Tour 2017,  22 - 26 June

stagedistance (km)climbing (m)
Cuneo - Valgrana - Castelmagno391230
Castelmagno - Fauniera - Preit - Stroppo - Sampéyre812310
Sampéyre - Agnel - Izoard - Briançon922930
Briançon - Galibier - Télégraphe - St-Jean-de-Maurienne1032420
St-Jean-de-Maurienne - Chaussy - Frêne - Chambéry1262390

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Stage 1 (22 June 2017): Cuneo - Valgrana - Castelmagno


The city of Cuneo had been the arrival of my tour 2012, so why not be the start in 2017? To get there by train worked much better than the return journey five years earlier. It was the first time that i was travelling through the new Gotthard tunnel. Amazing how fast it goes now to cross the Alps! Further, the Italian trains were on time, but at some point between Torino and Cuneo the air conditioning stopped working. Well, this had an advantage: the heat wave was less a shock when getting off the train. 35°. Against the heat, there were two things to do: drink enough, and then climb to a cooler place. Fortunately, the mountains were not far. I took the road into the Grana valley, which started to climb really after the village of Pradleves. There was less and less traffic, but the heat was still with me. Short before reaching Castelmagno, i took a small steep road to the right, which brought me to Colletto. After taking a few pictures of this nice hamlet, i went down the same way, then continued to climb to Castelmagno and further up to Chiappi. The road was partly very steep, but the temperature was more bearable. Finally, a thunderstorm broke out barely half an hour i reached the hotel where i had a reservation.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Chiappi (Castelmagno)391650520
total39 1230

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Stage 2 (23 June 2017): Castelmagno - Fauniera - Preit - Stroppo - Sampéyre


I left Chiappi at a quarter past eight, after a good sleep and a good breakfast. Being already half way in the climb, it was not hard to ride up to the first pass of the day, Colle d'Esischie, even if the small road was partly quite steep. From there, i was able to go over seven further passes, all like pearls on a necklace. Colle Vallonetto, Colle dei Morti and Colle di Valcavera were all accessible by the paved road, but further it was a gravel road. That's why i had mounted my wheels with 28-mm tires for gravel. The slopes were gentle and it was first quite easy to ride and reach the Bandia, Margherina and Cologna passes. The weather was fine and the landscape wonderful. For the next pass, Salsas Blancias, it was necessary to leave the road and push the bicycle for about 100 m to reach the pass. After this small detour, the road became rougher and did not go over further passes until i reached Colle del Preit. From there, the descent was all on macadam, but there were holes, cracks and gravel, requiring the attention of every second. This brought me to the Maira valley, which i followed for a few kilometres before climbing on the opposite slope towards Stroppo. As expected, it was then, on a south slope around noon, that the heat made the ride harder. Even if i went into the climb with full bottles, i was running quite low on water as i finally reached Colle Bettone and then the hut of Sousto dal Col, where i could order a drink and refill my water bottles. Just after this short break, i reached Colle della Cavallina... which is hard to find out why it is called a pass. Anyway, there was still some effort to provide in order to reach the last pass of the day, Colle di Sampéyre. There were now a few other cyclists, some motorcycles and a few cars on that way. In spite of being a bit tired, i could enjoy the climb. For the descent, unfortunately, the road was not in good condition. Again, caution was required. As i finally reached the town of Sampéyre (which means St. Peter), i went to the first hotel that i found.
Note for those readers who think that 12 passes in one day is a crazy thing... Yes, but actually with a mountain bike it would be possible to do even more, either in the Fauniera or in the Sampéyre area!

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Chiappi (Castelmagno)01650 
Colle d'Esischie92370720
Colle Vallonetto10244070
Colle dei Morti11248040
Colle di Valcavera122430 
Colle della Bandia142410 
Colle Margherina16242010
Colle Cologna172390 
Colle di Salsas Blancias18245060
Rifiugio Gardetta25234040
Colle del Preit292080 
Ponte Marmora43940 
Colle Bettone601830920
Colle della Cavallina611940110
Colle di Sampéyre642280340
total81 2310

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Stage 3 (24 June 2017): Sampéyre - Agnel - Izoard - Briançon


