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Cycling Routes in the French Maritime Alps               2009


Regional Resources

Public Transportation Info:

Regional train info for Provence-Alps-Cote d'Azur: www.ter-sncf.com/paca.
          Route along the French coast from Mandelieu to Ventimiglia (Italy) including Grasse is #04.

Bus info for the French coast between Cannes and Menton (including Grasse) can be found at www.rca.tm.fr.


Hiking Info:

RandOxygene guides available at some tourist offices or through Alps Maritime Conseil General www.cg06.fr .
    Transalpine hiking route: www.via-alpina.org.
    It looks like good hiking in the Parco Reg. Alpi Maritime accessible in the Val de Gesso from Borgo S.Dalmazzo.  Website for the park is www.parcoalpimarittime.it.


Via Ferrata Info:

RandOxygene guide available at some tourist offices or through Alps Maritime Conseil General www.cg06.fr.


Cycling Info:

"Traverser les Alps par la Route du Leman a la Mediterranee" booklet is available through some tourist offices or check out their site: www.route-grandes-alps.com.  This route runs through the French Alps from the Med coast to Switzerland hitting the great passes.  The booklet has lodging info along the route and web sites for all the en route tourist offices.



Musee des Merviells in Tende: www.museedesmerveills.com has a free exhibition of the regions Bronze Age rock pictorgams.

Sospel:  There is a Maginot Line fort  (WWII) a couple of km out of Sospel on D2204 that appears to be open.  It is easily seen on the climb up to Col de Braus and is HUGE.


Other things to do:

Train from Sospel to Tende for rock pictogram museum.  Info available at local tourist info's.


Our Cycle Route 

Ventimiglia-Sospel (shortcut through Olivetta over Col des Vescavo @ 471m):  Pretty ride, 620 meters gain. Have to push through gravel in two short places around tunnels (<50m total pushing).  Shaded picnic table by fountain for lunch stop on left when entering St. Michele just before shortcut through Olivetta. Would do it again.

Sospel - Col du Turini:  Road D2566 through Moulinet has been closed because of landslides since Oct '08 and won't open before Oct '09, if then.  We took an alternate route on D2204 over Col de Braus and then the shortcut to D2566 over Col de l'Able.  There is a picnic table in a shaded wooded area at the top of the steep climb where D2566 meets D15.  The route is very beautiful, especially the climb on D2566.  There are no services from Sospel until Peire Cava, 8km before the Col du Turini.  There are 2-3 active hotels at the Col du Turini  and we stayed at the Hotel du Tois Valees.  It was rustic but satisfactory.

Col du Turini - Menton:  We unexpectedly returned to Menton (for a dental emergency) and took a quick, pretty trip down D 2566 to L'Escarene, and then a train to Nice with a connection to Menton.  This was all downhill riding and quite pretty.  This would be a good alternate route to Col du Turini but offers nothing over the route we took from Sospel.

Menton - Borgo S. Dalmazzo, Italy (near Cuneo):  We took a train from Menton to Limone (Italy) to resume our mountain experience and then rode the 22 km down to Borgo S. Dalmazzo.  The ride was quick and pretty and set us up nicely to cross the Colle d. Maddalena back into France.  This seems like a better way to get to the High French Alps than over Col du Turini because there are more  lodging options  between Borgo S. Dalmazzo and Vars (France) than between Col du Turini and Vars.

 Day ride up Val de Gesso:  We took a beautiful 54 km day ride up Val de Gesso from Borgo S. Dalmazoto the Terme di Valdieri.  There were about 800 meters of gain and we had a good workout.

Borgo S. Dalmazzo to Vinadio:  after you leave Borgo (just before the bridge across the river and into Gaiola) be sure and take the small side road #337 to go up the left side of the valley.  There is little traffic and the road is popular with the local cyclists.

The climb toward the Colle di Lombardia.

Day ride up the Valley di S. Anna toward Colle di Lombarda: This is a strenuous climb from 900 meters at Vinadio to 2351 meters at the pass.  We only climbed to the 1700 meter level and the scenery was just starting to get really beautiful.  A local told us the upper part of the road closed to the pass was especially beautiful.  If you are intent on doing the pass though, consider beginning on the French side because there is lodging in Isola 2000 at about the 2000 meter level and using it would make splitting the ride into shorter segments possible.

