www AlpineRoads com Biking In The Alps

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The Maritime Alps - France


View french_maritime in a larger map



Accommodation for this areaHOTELS/B&B
What do the symbols mean? don't miss scenic route Avoid if at all possible Sweepers Twisties Hairpins Town or Point of Interest Web Cam Available

Bikers heading from Northern Europe are always tempted to head straight for the Côte d'Azur. Who can blame them? Sun, Sea, Sand etc and some great biking roads.
I always feel like I've ignored Italy in this section, but that really isn't so. The border runs along the top of the mountain range here and the Italian side drops quickly into populated plains, which means boring and busy roads on the whole. By all means ride over the border, and the Italian ramps of the passes are often much better kept, but be prepared for nothing much interesting in the Italian side.


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N91 Modane - Col du Lautaret - Brian?on
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2004-07-05


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don't miss N45?02.103 E06?24.306

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We normally seem to do this one going north, don't know why. I think going south (downhill is better). From Briançon up to just before the Col du Lautaret is a fast main road. It's one of the main routes out of Grenoble and can be really busy at times, however, it is wide and most bikes'll have little trouble polishing off the traffic if you get stuck in a convoy. Off-peak then just get that knee down on the ton-up sweepers. The final section is particularly good, Long, wide curves, some through galleries, and very fast, just before the turn-off to the Galibier.

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D205 Ch?teau-Queryas - Col d'Agnel - Casteldelfino (I)
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2004-07-05


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N44?41.301 E06?58.666

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Also a bumpy road, it gets a bit better once over the Col d'Agnel. It's common to be able to see how the Alps effect the weather here - normally clear on the French side, it is nearly always cloudy and grey (not raining) on the Italian side.

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D902/D947 Parc National du Queyras
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2008-07-12


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don't miss N44?31.874 E06?42.690

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Mars-like landscapes and scree slopes on the Col d'Izoard. Not very busy as it's a little out of the way for tourist traffic.
The bottom section to runs along a wild gorge, the Combe du Queyras down to Guillestre - occasionally beautiful, occasionally scarred by quarries, the road becomes fast sweepers with good visibiliy on all the corners and a few sets of flick-flack stretches. Great fun.

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Town logo
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Barcelonnette
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2004-07-07


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N44?23.253 E06?39.226

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Barcelonnette Homepage
A serious alternative base camp to the coast is the town of Barcelonnette. It is about a half days hard drive from the coast over the Cime de la Bonette. The town is a lively tourist town with plenty of bars, restaurants and places to stay.
Barcelonnette is also a good base for roads to the north in the Savoie.

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Lac de Serre-Poncon
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2008-07-14


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N44?28.622 E06?16.334

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There's boating, wind-surfing and some beaches here to get sunburnt on (oops). Despite its size there are only a few places where you can get down to the water. Some nice views though, and a good place to be based around for a weekend break. There are a number of largish towns around - [Gap, Embrun, Briançon...] well positioned for bike repairs etc.

The road to the south, D900 is fast sweepers on a main road and it can be very busy. The surface is excelent, and you can get up some impressive speeds. It's a much better alternative to the shorter Gap-Embrun road.

If you are aiming for Gap, then you can cut through from Les Colliers to Chorges on the D3. This is too bumpy to make a great road though, but it does take you past the reservoir dam and provides some great scenery.
Take the road around to teh east of the lake. This is much better made and good fun. Don't be tempted to take the smaller twistier looking roads that come of it, as they tend to be pretty narrow, steep and bumpy. Eh Kooster?

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D64/D2205 Jausiers - Col de la Bonette - St Sauveur sur Tin
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Gold medal symbol
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2008-06-13


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Hairpin Twisty Sweeper N44?19.228 E06?48.445

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Barcelonnette is also the gateway to one of the great routes of the Alps, the Cime de la Bonette .There are several claims as to the highest tarmacked pass in the Alps, but this one actually wins at 2802m, because the French cheated by building an otherwise useless loop above the actual pass. This actually makes the road another 87m above the real pass.
Take the main road east out of Barcelonnette and then take a right at Jausiers. The pass may be signposted as the Col de Restefond [2678m]which is part of the route just before the top on the north ramp.

