SUV driver – if they can make drugs illegal, then surely they must be able to make it illegal for Italians to drive black SUVs as this is obviously something much more dangerous – it’s not good for them! (Red and Blue SUVs (city jeeps) would be fine. ;-))
It is a long way up to the end of this valley! It got a bit cold when I arrived at Breuil-Cervinia and Matterhorn was now all in the clouds hiding away from me. I went up a bit above the the village as there is asphalt a bit higher up than the village. From up here I could see the gravel road in the distance going up toward Colle sup. delle Cime Bianche, but it did look steep and would have not been fun in the cloudy weather today anyway (nice to have something to blame …). The village was quite busy. I stopped at the Matterhorn grocery shop and had a chocolate cake and coke before going back down again.
Instead I had decided to get back in reasonable time to Châtillon (549m) to meet up with my sister and boyfriend again as we had talked that we perhaps could meet up for another dinner when I got to Aosta. I was not sure if they wanted to go all that far down, but I surely did not want to go back to Aosta now (and they had no time the previous day). Anyway, they came down to Châtillon and we went out to eat at a very good pizzeria there and had a little walk around the city/village. It is interesting with the buildings in the gorge coming down from the Valtournenche valley, but this is not a touristy village. I stayed at a fine “Logis de Italy” (?) for the night, called Le Verger. I started to get very swollen in my left leg because of the earlier insect attack down the Col de la Madeleine, but could sleep thankfully.