Saturday 4 December 2010

Travel Notes: Riding the Alps the easy way round!

Thursday 19th August

Embrun - Savines-le-Lac - Lac de Serre Poncon - Le Sauze-du-Lac - Lauzet-Ubaye - Barcelonnette - Jausiers - La Condamine-Chatelard
45 miles

Who says you always have to take the tough cols to get around the Alps? There are plenty of easier roads that undulate gently through the valley as you pass dramatic and beautiful scenery.
Such was my ride as I rode from Embrun to La Condamine-Chatelard. The plan had been to get to this place from Briancon via the col d'Izoard and the col du Vars. However, owing to the problems I was having with my back I had to take the soft option, so travelled to Embrun and started my ride from there.

Embrun is famous for having an Ironman triathlon race - the EmbrunMan. When I passed through it there were lots of hoardings still up for the race had taken place just a few days before. In fact, a guy local to where I live, Steve Bayliss had competed in this epic race and finished in the top 5.
Soon after this town I was riding alongside the beautiful Lac de Serre Poncon. The place had lots going on as there were various people out sun bathing, while others were cycling, doing watersports or handgliding. There are a few caravan and camping sites around and it seemed like a place where you could spend a week holidaying. There were lots of activities as well as a proper sandy beach.

Although I wasn't going over any significant cols, the road went uphill steadily for around 3 miles and I started cursing. At one point my phone rang and it was Fred checking to see if I'd finished my day's riding. I was only just getting going, and I felt so annoyed at the climb out of Embrun that I felt ready to stop and set up camp on the beach right there! "What goes up will eventually come down," assured Fred. "You can't have that much more climbing to do if you've done 3 miles by the side of the lake. Just keep going." Those reassuring words kept me going and very soon I turned a corner and plunged down through the village of Le Sauze-du-Lac on a very twisty road.
It was quite an amazing road as it seemed to twist right back on myself, rather like the famous Sa Calobra road in Mallorca.

Then I was back at sea level riding right next to the sun bathers.
From here onwards there was no more climbing for the rest of the ride - just flat and false flat. Soon my route left the lake and for most of the ride, followed the River Ubaye along the side of the mountains. This area seemed to be popular for white water rafting. There were lots of vans arriving or leaving with punters ready to plunge along with the currents. Rather them than me. I was happy to admire the fast flowing torrents from the vantage point of my saddle!

After a couple of hours of skirting around the Chambeyron peaks I arrived in a place where there were more signs of life - the quaint town of Barcelonnette, where there was a buzz from the circus that was taking place. Then it was on to Jausiers, where I began to leave the valley behind to head back towards the higher Alps. In fact, I didn't have to travel very far, for I soon reached my destination, La Condamine- Chatelard, which was not particularly high up any hill.

All in all, this had been a very easy and pleasant ride, and one I would recommend for those not looking for a big challenge.
Still, I was glad to get into my hotel and rest up before my last big day in the mountains.