Raid Alps Route — Day 1 and 2
Day 1 — Thonon-les-Bains — Megeve — 110km — 3000m
The Raid Alps — a route in which you traverse the French Alps from Thonon-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva to the old town of Antibes, on the outskirts of Nice in just six days. Over 720km covering 31 Cols and in excess of 18000m it’s a weeks riding like no other.
Raid Alps Route — Day 1 and 2
A short 1-hour drive from Geneva Airport is Thonon Les Bains, on the edge of Lake Geneva the starting point of the Raid Alps route. Bikes are built overlooking the lake, with a short spin to check for any last minute issues that might have occurred during transit. Following a good nights rest, a hearty breakfast and a briefing outlining the days riding ahead of the first day of the Raid Alps which would see us leave behind Lake Geneva as we make our way inland towards the heart of the Alps, via some of the lesser known Cols of the far eastern corner. This opening stage is 110km in length, with 3000m of climbing involved, making it a fantastic introduction for what is to come.
The raid alps route makes it way through several quaint Swiss style villages as we approach Col des Moises which comes into the day at 12km. 8.3km in length at 6.5% it provides a good indication of what climbing in the Alps is like — nothing too crazy, but stern enough to provide a test. The climb does kick up to 9% at the base but then eases off at the 2.5km mark climbing through the forest on route to the Col. However it appears that someone has taken the Col sign as a souvenir as it is no longer there unless you count the tiny hiking boards! There follows a short fast descent down into Habere Poche for the first stamp of the tour. Like on the Raid Pyrenees the Raid Alps has a Carnet (route book) where at various points along the route riders collect stamps (or tampons) from local businesses — which usually form part of our morning and afternoon coffee stops.
Up next is the biggest and most testing climb of the day, the Col de la Ramaz which comes after 43km. It might only be 9.6km in length averaging out at 7% but the middle section of the climb sees the gradients reach double figures throughout a 3km sector that both surprises and tests riders this early into the Raid Alpine. Passing through several short tunnels the climb then opens out to a plateau where you are greeted with true Alpine views and the first real sense of being in the Alps. The road then follows the contours of the slopes for the final 3km up to the Col sitting at 1608m. After a short descent we reach our 2nd Carnet stamp location of the trip in the ski area of Le Praz de Lyz, on the left as you come down into the sweeping left hand bend.
After the chance for a quick coffee or coke or lunch we head down the descent of the day on route to the foothills of Mt Blanc. This is the descent that allows for the first chance to really let loose before hitting the valley and making our way towards Araches. Here the road takes in a steady climb with another enjoyable open descent back into the valley.
With Mt Blanc now in full view we head up the valley and commence the final climb of the day to Megeve, with the end of the first day fast approaching you really begin to appreciate just how big the Alps are. We finish the day at a hotel perched high on the mountainside with views of the snow capped peaks of the high alps surrounding us. The day ends with a regional French meal in the restaurant and a good nights sleep, as Day 2 sees us head to Val d’Isere.
Day 2 — Megeve — Val d’Isere — 116km — 3800m
The 2nd day commences with us rolling through several towns on the outskirts of Megeve as we say goodbye to Mt Blanc and head further into the heart of the eastern corner of the Raid Alps route. To kick off the 4 Cols today we take on the Col des Saisies a climb with a surprise descent halfway through, passing through several small rural villages on the route to the summit-which is also a ski village. The climb is constant throughout sitting 5.1% over the 13.4km it provides a steady start to the day without causing too much distress on the morning legs.
The Col du Pre is what we at Le Dom HQ like to describe as one of the hidden gems of the route. Being relatively unknown has helped this climb become a true test on the route, with its average not really giving too much away. The first 5km into Areches are steady climbing through the meadows that are scattered with rural farming communities. Upon reaching Areches and obtaining yet another stamp, the climb really begins. The road narrows and the tree cover increases creating the impression and feel that the climb is really going to test you! Over the next 8km to the summit the climb doesn’t dip below 8% and takes in some very steep hairpins along the way — not much time to enjoy the views as this is a climb to just get done!
During our July Raid Alps we had the AG2R Le Mondial Neo Pro Team join us for the climb — well more likely just fly by and say bon jour as they went through, but it still gave the guests a big buzz! The final km is open and with the Col sign perched above Lac de Roselend, riders are in for a treat. From the top of Col the descent and views don’t need to be described — enjoy the photos below instead!
Crossing the dam and an incredible waterfall we approach the Col de Meraillet, which leads into the Cormet de Roselend. The Meraillet starts on the dam wall and quickly climbs up through a punchy sector to the col, before a short descent to start the Roselend Climb. The climb is only 6.5km in length at 6% but provides some fantastic views back down on the Lake before sweeping up along the ridge to the col. The descent off the col to Bourg St Maurice is one of the best in the Alps: with fast open bends, technical forest sectors and an incredibly broad range of terrain as riders go from the barren slopes of the col, deeper and deeper into alpine forest, as the road follows a millennia old gorge. Riders are shocked out of their serenity with the approach of Bourg St Maurice, but what an experience!
Bourg is the ideal place to stop for lunch, refuel and take a break ahead of the 30km climb up to Val D’Isere from the valley. The climb itself is on the feeder road to this most famous of ski resorts, so its one of those head down, get it done sectors of the trip. The climb takes in several steep sections along the way although the average does sit about 5% for the majority of the climb, bringing multiple tunnels and some pretty inspiring civil engineering. Finally, for fans of the French TV drama the Revenants, you’ll be able to view the dam that forms the backbone of the story line as we approach Val D’Isere and the end of day two of the Raid Alps route, in the shadows of Col d’Iseran which awaits on the 3rd morning.
We’ll be releasing Parts 2 and 3 to accompany this post in the coming days, so stay tuned. In the meantime for further information on our Raid Alps scheduled and private tours please click on the link below:
Originally published at www.ledomestiquetours.co.uk on August 12, 2015.