Jerry’s Tour des Alpes 2002 – Day Seven

Cesana Torinese — Brianšon — Col du Galibier — Col de la Madeleine — Albertville (155,5 km, 4250 m up, 10-34░ C)

Col du Lautaret

Today I was happy because I knew that I had almost no unpaved stretches of road more during this fourteen days trip. I really felt very relieved I would only had to go over Col du Galibier and Col de la Madeleine, and some more. I realized that my original plan of going over Croix de Fer and Col du Glandon as well, would have to be scrapped in favour of trying to catch up some with my original overambitious plan.

I had a rather bad breakfast (the instant coffee was undrinkable) at the sleep-over place I had luckily found last night. I was out rather soon in the sunny morning and went away to climb the Col de Montgenevre (1850 m), which obviously is one of the easiest crossings in the alps. I guess it only took about 45 minutes from Cesana Torinese over to Brianšon. At Brianšon I decided to try my luck in seeeing if I could get some help in getting my bicycle cleaned up a bit and oil my chain. I tried (the rather unthinkable) to see if they could be of any help at the Intersport at the shopping center in the crossing where one road leads off to Col du Lautaret and the other down the valley and also to Col de l’Izoard. Well, they had apparently woken up on the good side this morning and let me use water and a brush (and I had oil for one oiling with me), so I took some time to do a good work, which was very much needed. The lady fumbled with the water tube and got all wet afterwards and I could not help myself finding it a bit amusing, which made her get less happy with me. Well, I bought a pair of cycling socks (about the only souvenir I got with me apart from some visting cards etc.) and went off in the direction of Col du Lautaret.

Col du Galibier

I cycled away from another cyclist up to the Col du Lautaret (2057 m), though in all honesty he had helped me earlier on against some wind up the valley. I took the photo and he passed me by, and I am not sure where he got, because he couldn’t possibly have gotten up to Col du Galibier so much faster than me that I would not even see him – odd (but of no interest to you dear reader, I understand).

Col du Galibier (2642 m) is one of the most famous Tour de France passes, that they go over practically every year. (I think they went the same way as me a few days later.) The pass is only difficult the short stretch above (the newly reopened) tunnel on the south side. The north side is much tougher, but quite ordinary.

After arriving down at Valloire the road start to rise a little again toward Col du Télégraphe (1566 m) where I raced away from another cyclist (just because I could). (One also passes (or passes close by) another pass down here which is Collet du Plan Nicholas (2406 m).) I had very much decided to take a path to reach a road that would short-cut the way to St. Jean-de-Maurienne, so I would not have had to go via Col du Télégraphe and St. Michel de-Maurienne, but I was tired of off-road alternatives and could not at once understand which road to take to get to the Col d’Albanne road/path. It is not entirely clear to me whether I made the right choice after all. When I came down to the valley at St. Michel de-Maurienne, sweetness and decent temperatures was only a faint memory. I got wind against me and a big road with heavy traffic. Then I thought I was no longer allowed to cycle on the big road and took off on a road that another cyclist (the one I cycled away from at Col du Télégraphe) went away on. It turned out that I was climbing up a road that did not go anywhere and it was also rather steep. First up at St. Martin-de-la-Porte did I realize I had made a mistake. (A little thereafter the road is marked as being 19% according to the Michelin map (another fast-riding local cyclist went up there and I could not hang on to him).)

Col de Chaussy

Soon back on the damned big road down the hot, dirty and boring valley to St. Jean-de-Maurienne (540 m). I got exhausted by the heat and had nothing left to drink. I wondered if there were no supermarkets along the road, looked like such a road and finally found one just when reaching the town. I strolled around inside there for almost an hour to get back some strength. Almost impossible to find anything cold to drink that one can buy at such supermarkets though (I think it was pretty much only that Sunny Valley juice or what it is called). Anyway supermarkets could be good for hot cyclists! ;-)

I must say that I had somewhat lost a bit of the interest in rushing up another col at this time. I looked around a little in the center of the town, filled my water bottle and got some pastry. I guess I spent around 1,5 hours or more at the town before was off again. I started slowly to get back into cycling mood, and figured that all would be well if I could only climb out of this damned valley. I had previosuly planned to go over Col du Chaussy and as that was indeed the first road taking me off the valley in the north direction, I went ahead. I had seen a photo of the wonderful hairpins at Montvernier in an older photo, but it turned out that they were more wooded now so that one could not see just how spectacular they would have come across if the trees had not hidden them so well. It also turned out it was hot almost all the way up to the col and I only barely managed to cycle away from a local girl.

As I approached Col du Chaussy (1533 m) everything started to get nicer again and I was feeling happier and strength returned. Just after the house in the photo, the road became very narrow and had a rougher pavement. The road is actually paved all the way (even though you hardly can see the remnants of the asphalt at one short section). I met a mountainbike cyclist up there and that is a good choice (MTB) but the road over to Bonvillard is no problem with a road bike. There a sometimes unpaved road continues up on the ridge to meet up with the main road high up near the Col de la Madeleine. I stopped close after Bonvillard and had a coke at a place and the man could not recommend that road (not sure that he understood me though). Thus I went down in the valley on a very good road until I met up with the Col de la Madeleine road (D213) there at around 650 meters and thus had most (like 85% I believe) of the climb to the col still to ride.

Col de la Madeleine

The main road up to the Col de la Madeleine (1993 m) is very good and somewhat nice. There was not very much traffic either as I had feared there could be (maybe because I was late). I had originally planned to cross this main road and go up via another road going through Montgellafrey, but that was the shady side during the late evening and I was already late and the main road looked like a good choice at that time.

I actually went very fast up the road, maybe because I did not want to be late for a bed tonight also, but I also felt in good shape again. It took some time still to get to the pass and when I just had taken my first photo there, I saw a man coming down from the restaurant. I thought I should ask him (in case he was a local) whether he had an idea of a place to stay for night down in the valley on the other side. He said ”I have a little hotel” and said I could join him if I wanted. I thought it was funny that I should meet yet another man who had his own little hotel, but I soon learned that I misunderstood what he meant. He, of course, meant that he had a room in a hotel. After all, he said he was a medical assistant from Switzerland! Well, I joined him in his car. He had his bicycle there also as he was using the car to get to climbs away from where he was based, which was in Albertville.

Col de la Madeleine

So, it turned out that Albertville was the destination for this day – not that I had ever made any plans for that (I had just precisely let it be left on my scissored-out map, which helped me get out of town in the morning). I had planned to go up to Moûtiers and then over the unpaved Cormet d’Arèches pass originally. Now that was already very much out of the question if I wanted to stay reasonably with my plans. It turned out he dropped me off at a hotel close to his as he had trouble finding his hotel and the clock was almost 10, after which it is not adviceable to show up at hotels for the most part (as they sometimes close then).

It was a hotel (Althotel) in the south outskirts of the town near the highway that looked quite boring. They had a room for 27 euro which the swiss guy thought was a better deal than he had gotten at his hotel. The breakfast was very expensive (6 euro) but it was very complete. I just had to find something to eat in the evening and I walked out on the town and it was very much a silent suburb with no place open at this hour at all. But I had nothing better to do so I walked several kilometers straight into town where the first place still open was a kebab place called Le Sultan. It was rather funny and had very good kebabs indeed (I had two big ones). The old lady at the place walked through door with a drapery hanging down just in her face so she walked through it every time back and forth instead of pushing it aside or avoid it by bending her head under it – it looked very funny.

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