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Savoy Alps, a road bike tour with quä On the way to the classics of the Tour de France in the French Alps. After several cancellations in the Corona year, this trip actually took place.

The arrival

My day started early. The tram left at 7:43 a.m. In other words I could get up as usual and had the whole day for a comfortable journey. Departure time of the plane was 10:55, arrival time in Geneva at 14:10 with a stopover in Frankfurt.

But the flight from Dresden was delayed for more than half an hour. And this with a scheduled connecting time in Frankfurt of only one hour and five minutes. Therefore, I was sure that possibly I would be able to make it but definitely not my bike. So I already thought about how I would be able to follow the others after once my bike would arrive. But when I boarded in Frankfurt, I saw through the window of the plane how my bicycle bag was loaded. That was a relief! Now nothing more could happen on the way to the Savoy Alps.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-My bike bag is loaded
Coincidence helped: I saw my bicycle case being loaded

From Geneva airport I took the train to Annemasse. There was not a single cab available. Maybe due to Corona. So I started walking towards the hotel. With a bicycle bag, my suitcase with wheels, rucksack and in summer temperatures. Nowhere to see a cab. So I just walked on. Sweating wet I arrived at the hotel after more than half an hour walking. Checking in and assembling the bike was next. But I had arrived happily and I was ready to go.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-On the way to the Hotel
On the way to the Hotel

Stage 1 from Annemasse to Albertville

Sunday was not quite as warm as Saturday but still nice and sunny. Start should be after breakfast at nine o’clock. Due to technical problems we started a bit later. The first ascent of the tour was on the Geneva local mountain Mont Salève with a wonderful view of Geneva and Lake Geneva.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-View of Geneva
View of Geneva

Before the next climb we cycled through the wonderful Annecy. And coincidently we came exactly along the road I had been living in for the Etape du Tour 2018. That’s why I remembered that the ascent to the Col de Forclaz was not very difficult. How wrong one sometimes remembers. The last three kilometers were almost continuously double-digits. That was not easy. The following descent, however, was. Soon we rolled into our hotel in Albertville. There we had to wait some time for our luggage. There had been an accident on the downhill. One participant fell and was taken to hospital with broken ribs. Again an accident on the first day, like on the Pyrenees trip in 2018.

Stage 2 from Albertville to Valloire

The weather forecast predicted a change of weather and rain for the 2nd stage. In the morning it had become much cooler but when we started it was not raining yet. The rain only started around noon on the ascent to Col de la Madeleine.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Rain on the way to Col de la Madeleine
Rain on the way to Col de la Madeleine

Luckily it did not rain so persistent and extensive as the prediction let fear. At the pass height our bus was waiting and we could put on dry clothes. Nevertheless, it got quite fresh on the descent. I stopped briefly in the downhill as I was concerned my bike has a defect. But it was only my trembling, which made the bike vibrate while I was braking.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Bus with dry clothes on the Col de la Madeleine
Bus with dry clothes on the Col de la Madeleine

On the descent, our group was separated. Just three of us set off on the second ascent. On the way we could decide whether we wanted to climb the Lacets de Montvernier. When we suddenly found ourselves in front of them, we didn’t have to think long. The road is a real highlight of road construction.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Lacets de Montvernier
Lacets de Montvernier

After the short detour with an additional 300 meters of elevation, the ascent to Col de Telegraphe was the last climb of the day. From the top of the pass it was only about 5 kilometers downhill to the hotel in Valloire.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Col du Telegraphe
Col du Telegraphe

Stage 3 from Valloire to Alpe d’Huez

Also for the third day the weather forecast was not nice. And we wanted to climb the Col du Galibier. About 600 meters higher than the Col de la Madeleine the day before. It should not rain any more. But it would be quite cold. From the hotel in the morning we could see fresh snow on the peaks.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Fresh snow on the peaks
Fresh snow on the peaks

Col du Galibier

The climb from Valloire to the Galibier was wonderful despite the cold. It immediately made it onto the list of my favorite passes. On top of the Galibier the bus was waiting. Luckily the road was dry and the snow was really only on the peaks. With three degrees we could put on dry clothes for the downhill. That helped a lot and the trembling was soon over.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Col du Galibier
Col du Galibier

After the departure from Galibier we did not cycle in the valley to Bourg d’Oisans but over the quiet Balcons d’Auris with wonderful views into the valley.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Balcons d'Auris
Balcons d’Auris

Alpe d’Huez

The disadvantage was that the road did not turn onto the climb to Alpe d’Huez until bend 6. So you had to decide if that was ok or if you wanted to go down first to climb the whole ascent to Alpe d’Huez.

However, for me it was clear that going downhill would be out of the question. What nonsense! Until I arrived at curve 6. Spontaneously and before I knew what was happening, I was in the downhill. Of course there was no way to get past the complete ascent! How idiotic it would have been to do it without the first six bends!