From Sampéyre, my goal was my last pass of the Alps above 2000 m elevation that i could ride across on a paved road allowed for bicycles: col Agnel. It was quite a long climb, first rather gentle up to Chianale. Further, it was all around 10% of slope. Gaining more and more elevation, i was pedalling in a pleasantly fresh air. Since it was Saturday, there were numerous other cyclists and also motorcyclists on the way. After reaching the Agnel pass and taking a few pictures, i decided to push my bicycle for barely 200 m to reach the old Agnel pass behind a small summit on the same crest, also on the border between France and Italy. One more pass for not much effort.
The descent into the Queyras valley was on a good road and thus a nice ride. Not for everybody apparently since i crossed an ambulance and police cars with sirens and blue lights on. Further down, i reached Château-Queyras. The spectacular fortress giving its name to the town is on a hill, and the road goes up and down behind this hill. This means that it makes a pass, called simply Collet. Only a few kilometres further, i arrived at a crossing where i had to decide if i would ride over the Izoard pass... or around it. I followed then the same road as for my 2001 tour, that's to say: uphill. By then, it was again quite hot and i had to drink much water to keep going. After the hospitable part of the valley, i reached the Plâtrière pass. For purists, the pass would be some 50 m below the road, but i decided not to be a purist and continued on the road. Then, beginning with a short descent, there was the almost purely mineral world of Casse Déserte, an area of rocks and scree. As i reached the Izoard pass, i was by far not the only cyclist there. It was only 2 o'clock and it was the last pass planned for the day, so i took time to enjoy it, taking pictures, having a drink and chatting with some other cyclists. Then there was the long, nice and partly really fast descent to Briançon, where the tourist office would lead me to an hotel in town.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Col Agnel312740940
Col Vieux d'Agnel32277030
Pierre Grosse461900 
Ville Vieille531390 
L'Iscle (Château Queyras)551310 
Le Collet56139080
Champ Rient591350 
La Platrière692220670
Casse Déserte702190 
Col d'Izoard722360170
total92 2930

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Stage 4 (25 June 2017): Briançon - Galibier - Télégraphe - St-Jean-de-Maurienne


There had been a thunderstorm during the night and the air had markedly cooled down. Hitting the road at 8 o'clock, i went into the gentle but long climb towards the Lautaret pass. There was not yet much traffic on this Sunday morning. Things changed a bit as i continued from the Lautaret to the Galibier pass. First, the slope was more serious. Second, the traffic increased (bicycles, motorcycles, cars). As i reached this big pass, it was really chilly and, for the first and last time for this tour, i put my wind jacket on for the descent. After riding down only 3 km, i arrived at the Plan Nicolas pass, which is just a few metres up off the road. I did not cheat and really went there. The remaining of the descent to Valloire was long. Often descents appear long to me and then i wonder how i have been able to ride all the way up (which, in this case, was 2001). In Valloire, there was some kind of festival. I did not understand what it was all about, but it was crowded and noisy. I was glad to leave that town again and to climb a bit to the hamlet called Le Col. There, i left the road to take a track climbing (almost parallel to the road) to the Col des Trois Croix, where there were indeed three crosses near a chapel. For a small part, i had to push the bicycle to get up there, but i could then ride all the way down. A small forest road brought me directly to the Télégraphe pass. From there, there was again a long descent, which led me to St-Michel-de-Maurienne. By then, it was warm, but nothing as hot as the previous days. Thus i did not hesitate to cross St-Michel and to climb on the south-facing slope. There were again 700 m to climb until i reached Col de Beau Plan, which i would not define as a pass, but which has this name on official maps and on a road sign... From there, the road came down to Col de Beaune, which has also its name on maps and on a road sign, but which is not really a pass either. Finally, the lowest pass of this loop on the right-hand side of the valley was a real pass: Col de la Porte. From that point, the remaining of this ride was in the Maurienne valley against a strong (and hot) wind. I went down (and then a bit up) to St-Jean, where i had to search a while till i finally found an hotel for the night.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Col du Lautaret282060860
Col du Galibier372650590
Plan Nicolas402410 
Le Col581530120
Col des Trois Croix591650120
Col du Télégraphe611570 
Col de Beau Plan831410700
Col de la Porte91900 
Les Chaudannes101540 
total103 2420

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Stage 5 (26 June 2017): St-Jean-de-Maurienne - Chaussy - Frêne - Chambéry


As i had hoped, there was no wind any more in the morning. I went first down to the village of Hermillon, then up again to a small pass not far above the valley ground, Col du Ventour. After a short descent to Montvernier, a longer climb followed. The weather was perfect, the landscape nice and diverse, the traffic limited to a few cyclists, all conditions to enjoy very much this climb that led me to the Chaussy pass. After this pass, the descent brought me to the road of the Maleleine pass and to La Chambre, back in the Maurienne valley. I followed this valley and then the Isère valley for almost 40 km until i reached St-Pierre-d'Albigny. This was mainly on small roads but, especially in the Isère valley, also on roads with much traffic. After climbing to St-Pierre, i continued up to the Frêne pass and into the Bauges massif. After a loop to the north, i arrived to the last pass of this tour, Col des Prés. By then, the weather was overcast, and in the descent i had a few rain drops, but nothing serious. I arrived on time in Chambéry to take a train to Switzerland.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Col du Ventour6780260
Le Villaret d'en Bas7720 
Col du Chaussy181530810
Le Merderel (Bonvillard)211350 
La Chambre33470 
La Chapelle4146050
Le Rochillon (St-Léger)43380 
Le Vernet (St-Pierre)69280 
Col du Frêne79950670
La Bottière (Aillon-le-Vieux)100930270
Col des Prés1061140240
Pont des Callets115520 
total126 2390

PS / 8.7.2017