Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. It’s time to think about your summer cycling plans. www.descol.hr
I know exactly what I am doing in August. I am bicycling the French Alps, like I have done several times before. Why? I go because it’s awesome and it’s one of the neatest things I’ve done.
In fact, this summer, I am inviting other women (sorry guys) to come with me. However, if can’t come with me, you can make your own tour and I’ll give you a few tips.
You may have seen the Alps on the Tour de France, but like most things, seeing something on television, doesn’t compare to being there. In fact, the difference between watching cycling in the Haute Savoie region and actually riding there, is like eating a slice of plain, store-bought apple pie and eating a warm piece ala mode that was baked by your grandmother-it’s just something extra special. The Italian and Swiss Alps flank the French mountains, and the cycling anywhere there is both breathtaking and challenging.
Some of the more famous and difficult climbs in all the Alps are L’Alpe d’Huez and Galibier. However, they are not the most scenic. The Tour de France organizers often pick the climbs because they are wide enough for the cars and spectators, but there are many other more beautiful and less popular climbs. They are most easily accessible, if you base yourself in one town and explore that area. Some bigger towns include: La Clusaz, Le Grand Bournard and Megeve. From here, you can catch some great cols.
For example, the Col des Saises is a beautiful, little-traveled pass with very little traffic and beautiful scenery it leads to a ski resort and then descends back down. Additionally, nearby is the Col du Petit St. Bernard, right on the Italian-French border, with great views of the south face of Mount Blanc.
One my favorites starts in the village of St. Jean de Sixt and climbs the Col d’ Arpettz. It’s a 60-mile loop over the Col d’ Aravis and the Arpettaz. The road to Arpettaz is more narrow on the backside, but you’ll see stunning mountain scenery, including wildflowers, farmhouses and horses. If you climb the Col d’ Aravis, you can access many other smaller climbs including the Col d’ Croix de Fer. At the top of the Aravis, you’ll hear the ringing of cowbells and can step inside a tiny chapel. On a clear day, you can see Mount Blanc. You can also buy local foods.
Fueling up, French-style
The Haute Savoie region is famous for it’s fondue and tarteflette (scalloped potatoes with cheese and meat). Both those dishes are made with Reblochon cheese, the region’s specialty. And of course, the wine is good too.
If you go:
The closest international airport is Geneva, Switzerland, which is about 40-minutes from the French Alps. (Note: the Geneva Airport has both a French and Swiss side). You’ll need to rent a car to get to the mountain towns. For route planning go to: http://www.viamichelin.com