Two years ago, while preparing for our summer bike tour to Europe, I (Greg) developed a heart arrythmia, atrial fibrillation, and had to have an operation (an ablation). The operation fixed it but it took two years out of our biking. So we decided to do an easy ride this year to see how I would do.
The trip is one between Lyon and Turin, over the Col de Mt. Cenis. This is a short partly alpine bike ride with a pleasant Col to climb. I should note that doing it from the French side like we did is, by far, the easiest way. The altitude gain is around 600m from the French side while it is around 1500m from the Italian side. We also did a pleasant side trip up the Lacets de Montvernier which is a really cool looking set of switchbacks with a 400m gain.
Map of our trip, with each day a different colour.
We started, not actually in Lyon itself, in Lyon's airport (St. Exupery), which is many Kilometres to the East. We stayed in a nearby Ibis Hotel while we assembled our bikes and got over some of our jet-lag. My bike had its front sprocket bent on arrival. I had to break off the plastic chain-guard to fix it, but it worked fine after that.
Kate and her mascot Rabbit with the bikes ready to head off from the airport hotel.
The first day was flat and uninspiring through French farm country. Kate called it the day of twenty roundabouts, since we seemed to run into them all day. We biked easily to the town of Morestel where we had a room booked. We talked to the owner of the hotel about Booking.com, which we had used for this entire trip. He said that Bookings.com doesn't get all the rooms available from each hotel because they take around 20% of the price. Most hotel reserve some rooms for direct sales.
The next day we headed for Chambery. There is a small range before getting to Chambery, and we went over it using the col du Chat. This would have been okay, but Kate could not get into her lowest gear and we could not seem to fix it on the road, so it was a little harder for her. But we finally got to our hotel in Chambery. They had a bicycle path that led almost the whole way through the city.
The Elephant Fountain in Chambery. Chambery uses the Elephant as a city symbol due to a nobleman coming back from Asia with some pet elephants in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
We spent a rest day in Chambery, but there is not really very much to see there. It seems more of a communiations hub than anything else. The following day, we headed off for the valley of the Maurienne.
This is a biking shot to show the countryside we were going through now. This is Kate crossing the Isère
After a day of mostly relaxing valley biking, we came to our hotel in St. Marie-de-Cuines which was mostly a truck stop, with a good and cheap restaurant about a 10 minute walk away.
The next day we headed off fairly early. We did not have far to go, but we wanted to go over "Les Lacets de Montvernier" a set of switchbacks that lead up to some alpine villages. Here is a picture:-
Les Lacets de Montvernier, but not as we would see it.
This is what the Lacets actually look like from the bottom.
And this is what they look like from the top, looking down.
Postcard location for a lunch stop.
We finished off the day, an easy one, in St. Michel-du-Maurienne, where we had booked a hotel. On a previous trip, from Marseille to Bourg St. Maurice we had come down the Col du Telegraphe, which enters the Valley of the Arc here. So we were now biking on familiar roads, well, roads that we had biked on before. So we generally knew what to expect.
The next day was a routine day biking along the Valley of the Arc to the town of Lanslevillard. This was the foot of the Col du Mont Cenis. This is a ski area in the winter and we were staying in an appartment that was designed for skiers.
After a good night's sleep we headed up the Col du Mont Cenis. This was a very popular pass in the middle ages. You can see why. The elevation gain from the French side is 600 or 700m, quite good for an alpine pass. The top is very pretty, it has a plateau with a large lake on it. The lake is modern, as it is held in by a large dam. But the road along the top is good and scenery nice. Our hotel was just over the pass at the start of the descent.
Kate coming up to the Col.
The trophy shot at the Col.
The lake at the top of the col.
We watched a paraglider slowly gain height in the thermals at the top of the col.
The start of the descent from the Col du Mont Cenis.
The descent from the Col du Mt. Cenis is long, but the grades were reasonable and we didn't have to worry about our tires overheating from braking. When we finally got to the Valley and the town of Susa we then had about 60km into Turin. This was basic, hot, boring biking. It was semi-urban, flat and developed. Once we hit Turin itself, it took us as long to get to our hotel as it had to get to Turin from the Col. The city was not bike sensitive, and we spent a lot of time figuring out how to use the roads to get to where we wanted to be. I went down (again!) on a marble curb that I tried to take at too shallow an angle, but I was not battered enough to stop us getting to the appartment we had reserved. This was an eighty Kilometre day, but the first twenty or so were downhill.
Since we were finally in Turin, we spent a few days touristing. Turin is not really set up for tourists, it is a Northern Italian industrial city, and doesn't worry a lot about visitors. Still we saw what there was, and took a TGV back to Lyon-St. Exupery, where we got off about a ten minute walk from our hotel, ready for our flight out the next day.