Tour 2006,  1 - 5 July

stagedistance (km)climbing (m)
Lignières - Neuchâtel + Genève - Les Glières - Croix-Fry - Tamié1502880
Tamié - Grand Cucheron - Allevard - Uriage1452890
Uriage - L'Arzelier - L'Allimas - Menée - Barnave1262340
Barnave - Pennes - Rémuzat - St-Auban - Aurel1122500
Aurel - Sault - Mont Ventoux - Vaison - Bollène991400

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Stage 1 (1 July 2006): Lignières - Neuchâtel + Genève - Les Glières - Croix-Fry - Tamié


My tour 2006 was like a second trial: after giving up in 2004 because i got sick, i wanted to try again to the Mont Ventoux. This was, however, not the single goal and i also wanted to climb new passes on the way, starting from Geneva. So, i went first from Lignières to Neuchâtel and took a train to Geneva. In my small baggage, i had a new toy: a cheaper and much smaller digital camera.
Riding from the train station out of Geneva proved very easy on this Saturday morning because, at 9 o'clock, there was not yet much traffic. I went to the south-east and passed the border to France near the Salève mountain. I continued on departmental roads towards la Roche-sur-Foron, where i was faster then the cars stuck in traffic jams. I went south to a nice and quiet little pass called col des Fleuries. A first good reason to use the new camera. Down at Thorens, like several other cyclists, i took advantage of the fountain on the town square to refill my bottles. The air was dry and it was getting warm, so it was necessary to drink much. Then there was a long climb to the Collet pass. The landscape was nice and there were barely any cars. Between this pass and the next one, the road went only a bit down and up again. The col des Glières was thus very easy to reach. The difficulties came afterwards: first a gravel road for about 2 km, then a narrow, bumpy and very steep descent down to the Borne river. In the valley, the road was first almost flat, but it climbed again while approaching St-Jean-de-Sixt. After climbing through the resort of la Clusaz, i did not continue towards les Aravis as in 2001 but, instead, took right to the Croix-Fry. The climb was relatively hard because it was hot and because i was obviously hungry. So i had to stop at the pass to eat a sandwich and drink some lemonade. Then i enjoyed the descent towards Thônes, but turned left (south) before reaching this town. The road was climbing again, but only gently, to the Marais pass. The descent (including a small climb in-between) brought me to Faverges, where i easily found the way south to the Tamié pass. The climb was not very steep and i reached the pass shortly before five.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Les Prés (Lignières)0920 
Les Gravereules194020
La Coudre1055060
>>> Genève-Cornavin14370 
Pont du Foron28420 
La Balme50590170
La Roche-sur-Foron53540 
Col des Fleuries61920380
Col du Collet781400740
Les Collets791370 
Col des Glières81144070
Chez la Jode831400 
L'Essert (Petit-Bornand)89730 
Col de la Croix-Fry1081470510
Col du Marais124830180
La Sauffaz129730 
Les Essérieux13076030
Abbaye de Tamié150900400
total150 2880

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Stage 2 (2 July 2006): Tamié - Grand Cucheron - Allevard - Uriage


