Col des Aravis Loop

Annecy Alpine Adventure – Day Four, Talloires.

Last night the mountain weather treated us to a lightning & thunder extravaganza which lasted for over 2 hours, incredible to watch, but impossible to film. We set off under grey, bruised skies after our hosts assured us that while we may experience brief but heavy cloudbursts today, it would be dry for the majority of our ride today. The plan was to visit the Col des Aravis as part of a 55 mile, 5,000 foot climbing loop. This is a great route that included a bit of everything, quiet cycle path, long ascents on deserted roads & a couple of fun descents.

The first 14 miles followed a familiar routine, hug the shoreline of the lake as far as Doussard, then hop on the cycle path until we reached the turning for today’s climb – in this instance we had 14 miles under our belt by the time we left the beautiful & deserted cycle track at Ugine. The next 35 miles would be either climbing or descending! During my research, I’d found a high, but quiet back road that would keep us off the main Gorge d’Arly road for the majority of the 11 mile drag to Flumet. We started ascending on gentle hairpins as we left town & then it pitched up to about 8% as we rose ever higher up the side of the gorge. We were riding through pristine pine forest, an intoxicating smell followed us, but sadly it also limited our views from the balcony/shelf road to the valley below.

After about 2,000 feet of climbing we descended back onto the main road for the final 3 mile stretch of gentle uphill towards Flumet. From here the 8 mile ascent of the Col des Aravis began in earnest, as the road snaked its way up the valley. The first few miles were gentle & gave us a chance to get into a rhythm of climbing, but also make good time. At the halfway point of the climb, we stopped for lunch in La Gittaz – a delicious spaghetti carbonara with authentic fromage & jambon was just what the body needed. We’d landed on our feet, as this is also when the heavens opened, so we avoided getting wet!

The final ½ of the climb zig-zags between the huge Aravis mountains at a steady 7% – I now know that so long as I ride within my current limitations, I can tap out a cadence for a couple of hours so this became an enjoyable experience for the most part. It was a different story whenever we zigged (or was it zagged?) into the headwind as that made things more challenging, however, less than 45 minutes after lunch we were on the summit admiring the big views all around us.

As we continued the loop & descended the Col des Aravis towards La Clusaz, St Jean de Sixt & Thones, my bike started to wail like a banshee – this was unlikely to be good news!! I eventually worked out it was coming from the rear wheel & was likely being caused by the bearings. I took things easy on the remainder of the ride & am hoping that the local mechanic in Talloires will be able to swap out the bearings straight away – if not, I’ll hire a replacement wheel for the day & beg that he fixes it for Saturday morning.

We stopped briefly for coffee in La Clusaz, which is a skiing hotspot in winter & a cycling mecca in summer. The Tour de France is visiting this year & they’d entering into the spirit of things, with cycling references displayed everywhere in the town. The highlight was a bike & rider displayed on the roof in E.T. style!!! The Etape de Tour takes place this Sunday over the route of Stage 11 – the Queen (& toughest) stage of this year’s TdF & this was right in the middle of things.

As we exited Thomes, we passed the National Cemetery of the Glieres, which commemorates all those who lost their lives fighting for the Resistance in the 2nd World War – the Maquis were very active in the region & each new generation is made aware of the sacrifices their forebears made to protect their freedom. After a brief moment of quiet reflection, we were on our way towards the 2nd & final categorised ascent of the day, Col de Bluffy – a tiny pimple of a climb & not really worthy of being called such, as it took about 10 minutes to climb!!!

From here, it was a 2 mile descent back to Lake Annecy & then a 3 mile pootle along the lakeside back to our hotel. Another amazing day of cycling, against a backdrop of awe inspiring scenery.

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