The riding portion of our cycle trip through the French Alps was done in two sections with a three night rest stop in La Toussuire. This post will cover the first section of our bike touring starting from Annecy, riding over Col de Tamie, Col de Madeleine and up to La Toussuire. The route looked like this:
On our first day we arrived in Annecy via train in the afternoon then rode around Lake Annecy and camped along the water. This was the individual time trial route in a previous Tour de France but since this was our first day in the saddle, we took it easy on the fantastically flat bike path!
The following day, we set off on our first full day of riding with the goal of making it over Col de Tamie and into Albertville. Just prior to riding over the col, we stopped for some coffee and the mandatory Pan de Chocolate to get Robin up the hill. This was a great introduction to the mountain riding, as Col de Tamie is only 907 meters high.
The area was buzzing with excited bikers getting ready for stage 11 to begin from Albertville in just two days’ time. The town was ready with a great set of local riding maps and route numbers posted along the way. We followed route 2 out of Albertville towards the base of Col de Madeleine where we found a nice spot off the road near a waterfall to set up our campsite.
There were lots of cyclists with us on Col de Madeleine because it was the day before the pro riders in the Tour would ride this same road. One of them we literally ran into at the base of the mountain was a fellow Cal Bear triathlon team member, Owen, who we road with for the rest of the day.
It was exciting to see all the official tour vehicles preparing the route with arrow markers and garbage cans. At one point, a van road past Robin and handed her a water bottle, just like in the Tour! Towards the top, the mountain road filled with spectators setting up their campervans, wine, and baguettes.
It was amazing how slowly the last 9 km went by. We rode an average of 8% incline for 24 Kilometers before reaching the 2,000 meter (6,562 ft) high summit. Luckily, we met up with a nice English man named Robert who entertained us the whole way with his British accent. We descended for what seemed like forever, and by the time we made it into St Jean de Maureiene (about 75k for the day) Robin was thoroughly exhausted. We picked up a key for an apartment that we thought was in St Jean de Maureiene and were ready to collapse on the couch. Unfortunately (and fortunately) for us, the apartment was actually a chalet in La Toussuire -- which just so happened to be on the very top of the 1700m mountain! Kevin had to lure Robin up 17k (~1200m elevation gain) with a liter of boxed wine in his water bottle cage and even took all four panniers at one point to get Robin up the mountain. . .
. . . and then somehow we managed to make it onto the chalet deck just in time for the sunset.