From the col de Tamié, i went to the... collet de Tamié, which is more or less parallel. Two passes for the price of one! Then i descended to the Isère valley, heading south-west. Afterwards, i turned left into the Maurienne valley. There, a road sign indicated that all passes around were open... all except the one i wanted to cross, the Grand Cucheron. At Aiguebelle, i stopped at the gendarmerie to ask about it. The policewoman on duty was nice, but she didn't know the reason why this road was closed. I decided to try anyway. The road climbed first on the side of the valley, partly in the sun, partly in the shade of forests, towards St-Alban. Then the curves towards the pass were all in the forest. It was a nice climb, and a very quiet one since there was no traffic. Close to the pass, the road was indeed closed, but just for protection from explosions carried out there during the week. No problem to ride through since it was Sunday!
After a short descent, i went to the beautiful little pass of Champ-Laurent, continuing then south-west, mostly descending, towards Allevard. Instead of joining again the Isère valley, i went across small side valleys connected by several small passes. This, however, meant many detours and climbs in the heat of the afternoon. After the Barioz, Ayes, Lautaret and Mouilles passes, i had enough and started looking for a lodging for the night. The search went long. About 40 km and 2 hours. With another road closure on the way: a bridge had been destroyed by a flood. Rather then making a detour, i preferred to cross the stream, walking on stones. Finally, it was already half past six as i found an hotel above Uriage, with a beautiful terrace and view over the valley. Riding the whole afternoon by temperatures between 30 and 35° had worn me out and i was just happy to take a shower, eat and drink a lot, and rest.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Abbaye de Tamié0900 
Col de Tamié291010
Collet de Tamié396050
Le Pichet (St-Georges)37610290
Le Reame39520 
Grand Cucheron491190670
Le Pontet53870 
Col de Champ-Laurent561110240
La Table6385030
Col du Barioz911040600
Col des Ayes102940320
Col du Lautaret10598080
La Boutière107900 
Col des Mouilles1091020120
Le Mont (Combe de Lancey)120700 
Le Requitel124800100
Le Buisson126730 
Le Rousset129890160
Les Faures131750 
La Croix de Pinet135850100
Le Bouloud145500 
total145 2890

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Stage 3 (3 July 2006): Uriage - L'Arzelier - L'Allimas - Menée - Barnave


Leaving Uriage, i took again the direction of south-west, remaining on small roads which were going slightly up and down. As i reached the Drac river, i had to take a larger road with more traffic, but nothing so bad. Then i crossed the Drac towards Vif and, from there, started to climb towards the Arzelier pass. The air was not yet so warm, the slope was regular, even less steep in the last kilometres. And there were a few fountains along the way. The climb was thus quite easy. I continued towards the col des Deux, which has three 2 (deux) in its elevation, and which i passed as number 2 for this stage. There was very few traffic on these small but good roads. In Gresse, i bought a lemonade and asked for refilling my bottle with tap water, but the guy at the counter was not pleased by this request, and he filled only half of the bottle. Simply unbelievable.
Fortunately, there were more fountains on the way. This eastern part of the Vercors is a beautiful landscape, but the weather was slowly changing, with more darker clouds around the mountains. After the Allimas pass, the descent brought me to a large road, a national road which i could not avoid taking for a few kilometres. I left it again before Clelles and went towards the Prayet pass. There was now thunder over the Vercors mountains, but i was glad that the clouds gave me some shade. From the Prayet, the road did no go down, but gently climbed further to the pass of Menée. I got some rain on the way, but it was not enough to get wet, just to cool down a bit. I did not ride over the pass itself, but went through the short tunnel, saving about 50 m in climbing and avoiding to have to carry the bike on a steep trail.
On the other side of the tunnel, i entered the Drôme department. The landscape changed, becoming drier. There were first very few houses, but their style also was different, with thick stone walls and roofs of round, light-coloured tiles. After the long descent, there was another clear sign announcing the Provence: lavender fields. From Châtillon, i crossed the plain towards the small village of Barnave, where there was a small hotel. I may have tried to ride over one more pass this day, but i did not want to search so long as the day before and thus stopped at Barnave.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Le Bouloud0500 
Mont Rolland750090
Basse Jarrie12270 
Col de l'Arzelier361150530
La Combe501000 
Col des Deux531220220
Le Chaumeil551150 
Col de l'Allimas581350200
La Bâtie62116050
La Chabannerie73740 
Clelles gare7683090
Col du Prayet851200370
Tunnel de Menée901400200
Collet de Maloir115520 
Moulin de Jansac122480 
total126 2340

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Stage 4 (4 July 2006): Barnave - Pennes - Rémuzat - St-Auban - Aurel


