Sunday, 7 November 2010

Travel Notes - Onwards and Upwards - Part One

Tuesday 17th August

Aix-les-Bains - Le Bourget-du Lac - Chambery - Entremont-le-Vieux - St-Pierre-d'Entremont - St Pierre-de-Chartreuse - Le Sappey-en-Chartreuse - La Tronche - Grenoble
= 60miles

After a day of getting soaked in between watching the rain I was glad to see the sun come out in the morning. The youth hostel staff seemed more relieved for me, knowing what I was about to do!
One of the members of staff was born and bred in this area and hoped that I'd be able to see the best of the area as it really is beautiful. "You'll not be disappointed." She said.
As I left she asked me to say hello to the manager at the Grenoble youth hostel for them, as that was where I was headed.

The ride from Aix-les-Bains to Chambery is very pleasant indeed. It's a purpose built sign-posted cycle track that goes along the side of the Lac du Bourget and through the woods. You are distanced from the main road and there are just lots of other cyclists and runners around.
The Lac du Bourget is worth a stay in itself. It's pretty big - the largest and deepest lake situated entirely in France. There's a marina and a beach area. Various cycling challenges take place where you can ride the whole circumference of the lake. One for next time.

So it was on through Chambery, another old pleasant town and up through the mountains proper for the first time on my trip. What a pleasant introduction it was - all the way into the Massif de la Chartreuse.
With these things it's those first few kms where you rise out of the town that feel the hardest. It was quite hot on this day as well. Sweat poured down my face as I went over the first climb, the 15km col du Granier. Once over the initial shock of no longer being gravity assisted it was just a steady ride up the gradient that averaged 5.6%, with sections through the trees to keep me cool.

A nice descent though Entremont and then I was up again going up the col du Cucheron, an average of 6.3% over 8km. I didn't take any cafe stops along the way - just kept riding. Seeing lots of leisure cyclists stopped at the little mountain cafes taking lunch or afternoon tea made it tempting to stop, but I soldiered on.

The final climb was col de Porte, which was around 13km. This one went on forever, but I really enjoyed looking at the views around me - the green peaks that watched over me in the afternoon sun were very welcoming. I was getting a little tired though. There hadn't been any long section of valley road between each of these cols. It was just a case of going up, then down, then straight back up again. I was overtaken by a couple of club cyclists along the way. One of them wasn't going much faster than me! I almost caught him at the summit - with my 8kg of panniers racing someone had not entered my mind!

The summit formed a crossroads point with people arriving from all directions. This area seems to be a hub for cross country ski-ing, off-road driving and paintballing. Not feeling in the mood to any of these activities, I rolled down the 18km long descent straight into Grenoble. Lovely, I didn't need to pedal at all. The views of the Grenoble conurbation looked very impressive, nestled in the valley between the two sets of mountain ridges.
Once in Grenoble I crossed the Isere river and then picked my way through the town centre to reach my youth hostel in Echirolles, to the south of the City.
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