Announcing the 2022 Cycloworks Maurienne Valley Raid (i.e. what I'm doing on my vacation)...
My friend Ian told me I should write it up like a true professional bike trip announcement, so here it is.
Day 1: Arrival!
Welcome to Europe! Geneva Airport is split between France and Switzerland. Due to availability, we'll be picking our vehicle up on the Swiss side, as Peugeot has no available cars for a short-term lease. We'll be packing you into a 7 seater vehicle (whether it's a Volkswagen, Skoda, or Peugeot is up to the rental company), and driving to our gite in a tiny mountain-side village between St. Michel & Modane. Once there, we'll visit the local grocery store and get some food and wine and all the other associated goods needed.
Day 2: Orelle and Environs - 12mi/2k-feet
Rather than ride tired and bleary, after a good nights sleep, we'll put our bike(s) together and do a short shakedown ride around the environs of Orelle. The first full day in France is one to continue to get acclimated to the time change. Today’s ride is one to get one’s legs under them, while getting some climbing in, but staying close to home. A nice 13 mile ride through Haute-Orelle (above the ski-lift area) to Bonvillard, providing valley views, then down to the valley road, with a 300m climb up to Orilette before returning back to the Gite.
Day 3: Lacets, Chaussy, Sapey - 54mi/8k-feet
Day 4: Col du Glandon & Col de la Croix de Fer - 64mi/7.8k-feet
In France, the major mountain passes tend to have dates where they’re closed to car traffic…Today we climb up the Col de la Croix de Fer, via the Col du Glandon, without cars! Once over the Cold, we descend down the via Saint-Jean-d’Arves to Saint Jean de Maurienne and back to the Gite.
Day 5: Col de Beau Plane - 27mi/4k Feet
A shorter day because tomorrow’s day is HUGE!!!! We venture back up the north part of the valley, riding the picturesque climb up to the Col de Beau Plane, which will allow you to see the climb up the Telegraphie and put fear into your legs for tomorrow…
Day 6: Col du Galibier and Col du Granon - 52mi/10k feet
The monumental Col du Galibier starting from St. Michel de Maurienne is one of the most iconic climbs of the Tour de France. It’s so epic one has to climb another mountain just to get there. Today we go the classic way up the Col de Telegraphie first, with its 850m of climbing. After a descent into Valloire (Stop for water) the next 18km force you to pit yourself against the menace that stands before you. Towering above you, you face the Galibier fully exposed to the wind, the sun, and the 1300+ meters of climbing before you. Don’t waver, as the Giant of the Alpes won’t pull any punches. Passing the refuge, the last 2km save the steepest gradients for last. If we’re feeling adventurous, we’ll descend down to the Col du Lautaret, then climb up the Col du Granon… If not, we’ll return back down to the Telegraphie and to the gite.
Day 7: Col du Mollard & Aiguilles d'Arves - 55mi / 7.7k feet
We hope you like switchbacks and mountain vistas, because the climb up to today’s route has them in the dozens. The Col du Mollard is our col of the day, ascending up the hidden gem of Villargondran.. After conquering the Mollard, we turn left to visit the Aiguilles d’Arves, part of the Arves massif, with its three peaks higher than 3500meters. Once we’ve paid our respects to the trio of peaks, we descend down the Arvan river into Saint-Jean de Maurienne, and back to the gite.
Day 8: Rest Day
A well earned rest day – into the heart of St. Jean we go for market day. Also stopping at the Cathedral to Saint John (where supposedly 3 of the Saint’s finger bones are rumored to be kept). Also we take time to visit the Museum of the Opinel Knife company and take home some carbon-bladed utensils for home.
Day 9: Col de l'Iseran - 90mi / 9.9k Feet
Since we’re *NOT* riding the Etape du Tour (which comes down the Galibier and closes the roads between Saint-Michel and Saint-Jean) we’ll instead go the opposite direction and climb the “highest’ paved mountain pass in Europe – The Col de l’Iseran. Either starting at the Gite (for the masochists) or starting in Lanslebourg (the traditional start of the climb), it’s a beast that grinds you down over 1600m of ascent over 34km…the 13km from Bonneval-sur-Arc is a mere 13k at 1k of climbing with 7% average and 19.7% max… You won’t quick forget your visit to the Iseran. You remember when Egan Bernal won the Tour de France because he was first at the top of the Col de l’Iseran when the hail storm stopped them from finishing at Tinges-les-bains? Once we hit the top of Europe, it’s all downhill back to the gite.
Day 10: Col d'Albanne & Lake Pramol - 36mi/5k Feet
While today is classified as a Rest day (hey feel free to not do anything but eat cheese and wine today after yesterday’s huge day), the not-so-resty-but-really-beautiful ride is up to Lake Pramol via the Col d’Albanne. A hidden gem of the Maurienne valley, we hit two hard-scrabble villages on the south side of the valley, showing that pretty much anywhere here is amazing to ride.
Day 11: Frejus Tunnel Ride - 90mi/8.8k Feet
As a special day for this year, it’s been 42 years since the opening of the Frejus tunnel route between France and Italy, the tunnel has a new bore and we’ll be riding through it! A full loop starting from Modane thru the 12.9km of the Frejus tunnel into ITALY!!!! then along thru Susa and then over the Col de Mont Cenis from the Italian side (complete with 3 rest stations in Italy). All for an amazing 10 Euro! In the US that might cost $100! Even the ability to purchase a one-time-only jersey for the route!
Day 12: TOUR DE FRANCE DAY 1
The tour comes thru today leaving from Alberville, climbing the Lacets de Montvernier, then back to the main valley road, turning up the Col de la Telegraphie, to the Galibier, and then eventually the Granon.
Timing today will be the key. The road will be closed at a certain time to car traffic.
The Publicity Caravan will reach Saint Jean at 12:02, making its turn onto the Col at 12:25. Therefore we’ll want to try to be on the mountain well before that.
The caravan takes about an hour to pass, and then the Tour isn’t schedule to make that turn up the col until between 14:14 and 14:25, so we’ll probably want to pack a lunch and water to wait for the tour.
We could make it up to Valloire (where there’s a ropes course) and the timing for things would be Caravan at 13:06, and the Tour between 14:48 and 15:06. Just realize that the higher we go up the mountain the longer we have to wait to get back to the Gite.
There are also numerous picnic sites up the Telegraphie. Since we want to avoid the chaos up at the Galibier, it may make sense to be on the lower slopes of the Telegraphie instead. For example, if we find a place to park in St-Martin-d’Arc, we’re at the base of the climb, with public restrooms and parking. Valloire also has the same ability to park and be close to restrooms.
Day 13: TOUR DE FRANCE DAY 2
Back to the road to watch the tour come up and over the Galibier from Briancon via the Lauteret, and down thru Valloire and the Telagraphie, to then ride along the valley to St. Michel and St Jean, only to turn up the road to the Col de la Croix de Fer, and over into the Oisans to finish at the top of Alpe d’Huez.
Day 14: Col de Madeline + Col de la Loze: 56mi/11.7k feet
Today we do the tour stage from 2020 where Miguel Angel Lopez won via the Col de la Madeline and then up the brand-newest climb up the Col de la Loze. We will then descend back into Mirabel, and then take the sag-wagon back to the Gite.
Day 15: Back To Geneva
We break camp after an amazing 2 weeks in the Maurienne Valley, having ridden all the big climbs of the Tour and even some of the lesser ones.
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