The main thing for the fourth stage could be deduced from the names of places on the way: Pennes-le-Sec, St-Nazaire-le-Désert. There was obviously no large desert to cross, but always drinking a lot would be a must. Fortunately, there were always again fountains on the way. I would have preferred to start earlier, but i did not want to leave the hotel without breakfast. So it was already quite warm as i hit the road. In the first climb, to the col de Pennes, there was no traffic and i could thus always ride on the side of the road with the most shade. The road was quite narrow but good, both uphill and downhill. A few places with fine gravel, however, made me ride very carefully. In the Roanne valley, i went left up to St-Nazaire, where i made a first stop, chatting a bit with a cyclist from Germany. Then i climbed to the small passes of Muse, Lescou and Pré Guittard. It was beautiful, very quiet, but dry and hot. Then there was a long descent towards Rémuzat. There were headwinds and i had more to pedal than to brake. It was past noon and i made a longer stop at Rémuzat to drink a lot of lemonade (which was excellent) and eat a sandwich (which happened to be huge).
I knew that the next pass, Soubeyrand, would be the hardest of the day, especially because of the heat of the early afternoon. From then on, i took several occasions to make short stops on the road side when there was some shade to cool down a bit. In the Ennuye valley, where the vegetation was also quite dry, there were apricot orchards and lavender fields. I climbed towards the pass of Peyruergue, then descended towards the Ouvèze valley. The sun was no longer so hot as i arrived at St-Auban. Compared to my initial plan, i chose to make a shortcut and went straight south over the small col d'Aulan down to the beautiful town of Montbrun-les-Bains on its hill. From there, there was a final climb to Aurel, also a very nice town, where there was still a room available at the hotel.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Col de Pennes81040460
Le Clot15440 
Col de Tavard17560120
Col de Muse32930370
Basse Gumiane35800 
Col Lescou3683030
Haute Gumiane37770 
Col du Geail40920150
Col de Pré Guittard41910 
Pont de Cornillon50520 
Col de Soubeyrand66990540
Les Traverses (St-Sauveur)75530 
Col de Peyruergue81790260
Les Mourres (St-Auban)87590 
Combe du Devès90610 
Col d'Aulan96850240
total112 2500

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Stage 5 (5 July 2006): Aurel - Sault - Mont Ventoux - Vaison - Bollène


I started this stage at 8 o'clock, hoping to avoid the heat for the last but not least climb of this tour, the Mont Ventoux. I had first a short descent towards Sault, then a long but gentle climb. Compared to the roads from the south (Bédoin) and from the north-west (Malaucène), i had chosen the least slope, which reached 7 to 9% only in the last few kilometres. Already in the first curves, i caught up with another cyclist from Switzerland, later with a cyclist from the region. We were thus a small group of three as we reached the Chalet Reynard, where the road from Bédoin joined ours. There, finally, the summit appeared in front of us. There was less and less vegetation and the wind was strong. I continued alone at a good pace, passed the memorial of Tom Simpson and reached the col des Tempêtes, then the summit. From Sault, i had climbed in 1 hour and 47 minutes, including some 3 minutes to take pictures. I met again the Swiss cyclist and two friends of him as they also reached the top. The wind was strong and chilly. We admired the so particular landscape of the mountain, with its light-couloured bare stones, but then we decided to have a tea at the small restaurant just below the summit.
Then came the long descent to Malaucène. The road was good and broad, but i had to be careful because of the strong wind gusts. There were many cyclists climbing this road. From Malaucène, i went further to Vaison-la-Romaine and crossed this town to the north-west. There, there were many cars on the roads, but the next part of the journey was quieter again, except for the wind. It blew from the south and i was riding west to the Rhône valley, that is mostly with a lateral wind. As i reached the train station of Bollène at about half past one, the station's counter was 'exceptionally closed'. I thus boarded the first train to the north to buy then a ticket in the train. At half past nine in the evening, after changing train several times, i was finally back in Neuchâtel.
This tour had partly been a bit hard because of the heat, but it had been one of the most enjoyable because of the few traffic encountered on the small roads i had chosen to ride to the south.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Roumane (Sault)6600 
Combe de la Font de Margot171260660
Chalet Reynard241420160
Col des Tempêtes291830410
Mont Ventoux30191080
Piquebas (Vaison)66180 
Le Cordier (Buisson)6927090
total99 1400

PS / 14.7.2006