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Kilometer zero of the climb to Alpe d'Huez
Kilometer zero of the climb to Alpe d’Huez

The climb to Alpe d’Huez was nice and smooth. It dragged on a little. We also had been on the road for a few hours already. But even the traffic was limited in the afternoon. I had heard many negative things about Alpe d’Huez before. But I really liked Alpe d’Huez. Our hotel was at the top and we had a great view of the surrounding mountains.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Arriving in Alpe d'Huez
Arriving in Alpe d’Huez

Stage 4 from Alpe d’Huez to Aussois

After only a short descent from Alpe d’Huez, we took a very beautiful ridge road above the Oisan river and along the valley before we entered the second part of the descent. The bus waited at a reservoir, where we could deposit unnecessary clothes. Next was the start of the climb to the south ramp of the Col de la Croix de Fer.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Climb to the Col de la Croix de Fer
Climb to the Col de la Croix de Fer

At the summit of the Croix de Fer we could finally enjoy our lunch break again. The focus was on the catering and not on changing clothes as on the two previous days.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-View from Col de la Croix de Fer
View from Col de la Croix de Fer

After the catering break a wonderful descent was next. Finally it was possible to let the bike run. But we didn’t ride all the way down but chose the way over the Col du Mollard.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Col du Mollard
Col du Mollard

By cycling over the Col du Mollard, the unpleasant way in the Maurienne valley became at least a little shorter. In addition, the descent from the Col de Mollard had the peculiarity that it leads over a road with countless serpentines. At the end we also cycled through Villargondran, where I had my accommodation for my tours in the Maurienne valley the year before.

Nevertheless, there were still about 20 unpleasant kilometers to cycle in the Maurienne Valley before we went on the uphill to our day’s destination in Aussois. I was pretty burnt out and could not keep up with my group. The last meters felt very long and it took me a while before I finally reached the hotel at the stage finish in Aussois.

iamcycling-Savoyer-Alpen-Lonely trip to Aussois
Lonely trip to Aussois

Stage 5 from Aussois to Seez

It was already Thursday. The highest peak of the tour was coming up: The Col de l’Iseran with 2.770 meters. This makes it the highest pass in the alps. The actual ascent began in Bonneval after a short and hilly ride. The summer weather was finally back. It was hot again like on the first day. Only from about 1.200 meters altitude on the temperatures became more pleasant than in the valley.

The way to the summit led through marmot country. I have not seen any. But I heard the whistling a few times. Again at the summit the bus with the lunch was waiting.

It was good to have a break with refreshment and new energy before the long descent via Val d’Isere down to Sainte Foy.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-View to Val d'Isere
View to Val d’Isere

Shortly after Val d’Isere, we had to survive a few dicey situations in several tunnel passages with construction works going on. For me it felt like we were cycling through the middle of a mine.

In Sainte Foy we had to cross a hill with about 300 meters of altitude before reaching our destination in Seez. Then the fifth stage was also done and dusted.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Junction in Sainte Foy to Seez
Junction in Sainte Foy to Seez

Stage 6 from Seez to Cluses

The stage from Seez to Cluses was to be the Queen stage. From Seez it was a bit downhill before in Bourg Saint Maurice the ascent to the Cormet de Roselend began. A very nice climb with a large reservoir just behind the pass.

Col du Pré

After cycling over the dam, the lonely road to the Col du Pré was next. The following descent was quite a narrow road. There the lost cars were more of a problem than the tight curves.

Col des Saisies

The third ascent of the day started in Beaufort and led up to the Col des Saisies. The motivation for the climb was that the bus was waiting with lunch after the pass.

Since I always ran out of energy shortly after the food break in the last days, I skipped the sweets this time. That helped. It was better afterwards.

Col des Aravis

After the descent we went up to the fourth ascent of the day, the Col des Aravis.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Col des Aravis
Col des Aravis

After the descent, we had to decide in Saint-Jean-de-Sixt whether we wanted to tackle the fifth ascent as well, or go straight to the hotel taking the road in the valley. Almost the whole group decided to climb the fifth time up to the Col de la Colombière.

Col de la Colombière

To my surprise we cycled through Le Grand Bornand. There was the finish line of my first Etape du Tour 2018. And the Col de la Colombière was the last climb at that time, only from the other side. I started the climb exhausted but with beautiful memories. Fortunately it was quite even and good to cycle. However, reaching the pass height a refreshment with orangina and water was due. Especially on the downhill you need concentration and energy. After the break we enjoyed the very nice downhill to our destination in Cluses. Shortly before Cluses we felt with one blow that we were back in the summer heat.

In the evening in Cluses, there was a longer march from the hotel to the center of the town. On a very nice terrace, tables were reserved for our last dinner together. The end of the tour came unstoppable closer.

Stage 7 from Cluses to Annemasse

In the morning of the last stage I felt very good. I wanted to ride the long option. But there were only two others interested in this route and no group. So I started only on the short stage. And that was lucky! Because already after a short bit my tank was empty before even beginning the climb.

The way up to the Col de Plaine-Joux was not easy. I was behing the group on the last part to the Montblanc panorama from Col d’Ajon. And the last kilometer felt actually like three.

After the downhill we had a break with Orangina and coffee on a terrace in Boëge. Actually that was probably exactly what I needed. Afterwards I felt good again. At least within the possibilities after a week of cycling in the Alps. The body is really impressive. As a matter of fact, we were back much too fast in the starting hotel in Annemasse.

Unfortunately there was an also accident on the last downhill, which also ended up in hospital. It would really not have needed that.

iamcycling-Savoy-Alps-Farewell from Annemasse
Waiting for the taxi in Annemasse

It was hard to leave and I stayed with the group in Annemasse for quite a while. After a shower at the hotel, I finally took at some point a train to Geneva. I stayed there for one more night until I went back home Sunday evening.

That was the road bike tour in the Savoy Alps:

  • 7 stages from and to Annemasse
  • 739 cycled kilometers
  • 18.085 meters of elevation
  • Total cycling time 36 hours 25 minutes
  • 23 climbs