This pass is high, we've nearly always tackled it in good or moderate weather conditions, but if it's cool and raining in Barcelonnette, it could be snowing at the top. Any bike with carburettors is also going to suffer a big power drop due to the low air pressure. It can feel like ringing the neck out of a 125 cc learner. (Worse, if you are on a 125, think garden strimmer)

The pass as a whole can be divided into 3 main sections:

The North Ramp:
Moderate/Easy. The best bit.
The hairpins start before you even get out of town. The surface used to be a bit bumpy and patched up. Only the first bit out of Jausiers is still a bit uneven as they've finished resurfacing and in places rebuilding the whole north ramp. It is now a complete blinder!
The fairly wide road is demanding, it took us 24 minutes to drive the 24 km to the top (that was back in 1999 with the old narrow bumpy road...). There are some moderate straights, and every degree of curve or hairpin you can imagine, mostly medium/tight to wide corners. The countryside is barren and bleak except for the flocks of sheep straying across the road. Do watch out for these especially just before the scree slopes at the top. A good excuse to take a breather and take in some of the fantastic views. Or perhaps some of you may just want to check out the local talent.
The very top is black slate scree slopes and very, very desolate.Think Magrathea.
The South Ramp: Top to Port Haute
The southern ramp from the top starts off moderately. It passes through an abandoned army barracks (This is the Route Napoleon. Check out the cartoon murals inside). After the barracks the road narrows and the hairpins are many and tight. This open treeless, crass-covered scree slope suffers continual subsidence in a BIG way. This really was the bumpiest bit of road that I've ever ridden. Horrible. We used to rate this bit difficult. It's now been totally remade from top to bottom and freshly resurfaced for the Tour de France in 2008, apart from a couple of hairpins near the restaurant just above the treeline. The road is still just that bit too narrow to make it more than a pleasant ride, but pleasant it is and the scenery is impressive.
The South Ramp: Port Haute to St Sauveur sur Tinée
This is an easy section, and on average a ton-up stretch. Going down, you enter some trees where the road surface returns to civilisation. The road twists through a narrow river gorge, which gradually widens and the road becomes straighter and faster.....Eventually you arrive at a 4 mile plus straight. The road is dead straight; there're no towns or side turnings. Must be time to clean out those carbs that got clogged up on the pass! Officer.

The Cime de la Bonette now has a great surface and the northern ramp some brilliant corners and knee down hairpins. Even without those plus points its sheer scale makes it one of the biker routes of the Alps.

Continuing down the Gorges de Valabres, just before the town of St. Sauveur sur Tinée you reach red rock country. Yep, the rocks and cliff faces round here are a dark red. Metamorphic rock, according to Tim, who knows these sort of things. Heading further southwards and the road becomes a wide main road with fast sweepers as it follows the Tinée River. Eventually you join the major road the N202. Here the fun officially ends. Another 20 miles onwards and you are in Nice heading for the beach.

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97 Isola - Isola 2000 - Col de Lombarde - Ruviera
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2004-07-06


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N44?12.144 E07?08.994

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Carry on southwards and there is a possible diversion to the ski resort of Isola 2000. The road from Isola to the ski resort of Isola 2000 is wide smooth and steep with a lot of wide hairpins, many in pairs, suitable for the busses that go there in the winter. We did it in Summer with no traffic and in the pouring rain - we didn't enjoy it a bit, but in the dry it is sure to be a great blast up the mountain.
Between Isola 2000 and the top of the pass there is a very narrow - single track most of the way - bumpy couple of miles. The Col de Lombarde has recently been fully paved and is narrow at the top which makes it difficult to overtake if there's traffic. Lower down it's twisty and steep in places through trees with vaery many hairpins - given an empty road it is a nice ride. Nice scenery from open moor to thick woodland in a narrow gorge.

