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sâmbătă, 21 ianuarie 2012

Tour of Europe by bike 2011 - Part 12 - The French Alps (SAVOIA)

By turning down the hotel room offer, I have no choice but to keep peddaling through pitch black darkness, on an deserted road, hey... but I have headlights. Passing by some highway, allof a sudden from above, right, I see the shadow of something that looked like imposant peaks,but in fact, after further scrutiny, it turns out they were just huge bolders; so I end up in dream land behind a rock. How wonderful it was. Next morning I realize I slept right next to a "No tresspassing" sign! What a rush!

I have just a short ride along the Arc creek valley, and I enter the wonderful village of St.Jean de Maurienne. Once here, I start exploring around a bit and in a cathedral, I find the tomb of the founder of Savoia: the count of Maurienne, Humbert aux Blanches Mains.

In the same cathedral I discover an interesting bas-relief, depicting scenes from the glorious history of Savoia.

Once inside, I discover the emblem of this legendary state.

While admiring this sanctuary, I hear sublime organ music and I discover the tomb of a bishop or saint of some sort. Again, I fall into a profound spiritual state.

But soon, the moment comes to attack new alpine passes. After a quick snack, I start the ascent towards Col du Mollard. The ride is very picturesques and the traffic is very light. This road leads towards charming resorts.

After a series of spectacular switchbacks, with an average gradient of 9-10%, I enter the alpine village of Albiez le Jeune.

I continue climbing towards Albiez Montrond resort while the view becomes more and more spectacular, slowly filling me with excitement.

The weather is perfect, still, and after a few more Km of climbing, I take my lunch break in a superb alpine meadow.

Not much left on this climb and I arrive at Col du Mollard where I meet a Belgian family having a picnic. We start chatting and the gentleman is snapping my picture for me.

What follows is a few km of descent, through traditional comunities and villages while the view remains as picuresque.

After St. Jean d'Arves I take one more break at a tourist spot, one more dip in some creek, followed by some sun bathing while I ingurgitate some sweets.

A few more Km, and I arrive at the tourist village of St. Sorlin d'Arves. Here I find a very interesting church, which displayed all kind of wires attached to it. While being puzzled by this peculiar display, I snap a picture of some cyclist with a grizzle goatee.

While leaving this village, I tackle a difficult ascent, full of switchbacks. with great enthusiasm, I find out that the La Mauriene area boasts one of the greatest cycling areas in the world: there are 46 routes, totaling a 1,600 Km length and a 43,000 m vertical drop, a real cyclist's paradise!

The weather is perfect for cycling and taking pictures. The luck is on my side again. I meet a lot of cyclists. Whoops, there goes the cyclist with the grizzle goatee again, I pass him, even though I am carrying 20 more Kg. He does not seem to be in the greatest of forms, or maybe I was in the shape of my life. I am in my element and I am on cloud nine!

After I climb a few more Kilometers, I stop and eat a can a tuna, followed by a cake, while admiring the mountains surrounding me. It is so beautiful!

While continuing my peddaling, I have the chance to spot a marmot, whose den was right by the road. I get close to within a few meters and I manage to snap a picture.

As I gain altitude, the view becomes more and more impressive.

As I stomp on the peddals the village of St. Sorlin d'Arves remains behind.

At around 2000m I come across a small glaciar lake.

Soon, I was to arrive at Col de la Croix de Fer (2067 m). Through here, the Tour de France passed not less than 15 times, starting with the year 1947. This pass remains one of the most beautiful in the Alps.

Once again, I meet a lot of cyclists. Once inside the chalet, a lady of Afican origin treats me to a delicious fruit tart and a juice. What follows is more chatting with an older French cyclist, over a glass of wine, while being caressed by the beneficial "rayons du soleil" and surrounded by a magnificient view. After all said and done I snap a pic of the famous "Croix de Fer"

What follows is a dangerous descent, of about 10 Km, into the village of St. Collomban des Villards, where I had the misshap 4 years ago. Philip Deeker, an English amateur cyclist, of many accomplisments, abandoned me because I could not get ready for the 7 AM start after a night spent in the wet tent. Ahh.. resting, eating, drinking some juice, combing through sad old memories...and comes a fellow, a little bit tipsy, poking me with questions. He is a local shepperd,inviting me to sleep at his place, hmmm people here are either very generous or very perverted! I snap another shot of this establishment, for future reference, of this place, a place that motivated me and saddened me, once upon a time...

After a chat and a beer with the shepperd, I continue on, finishing the 12 Km descent back to the Arc creek valley. Here I unpack and strech out my sleeping bag, in a mowed down pasture or field of some sort, close to the village of La Chambre. I had a great rest here, falling asleep under the full moon and gazing at the stars.

--- Copyright 2011 by Claudiu Moga ---
All rights reserved - No part of this material can be reproduced without permission of the author.

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