Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2009 – Friday July 24th

Chamonix — Rumilly — Seyssel — Golet de la Biche — Col du Grand Colombier — Col du Chat — Le Bourget-du-Lac (113 km, 2938m, 12-34°C)

Grand Colombier

Actually it was really two full rest days as I did not start bicycling in the day before the time at which I stopped two days ago. This day I went to the post office to send off the sweater I bought in Courmayeur the day before and had a coffee before leaving Chamonix with the train. The train ride was nice, but also very slow down from Chamonix to Le Fayet (the train stops at every single little station) and I could easily have gone down faster on the bicycle despite some climbing on the way down there.

From Le Fayet it was a more normal train ride (still quite slow and also somewhat nice) to Annecy and further to Rumilly. Rumilly is not exactly a popular place, but it was located well and I did not have to cycle down the somewhat boring road from Chamonix to here. I went north from here with the intention to go through the Val du Fier (303m), but the road through the gap in the mountain ridge was closed, so I had to go around the Montagne des Princes, via Clermont and Droisy (678m) (according to Michelin there was a more direct and steep road up to Droisy (where I think I saw a pass sign, but I am not sure)). From Droisy there is a nice curvy descent down to Seyssel, where I stopped for a late lunch at a pastry shop.

Grand Colombier

From Seyssel (258m) I eventually found a bridge over the river (nice place). Then the climb up the next pass I was heading for started almost immediately. At Gigniez (367m) one turns up a small road through the village toward Golet/Col de la Biche (1310m) and I think the road might have been sign-posted for Brénaz, which is where it goes, but I am not sure. The climb was somewhat long and steep (close to 10% for 9 km). It was quite hot here now. There is not much traffic on this road and it is (also) somewhat nice on this side. I only had a photo of the pass sign here and that was the most boring place along the road, so no need to put up here (looks like any place in a Swedish forest).

As you reach the top of the climb it becomes flat for some time, but still you will not find a pass sign. Then you will descend a little before you soon again will climb up to the actual pass, which is a little lower than the highest point of the road – Croix de Famban (1316m).

The descent to Brénaz is shorter than the climb up from Seyssel. It had started to rain, but I hurried down to Brénaz (695m) before taking cover for the rain. I waited around 30 minutes before it seemed like the rain would not come back my way again. From here there are some alternative roads going south, but I took the one planned (D69) to Virieu-le-Petit (635m). You will see a sign for Grand Colombier before here, but the road from Virieu is the steepest road up to the Grand Colombier, which was my main goal planned for the day.

Grand Colombier

The road up the Grand Colombier looks nice and not so steep at first, but upon entering the forest you soon come to a very steep part that only becomes steeper as you continue. There are 4 km with an average of ca. 12% and the steepest stretch is around 18-19% for about one kilometre constantly. This is a hard climb indeed, but it does not last for long and the rest of the climb up from where you meet the other road on this side at La Selle (1175m) is not very steep at all (well, the last stretch is around 10% for 3 km and could be a bit windy). From La Selle the road is quite nice and varied with good views here and there. The pass location is somewhat confusing and you are not likely to guess where it is located until getting close to it.

Rain was in the vicinity and the road surface was partly wet, but I was lucky to escape more rain this day. I took a couple of photos at the pass as it was quite nice here. What is not clear in the photos is the terrible wind I had up here. I had to hurry down before getting too cold. The other side is very gradual and straight near the pass, so I had move my legs a bit, which is good when it is cold.

Eventually the road starts to descend more abruptly in nice serpentines to Culoz (237m) and I stopped here to have another nice photo of the views down south. Down in Culoz I had to stop several times to look at the map to find the right way to Chanaz (233m). I had not made up my mind beforehand on which way to take from Chanaz and had difficulties deciding on which road to take, but I eventually decided to go right ahead on the D921 to Lucey (231m) and then up via Jongieux, where I perhaps could have stopped for the night, but thought I had not very far today and wanted to continue a bit longer. I realised later that one could indeed use a steeper more direct road up to Jongieux-le-Haut, which seemed to be asphalted all the way too instead of going the long serpentines up through the vineyards.

Grand Colombier

After Jongieux, there were no more places to stop at for the night though, so I had to continue over the next pass. I took the nice little road over Monthoux (573m) to Col du Chat/Col de Chevelu (633m) – not to be confused by the legendary Mont du Chat (1504m) which I was heading for. There were almost no cars on the Col du Chat and the road was lovely now when the sun was descending.

The other side down to Le Bourget-du-Lac (239m) soon becomes a wide and busy road. I rolled down to the end of the descent and there found a hotel which did not look too posh. I got a room for a decent price and stayed there.

I had dinner at the hotel and ordered what I thought was some kind of fish (as it was listed in that section) – grenouilles. The waiter understood that I had not eaten this before and asked if I really wanted it. Sure, I said! Actually the frogs were quite good, but I have to tell you that you that it is a bit difficult to eat and that your hands will get quite soiled, but they had wet wipes on the table for this. The waiter later asked me if I had not really eaten this before as I was stacking the bones just like the “professional” Grenouilles eaters, he told me.

He parked my bicycle by the open fireplace next to the dining room – not always I get such a place for the bicycle!