Archived General DB Blogs
Destinations - The Savoy, France
Posted: Sep 15 2008
Four friends from the Different Bikes extended family made a trip to the French Alps recently to reconnect, conquer some fine cols from the many choices in the region, eat some great food and have a few laughs. Here’s DB Rob’s view of the Savoy part of the trip:
Of the group, Rob and Rockhead were the most determined to ride and climb, and Bert and Scooter were determined to screw up their plans. However, just prior to the ride, Rob took Bert on a couple of training rides in the East Kootenays. A former competitive cyclist, it had been six years since Bert had ridden but he slipped back into old habits – going fast! – and was soon chasing bighorn sheep down the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains (a story for another time). At the bottom, in Radium BC, Bert was fighting a losing battle showing how stoked he was to be riding again. He was hooked, and was now firmly in the biking contingent for France. Now, Scooter had no choice but to join in.
They landed in Geneva and loaded the van for the quick trip to Megeve, located between Chamonix and Annecy. Megeve is a sprawling ski area lying below the spectre of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. Within reach are a generous handful of superb rides and cols. We strung together three great days of road riding and cols.
Col Aravis and Col de la Croix Fry
Riding west from Megeve to Flumet is pure joy, and on arrival in Flumet, we lucked into a festival celebrating the anniversary of the opening of the road to Megeve. Apparently this is a big deal: before that it was a 2 day ride to the nearest town on horseback. From Flumet, there is a steady and at times spectacular climb north the Col Aravis. Pure French, pure Savoy and pure fun on a gorgeous day. From the top of Aravis, we linked easily into the Col de la Croix Fry, a bit more challenging in terms of climb intensity, but an equally spectacular climb.
On our second day, we cheated and started from the top of Col Aravis, descending to Saint-Jean-de-Sixt and then climbing towards Le Grand-Bornand and ultimately Col Colombiere. Colombiere is a bigger test; steeper, higher, longer and more barren. It has a place in the history of the Tour de France, and the ride up either side will confirm it meets the challenge of a Tour climb. As well, the beer is particularly rewarding at the top.
Day three took us from Megeve towards Flumet, but turning towards Notre Dame de Bellecombe and ultimately to the col Saisies, which is easily one of the prettiest of the climbs in the area. The slopes of Saisies are very pastoral and quiet, giving us plenty of opportunity to safely ride two abreast and enough wind to chat. At the top of Saisies, it’s worth reading the large monument to a massive airdrop in the waning days of World War II that American Forces made in support of the French Resistance. Our ride was capped by a fantastic descent to Albertville, highlighted (to me) by Rockhead dropping his Blackberry and smashing it useless. The Alps have an opinion about obsessive-compulsive connectivity, it seems.
Altogether, the area of the Savoy around Megeve offers a great introduction to Alps climbing; in particular, it’s a great companion area to the climbs available futher south, centering around Alpe d’Huez. Add friends, shake well.
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