Vinadio to Pietraprozio:  We did this short segment to break up the climb to Colle di Maddalena.  It is short, easy and on the main road up to the pass.

Pietraprozio to Larche (France):  This day was over the top of Colle di Maddelena.  Grades were never over 8% and it was not a particularly difficult day.  Total gain for the day was 780 meters.  The scenery is truly beautiful and ranks as one of the most stunning passes we have done in Europe.  We highly recommend it.  Traffic was light midweek with large trucks passing infrequently.  There is a tunnel with a long galleria (natural lighting) after it about 4 km from Pietraprozio.  Take the bypass road to the right of the tunnel entrance.  The route is beautiful - through the canyon bypassed by the tunnel.  The bypass road returns you to the main road where the tunnel ends and the galleria begins.  There is plenty of light in the galleria so this is not a problem.  Lodging in Larch is available but meager.

The climb toward Col de Vars.

Larch to Guillestre:  This day was over Col de Vars with total gain 865 meters.  Guillestre is a very pleasant town with plenty of lodging and lots of resources.  We spent a couple of days there to recover from the last 2 passes before tackling the Col d'Izoard.

Guillestre to Arvieux: We split the climb to the Col d'Izorad into 2 days.  The first day to Avrieux was a climb of 725 meters and the 2nd day on into Brianon was 780 meters.  Without taking the break at Avrieux the total would have been about 1500 meters which is a big push for us.  Lodging at Arvieux is limited, so be sure and get the lodging info from tourist information in Guillestre.

Avrieux to Brianon:  This segment was up over Col d'Izorad.  Total climb for the day was 780 meters.  The last few km before the Col are very beautiful but the descent on the other side is less so - so spend your extra time gawking at the terrain on the way up.  Brianon is a small city with a lot of resources (except rail transportation). See Country Details/France for our lodging favorite in Brianon. At this point we wanted to head back to civilization for our sprint to the Dolomites.  Rail transportation from this part of the French Alps is scarce.  You could connect with a train line heading south from either Brianon or Guillestre but this will only take you south toward Marseille or to the west.  If you want to go east into Italy or to the north, you had better be ready for another pass or try to get your bike on a bus.  Our choice was to do another pass.

Col d'Izorad.

Brianon to Oulx (Italy):  This stage takes you up and over Col de Montgenevre.  The pass in not particularly difficult and total gain for the day was 665 meters.  At Oulx you can catch a train to the east toward Torino with good connections from there to anywhere in Italy.


Possible Future Routes:

Ventimiglia-Sospel:  Follow Route #20 in Italy and then #204 in France up to Tende.  See museum there and then ride to Sospel over Col de Brouis.  Probably 3-4 riding days.

Sospel is a delightful though small village with good accommodation at Hotel Etrangers (ask for new room with tub and balcony). Web site www.sospel.net. Plenty of hiking, both into the hills and flat along the rivers.  Holiday apartments available: www.sospel-tourisme.com.  Gites de France available at www.gites-de-france-alps-maritimes.com

Transportation is available to Sospel by bus from Menton (Route #15 www.riviera-francais.fr ) and by train on SNCF Route 05A Nice-Breil sur Roya-Cuneo.

Menton - Borgo S. Dalmazzo:  It would be a great bike ride from Ventimiglia to Tende and then you could take the train from Tende to Limone to bypass the long tunnel under Colle di Tenda.  The road over the pass is not asphalt on the French side and a mountain bike is needed to make that crossing.  One could also consider riding up to the tunnel entrance on the French side and hitching a ride through the tunnel (I'm not recommending hitch-hiking).  Riding a bike through the tunnel is not permitted.

Colle di Lombardia: Consider crossing the pass from the French side.  Lodging in France will allow breaking the ride into manageable segments for loaded cyclotourists.  The pass is supposed to be very beautiful.  The pass should be open by June but check, because it opened in mid June in 2009.

Col de Galibier:  There is very good access to Col de Galibier from Brianon and this would make a brilliant start to a tour of the High Alps.  You could follow a series of passes north and end up around Chamonix and Mt Blanc (and maybe get in a little good hiking) or go a little farther to the west and finish on Lake Geneva.


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