www AlpineRoads com Biking In The Alps
The Maritime Alps - France
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Bikers heading from Northern Europe are always tempted to head straight for the Côte d'Azur. Who can blame them? Sun, Sea, Sand etc and some great biking roads.
I always feel like I've ignored Italy in this section, but that really isn't so. The border runs along the top of the mountain range here and the Italian side drops quickly into populated plains, which means boring and busy roads on the whole. By all means ride over the border, and the Italian ramps of the passes are often much better kept, but be prepared for nothing much interesting in the Italian side.
N91 Modane - Col du Lautaret - Brian?on
D205 Ch?teau-Queryas - Col d'Agnel - Casteldelfino (I)
Also a bumpy road, it gets a bit better once over the Col d'Agnel. It's common to be able to see how the Alps effect the weather here - normally clear on the French side, it is nearly always cloudy and grey (not raining) on the Italian side.
D902/D947 Parc National du Queyras
The bottom section to runs along a wild gorge, the Combe du Queyras down to Guillestre - occasionally beautiful, occasionally scarred by quarries, the road becomes fast sweepers with good visibiliy on all the corners and a few sets of flick-flack stretches. Great fun.
Barcelonnette is also a good base for roads to the north in the Savoie.
Lac de Serre-Poncon
The road to the south, D900 is fast sweepers on a main road and it can be very busy. The surface is excelent, and you can get up some impressive speeds. It's a much better alternative to the shorter Gap-Embrun road.
If you are aiming for Gap, then you can cut through from Les Colliers to Chorges on the D3. This is too bumpy to make a great road though, but it does take you past the reservoir dam and provides some great scenery.
D64/D2205 Jausiers - Col de la Bonette - St Sauveur sur Tin
Take the main road east out of Barcelonnette and then take a right at Jausiers. The pass may be signposted as the Col de Restefond [2678m]which is part of the route just before the top on the north ramp.
This pass is high, we've nearly always tackled it in good or moderate weather conditions, but if it's cool and raining in Barcelonnette, it could be snowing at the top. Any bike with carburettors is also going to suffer a big power drop due to the low air pressure. It can feel like ringing the neck out of a 125 cc learner. (Worse, if you are on a 125, think garden strimmer)
The pass as a whole can be divided into 3 main sections:
The Cime de la Bonette now has a great surface and the northern ramp some brilliant corners and knee down hairpins. Even without those plus points its sheer scale makes it one of the biker routes of the Alps.
Continuing down the Gorges de Valabres, just before the town of St. Sauveur sur Tinée you reach red rock country. Yep, the rocks and cliff faces round here are a dark red. Metamorphic rock, according to Tim, who knows these sort of things. Heading further southwards and the road becomes a wide main road with fast sweepers as it follows the Tinée River. Eventually you join the major road the N202. Here the fun officially ends. Another 20 miles onwards and you are in Nice heading for the beach.
97 Isola - Isola 2000 - Col de Lombarde - Ruviera
Between Isola 2000 and the top of the pass there is a very narrow - single track most of the way - bumpy couple of miles. The Col de Lombarde has recently been fully paved and is narrow at the top which makes it difficult to overtake if there's traffic. Lower down it's twisty and steep in places through trees with vaery many hairpins - given an empty road it is a nice ride. Nice scenery from open moor to thick woodland in a narrow gorge.
SS21/N900 Pietraprzio - Col de Larche - La Condamine-Ch?telard
D30 St. Sauveur sur Tin?e - Roubion - Beuil
If the beach ain't your thing. Hang a right back in St. Sauveur towards Roubion and Beuil. The road quickly climbs up the hills behind St. Sauveur hugging the cliff face and passes through a number of short tunnels. Watch out for fallen rocks. Eventually this well surfaced road winds it's way below the village of Roubion. It then climbs up a series of good hairpins into the village. (If anyone has any ideas why this town is where it is, or what the population can do for a living, I'm all ears.)
The road all the way is narrow and beginning to be in need of repair . And after Roubion gets steeper and bumpier. It's not really worth it for the ride, although the scenery - wide, deep, heavily-wooded valley - is great.
Continue to Beuil (Useful petrol station here) and turn left. This is the Gorges Superiores du Cians....
D28 Tou?t-sur-Var - Gorges du Cians - Beuil
The quite wide road is excellent; the surface is good and follows every curve of the river next to it, and this river curves big time. I don't think there's anything resembling a straight. There are tight flickable sections and tight sweepers, trees and cliffs. Everything. The red cliff face is on your right the whole way down. In places the road narrows and the cliff face overhangs a bit. Makes a fast right hand bend with oncoming traffic over the white lines, a real cheek clenching experience!
22km of biking heaven. Imposing scenery, superb surface and red rocks. We rate it as moderately difficult because of the speed you tend to go at combined with the tightness of most of the corners. Seriously recommended. Eventually the road snakes down to the main road the N202.
There is nothing to recommend about the N202 itself except the occasional petrol station (Puget-Théniers), the interesting walled town of Entrevaux and it's also the way to the Gorges de Dalius.
D2202 Entrevaux - Gorges de Daluis -Guillaumes
D28 Beuil - Valberg - Guillaumes
Valberg is a big ski resort.
D902 St Martin d'Entaunes - Colmars - Barcelonnette
So you might think"well if the Col de la Cayolle is no great shakes, why not try and hang a left crossing east-west over the Col des Champs?" So did we.
"Wattamistaka!" We went this way back in 1994, so they might have improved it since then, but back then it was a nightmare. Huge potholes everywhere, which needed to be navigated at 5 mph. Bring your TransAlp for this one. Eventually you crawl into the old fortified town of Colmars. Head south over the Col d'Allos, and back to Barcelonnette.
D2202 Guillaumes - St Martin d'Entaunes - Barcellonette
From Guillaumes the road is pretty busy and uninteresting until you start the climb from about St. Martin d'Entraunes where the road just gets bumpier as it gets higher. Tree-clad it's fairly narrow but with good visibility.
Towards Barcelonnette the ride becomes more interesting as you pass high up along the Gorges du Bachelard, and then pass down rapidly into the narrow and long gorge below. There are a number of sudden 90? turns over narrow bridges to put a stop to any rhythm you may have got going. The scenery is superb, but ultimately can't make up for the terrible road surface. One of our least favourite passes.
D908 Thorame-haute - Col de la Colle St- Michel - Annot
D202 Col du Galibier
There is a short tunnel near the top, don't take it. Go over the top.
D202 Col du Telegraphe - Col du Galibier
This starts off from the main D6 at St. Michel and climbs quickly through dense woods. You will not be alone. Until you get toe the ski and summer sports resort of Valloire you'll be plagued by HGVs and sunday drivers. Do persevere, as it's the only way to the Col du Galibier which is definitely wirth the effort.
Briançon - Château-Queryas - Col de l'Izoard
D902/D900 Château-Queryas - Barcelonnette
Varied - it passes through woodland, grassland and a great, fast gorge, dotted with the od quarry (and the HGVs to go with it) overtaking is easy. Past Jausieres (remember this place - the turn-off for the Col de la Bonette, the "big one" at 2802m)
D908 Colmars - Barcelonette