Cycling in the French Alps: Eight classic cycle tours: Selected Cycle Tours (Cicerone Cycling) Paperback – 17 Nov 2005
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About the Author
Most peoples' lives contain at least one significant turning point. Mine came in 1995 - on my 32nd birthday - when I moved to France to join my wife, Alice, who had found a job at the University of Savoie in Chambery. For the previous fourteen years, my love for the outdoors had found its outlet almost exclusively in rock-climbing, mostly in the UK. The change of address very quickly led to a change of focus with, at first, mountain biking, and then ski touring and road cycling taking up ever greater amounts of my free time. With the whole of the French Alps on my doorstep, I had a whole new playground to explore and, working as an English teacher, I had the time to make the best of it. Over the last ten years, I have come to know many of the Alpine massifs extremely well but, at the same time, I feel I have hardly scratched the surface of what my adopted home has to offer. The guides I have put together for Cicerone were motivated by a desire to share the joy I have found ski touring and cycling in the French Alps.
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You'll need maps and other stuff to really plan your trip, this is not a one-stop shop. Great to get ideas from. We ended up combining two of the routes with a link section (using Google Maps, Garmin Connect and Strava), to make one longer trip.
Col de la Ramaz
Col de la Savolière
Col du Ran Folly
Col de Joux Plane
Col de la Colombiere
Col de la Forclaz (Annecy)
Col du Marais
Col de la Croix Fry
Col des Aravis
Col des Saisies
Col de Méraillet
Cormet de Roselend
Col de la Madeleine
Col du Glandon
Col de la Croix de Fer
Col du Télégraphe
Col du Galibier
Col du Lauteret
Les Deux Alpes
Col de Montgenèvre
Colle delle Finestre (Italy)
Col du Mont Cenis
Col de l'Iseran
I found this book a great source for nice photos of the areas covered, and turn-by-turn directions to reach the Cols, but it had some major problems.
The turn-by-turn directions are not really needed! Any map will show how to reach the areas, as the French Alps are a deceptively small geographical area.
Another problem is a lack of an index for the cols. The book has a table of contents with the author's loop configuration for various tours of his devising, but you can't directly find "La Plagne" for instance. You have to look at a map of the loops, figure out which loop has the pass you're looking for, then page through the chapter until you find a reference in the description. His maps are simply awful, a sort of "connect the dots" drawing, with no geography or topography, and the scale of the distances on the maps appears distorted.
There are elevation charts to give one a general idea of the undulations of his routes from day to day. If you take his planned routes, they are continuous, along the bottom of the page, over the number of days each route takes. I don't think most people on a once-in-a-lifetime trip will follow his routes exactly. You'll find yourself jumping from chapter to chapter to map your own route.
Unfortunately, the descriptions of the great climbs of the Alps are prosaic and uninformative. His description of the Col de la Colombiere? "The first part of the ascent, to le Reposoir,is a mere warm-up for the serious work ahead: over the last 8km to the summit the average gradient is almost 9%!" That's it, the entire description of the climb. The Col de la Madeleine? "The climb to the Madeleine is long (25km), but the gradient is quite variable and every few kilometres there are flatter sections where your legs can relax a little." The Col du Galibier? "Whether or not you have the road to yourself, cycling over the Galibier is always a challenge: there are a few easy sections and the last kilometre is the steepest."
I found the book useful for general information on the area, with nice photography, a listing of available facilities and services such as water, as well as shops, cafes, campsites, B&Bs, banks and bike shops (always iffy, as these things change on a continuous basis), but as for good, hard information on the daunting physical challenges of cycling in the Alps, not so good.
However, it is a testament to the lack of any other comprehensive guide to cycling in the Alps, that I have to say this book is almost indispensible if you want to take a cycling trip in the area. I have to give kudos for his effort, but in many frustrating ways, the book is a huge disappointment; but buy it. There is more specific information on many websites, but you won't find anything better in conventional book form.
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