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The Route des Grandes Alpes (Great Alpine Road) Cycling Holiday
11th to 18th August 2014
The Route des Grandes Alpes (Great Alpine Road) is a 658km long route trough the French Alps. This alpine road trip takes you from the Mediterranean to Lake Geneva and includes some of the highest and most beautiful mountain passes in Europe.
The construction of the route started in 1909 by order of the French Touring Club. In that period, the Alps still were an isolated region of France with poor access possibilities. The construction of the route was not only an opening to the outside world for the mountain people, but also an opportunity for the upcoming tourism to discover this area with great cultural and natural heritage. The construction was finished in 1937, with the opening of the Col de l’Iseran. The official road number is D902.
With the opening of the French motorways, the route has lost most of its importance as a traffic connection from north to south, making the Route des Grandes Alpes a spectacular road trip route. To make things even more attractive, some adjustments were made in 1995 to replace the traffic heavy valley of Chamonix with the Col de la Colombière and the Col de Aravis.
Monday 11th August:
On arrival you will be met by our representatives, and at 14:00hrs and 19:00hrs we will operate coach transfers for the short distance to our hotel in Menton. We will eat at a restaurant nearby this evening.
Our itinerary will be as follows:
Tuesday 12th August -
Menton to Auron (131.4km)
Col de Turini 1607M. It is famous for a stage of the Monte Carlo Rally which is held on the tight road with its many hairpin turns. Until a few years ago, the Turini was also driven at night, with thousands of fans watching the "Night of the Long Knives" as it was called, due to the strong high beam lights of the rally cars cutting through the night. The pass was also featured in Top Gear when the presenters went in search of the greatest driving road in the world.
After leaving Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée we travel up Gorges de Valabres towards Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée following the river Tinée. We will turn out of the Gorge to the ski resort of Auron is located on the territory of the commune of Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée.
Tonight we will stay at Hotel de Savoie in Auron.
Wednesday 13th August -
Auron to Vars (83.6km)
From the south, the climb starts at Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée and is 26km long. With an average percentage of 6.4%. On the climb to the actual Col de la Bonette, there is one short section at over 10%, but on the loop around the Cime de la Bonette, the gradient reaches 15%.
On the ascent of the Col de Restefond 7km from the summit you will pass through the derelict village of Camp des Forches which was destroyed and the inhabitants slaughtered in the 2nd World War, it has been left as a monument.
On your descent of the Col De Restefond towards Jaspers you will pass Casernes de Restefond, an old military building. We will continue up the valley following the Ubaye River in the Mercantour National Park for 13.5km.
After we leave the valley floor and start the ascent of Col de Vars for 14km 2108M. After the summit we will have a 7.5km descent to the village of Vars Sainte-Marie.
Tonight we stay at the hotel Le Vallon in Vars.
Thursday 14th August - Vars to Valloire (115.3km)
After 20km we leave the canyon and start to climb the Col d’Izoard 2360M. The southern climb from Guillestre is 15.9 km in length and has an average gradient of 6.9%.
When getting close to the summit 2360M, the landscape changes suddenly. Trees make place for the Casse Desert; this is an extremely rugged area which some describe as a lunar landscape.
Approximately 2km from the summit you will see the Coppi / Bartali memorial. After the summit we will have a 20km descent into the town of Briançon. Briançon has often hosted starts and finishes of stages of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Dauphiné Libéré.
We leave Briançon and start the climb of the Col du Lautaret 2058M of 28km with an average 3.1%. This col was carved out by a glacier, this explains the easy gradient of the slopes by which it is attained. For this reason, the Col has long been used as a communication route between Grenoble and Briançon, and also for reaching Italy across the Alps.
At the summit of the Col du Lautaret the Col du Galibier 2645M starts here and is 8.5km long at an average of 6.9% with a height gain of 585M. The maximum gradient is 10.% towards the summit.
You will find a monument to Henry Desgrange the first director of the Tour de France, on the south side 1km from the summit. Every time the Tour de France climbs the Col du Galibier a wreath is laid on the memorial.
Tonight we stay at the hotel de La Poste in Valloire.
Friday 15th August - Valloire to Val d’Isere (105.3km)
At the Col du Télégraphe we find another fort: the Fort du Télégraphe, also called Fort Berwick. Located at an altitude of 1,585M it previously accommodated a telegraph to send messages between France and Italy. This explains also the name of the col.
Bonneval-sur-Arc is also the highest commune in France, considering the average height, which is 2713M. The village itself is situated at an altitude of 1850M.
After the village of Bonneval-sur-Arc we start the climb of Col de l’Iseran. With its 2770M it is the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps. It connects the valleys of the Isère River and the Arc River between Val-d'Isère in the north and Bonneval-sur-Arc in the south.
Tonight we stay at the hotel Altitude in Val d'Isere.
Saturday 16th August - Val d’Isere to Col des Saisies (88.4km)
After leaving Bourg-Saint-Maurice, we start the ascent of the Cormet de Roselend 1967M. It’s a long 20km climb with an average gradient of 6% with the steepest sections at 8.9%. Just after the summit you will see the Roselend Reservoir. Measuring 800M long and 150M high, it can contain up to 185 million cubic meters of water.
After the summit we have a 20km descent to Beaufort. After the town of Beaufort we have a 3km ride along the valley floor before we start climbing the Col des Saisies 1657M. The climb is 15km in length and has an average gradient of 6.4%.
Tonight we stay at the hotel Calgary in Les Saisies
Sunday 17th August - Col des Saisies to Thonon-les-Bains (133km)
We descend into the village of Saint-Jean-de-SIXT, an authentic alpine village with lots of little farms. After passing through the road starts to climb again. Heading to the town of Le Grand Bornand, a ski resort which owes its name to the river which runs through it. This is where we start the Col de la Colombière 1613M
The climb is 11.7km in length and has an average gradient of 5.9%. As we go higher, the trees start to make place for rock formations and alpine meadows.
After the descent of the Col de la Colombière we get to the town of Cluses. We travel up the valley arriving in Morzine, the most northerly of the French Alpine resorts. This charming town is dominated by chalets spread across a river gorge.
After Morzine we will travel up the canyon, after 10KM we pass the Aulps Abbey which is a former Cistercian monastery located at an altitude of 810M.
After another 10km we reach the Gorges du Pont-du-Diable (Devil’s bridge canyon).
The winding roads through the Vallée Verte (French for green valley). Rock formations, green bushes and trees provide some shadow against the hot sun. We continue up the Vallée Verte to Thonon-les-Bains, a small town at the shore of Lake Geneva. Lake Geneva is one of the largest bodies of water in Western-Europe, and with its length of 95km it greatly exceeds in size all others alpine lakes. The lake has a depth of 310M, which makes the bottom of the lake only 62M higher than sea level. To the South, we can see already the snowy peaks of the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain of the Alps. We then take the route from Thonon les Bains and head for Morzine.
Lake Geneva, formed by a retreating glacier, has a crescent shape that narrows around Yvoire on the southern shore. It can thus be divided figuratively into the "Grand Lac" (Large Lake) to the east and the "Petit Lac" (Small Lake) to the west.
Tonight we stay at the hotel Cote Sud in Thonon les Bains
Monday 18th August:
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