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SS21/N900 Pietraprzio - Col de Larche - La Condamine-Ch?telard
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2004-07-07


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N44?25.322 E06?53.875

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Wide and fairly busy main route with some commercial traffic. The Italian side is well surfaced with a number of wide hairpins and some fast straights. The road surface deteriorates abit on the French side but is still good, though with some overbanding. Not many hairpins but lots of fast sweepers and straights.

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D30 St. Sauveur sur Tin?e - Roubion - Beuil
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2002-07-01


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N44?05.506 E07?02.938

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If the beach ain't your thing. Hang a right back in St. Sauveur towards Roubion and Beuil. The road quickly climbs up the hills behind St. Sauveur hugging the cliff face and passes through a number of short tunnels. Watch out for fallen rocks. Eventually this well surfaced road winds it's way below the village of Roubion. It then climbs up a series of good hairpins into the village. (If anyone has any ideas why this town is where it is, or what the population can do for a living, I'm all ears.)
The road all the way is narrow and beginning to be in need of repair [2002]. And after Roubion gets steeper and bumpier. It's not really worth it for the ride, although the scenery - wide, deep, heavily-wooded valley - is great.
Continue to Beuil (Useful petrol station here) and turn left. This is the Gorges Superiores du Cians....

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D28 Tou?t-sur-Var - Gorges du Cians - Beuil
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Silver medal symbol
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2008-07-12


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don't miss scenic route Twisty N44?00.148 E06?59.355

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D28 ....this is the Gorges Superiores du Cians. An excellent surface all the way and very recently resurfaced to a great extent (2002), as you can see from some of the photos. The road is undergoing more road works again in a number of places (2004). The only bumpy bit is just the very last bit after Beuil if you're coming from the north.
The quite wide road is excellent; the surface is good and follows every curve of the river next to it, and this river curves big time. I don't think there's anything resembling a straight. There are tight flickable sections and tight sweepers, trees and cliffs. Everything. The red cliff face is on your right the whole way down. In places the road narrows and the cliff face overhangs a bit. Makes a fast right hand bend with oncoming traffic over the white lines, a real cheek clenching experience!
22km of biking heaven. Imposing scenery, superb surface and red rocks. We rate it as moderately difficult because of the speed you tend to go at combined with the tightness of most of the corners. Seriously recommended. Eventually the road snakes down to the main road the N202.
There is nothing to recommend about the N202 itself except the occasional petrol station (Puget-Théniers), the interesting walled town of Entrevaux and it's also the way to the Gorges de Dalius.

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D2202 Entrevaux - Gorges de Daluis -Guillaumes
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2008-07-12


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don't miss scenic route Twisty Sweeper N44?02.808 E06?50.591

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Compared to the Gorges du Cians the Gorges de Daluis is a wider road and is less closed in, as it's high above the river. (Some big drops should you get it wrong). Although not as windy it's still good fun. There is a series of small one-way tunnels. Those going south go through them, those going north, drive around them. Preferably quite slowly.

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D28 Beuil - Valberg - Guillaumes
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2004-07-05


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don't miss N44?05.589 E06?56.028

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The road joining the northern ends of the Gorges du Cians and Daluis is one of those forgotten bits that people just use to get from one good route to the other. Shame on you. This is one hell of a road now, Fast sweepers on a wide road with a good surface leave you panting for more. As our American cousins would say : "Awesome".
Valberg is a big ski resort.

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D902 St Martin d'Entaunes - Colmars - Barcelonnette
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2008-07-12


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N44?10.090 E06?42.049

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So you might think"well if the Col de la Cayolle is no great shakes, why not try and hang a left crossing east-west over the Col des Champs?" So did we.
"Wattamistaka!" We went this way back in 1994, so they might have improved it since then, but back then it was a nightmare. Huge potholes everywhere, which needed to be navigated at 5 mph. Bring your TransAlp for this one. Eventually you crawl into the old fortified town of Colmars. Head south over the Col d'Allos, and back to Barcelonnette.

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D2202 Guillaumes - St Martin d'Entaunes - Barcellonette
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2008-07-12


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scenic route avoid if possible N44?15.307 E06?44.983

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Personally speaking I dislike the Col de la Cayolle. It's bumpy, unnecessarily narrow, and the old wrought iron crash barriers appear especially designed to slice sliding bikers into pretty shapes. Much of it is a country ride rather than an alpine pass.
From Guillaumes the road is pretty busy and uninteresting until you start the climb from about St. Martin d'Entraunes where the road just gets bumpier as it gets higher. Tree-clad it's fairly narrow but with good visibility.
Towards Barcelonnette the ride becomes more interesting as you pass high up along the Gorges du Bachelard, and then pass down rapidly into the narrow and long gorge below. There are a number of sudden 90? turns over narrow bridges to put a stop to any rhythm you may have got going. The scenery is superb, but ultimately can't make up for the terrible road surface. One of our least favourite passes.

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D908 Thorame-haute - Col de la Colle St- Michel - Annot
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2004-07-05


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don't miss N44?01.016 E06?37.416

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link to more photos
more photos
The repetetively named Col de la Colle St. Michel (1431m) cuts the corner of the Col d'Allos road and brings you out near Entrevaux. It's a low-level pass through trees, with a wide and reasonable surface. Quite enjoyable. Resurfaced in 2004 in places.

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D202 Col du Galibier
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Bronze medal symbol
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2008-07-12


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don't miss scenic route N45?03.843 E06?24.472

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link to more photos
more photos
This starts nearly as wide and fast, but narrows and climbs fairly quickly. This is a main section of the Tour de France cycle race, so you may have trouble getting round the hundreds of nutters on push-bikes "practicing". The northern ramp is good, and the final section, previously bumpy has been resurfaced (2004).
There is a short tunnel near the top, don't take it. Go over the top.

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D202 Col du Telegraphe - Col du Galibier
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2008-07-12


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N45?12.127 E06?26.645

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This starts off from the main D6 at St. Michel and climbs quickly through dense woods. You will not be alone. Until you get toe the ski and summer sports resort of Valloire you'll be plagued by HGVs and sunday drivers. Do persevere, as it's the only way to the Col du Galibier which is definitely wirth the effort.

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Briançon - Château-Queryas - Col de l'Izoard
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2008-07-12


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don't miss scenic route Twisty Sweeper N44?49.170 E06?44.093

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more photos
The only occasional stretch of bumpy and rough road doesn't do anything to spoil the enjoyment of this - once teeth-jarringly bumpy, now remade and smooth it's one of the few roads that gets better when they "improve" it. Generally good visibilty and a varied mix of dry woodlands and scree slopes. It's worth it if only for the Mars-like scenery in the Parc National du Queryas

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D902/D900 Château-Queryas - Barcelonnette
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2008-07-12


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N44?32.328 E06?42.167

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link to more photos
more photos
Yet again, a fairly bumpy stretch down to Guillestre, a nice little tourist town - despite the bustle during the day it is pretty quiet in the evening. From here - over the Col de Vars - is a good ride, bumpy in places but much improved recently.
Varied - it passes through woodland, grassland and a great, fast gorge, dotted with the od quarry (and the HGVs to go with it) overtaking is easy. Past Jausieres (remember this place - the turn-off for the Col de la Bonette, the "big one" at 2802m)

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D908 Colmars - Barcelonette
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2004-06-16


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N44?17.822 E06?35.836

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link to more photos
more photos
The Col d'Allos is ok. The Northern ramp is quite narrow and the surface just isn't up to scratch. Scenery is pleasant enough, in pleaces more so. The southerm ramp is better for me. A better surface an wider means more biking fun generally.

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Lac du Serre-Ponçon Bercelonette