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Around Martigny & Chamonix - France, Switzerland and Italy

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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
R5 Champagnole - Morez - Col de la Faucille - Gex - Geneva
don't miss
A superb introduction to the Alps for anyone coming in from the north or west (e.g. UK, Belgium, Holland). Champagnole is a nice place to stop off overnight after the down.
The road starts off with lovely sweeping bends on an excellent surface. There are a number of villages which provide fill-up stops, but not too many that the going is slow. The road ascends gradually, then becomes steeper with excellent corners all the way. Your bike is hardly ever upright. As you reach the top of the climb, the road gets steeper and the turns tighter,but is suitably wide all the way up. It never gets as tight as the Col de l'Iseran for example. Lovely views on the way up, and as you crest the climb you get to see all the way across Lake Geneva to the mountains on the other side. A feast of corners on the way back down and you emerge smack into Geneva, with the motorway easily accessible to nip down to Val d'Isere.
Time to complete the run is approx 1.5 hours.

(Many thanks to Andrew Tobin)

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B11 Aigle - Col des Mosses - Gstaad
N46?23.719 E07?06.133
These two alternatives for the same stretch, depending on your preferences.
The first, via the Col des Mosses is easier, better road generally, but with more traffic and villages than the southern route via les Diablarettes. From Aigle, the climb up to the col is really fun and down the other side. Once back into the foothills it runs through some picture postcard scenery through tons of little villages, forcing your speed down. There is a fabulous little stretch through a gorge alongside a wild mountain river just east of Chateaux d'Oex.

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Aigle - Les Diablarets - Gstaad -Saanen
2004-07-10

don't miss scenic route Webcam N46?20.786 E07?09.355
link to more photos
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This southern option is narrower and the road can be bumpy in places, as it's not so well-used. This road is slightly off the beaten track, the main road in this direction running a little further north and it just has to be recommended. The west side is narrower, bumpier and twistier than the other side and technically harder than the east side which consists of wide sweepers and hairpins on an excellent surface, gradually straightening out to low alpine meadow scenery and a few villages towards Saanen. Overall the surface is average to excellent. Fantastic scenery, especially at the top in the small town of Les Diablarets there's all sorts of terrain but mainly low alpine, looking up to the dark peaks like giant versions of the Brecon Beacons. Imagine the size of the glaciers that must have formed these valleys. If you're in the area and it's not raining or snowing, DO IT..

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Town logo 21/E62 Martigny
2004-07-10

N46?05.318 E07?03.656
From Martigny you have a number of routes: to the North and Les Diablarets; to the West and into France via Chamonix; or South over the St. Bernard passes and Aosta to Bourg St. Maurice. The eastern route B9 is only good to get you to Andermatt.

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N506 Martigny - Col de la Forclaz - Chamonix (F)
2004-07-10

don't miss scenic route N46?04.011 E07?00.604
link to more photos
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Col de la Forclaz: After the brain-dead stretch from Brig this is heaven. First section quite steep but wide road, good surface, fast sweepers. You get some good views of the vally back towards Martigny and beyond from the first few hairpins. A lot of traffic stops at the top. Down the other side into France is wooded and fast. The surface on the French side is still bumpy but not as bad as it used to be, narrow and often lots of traffic in the National Park, but the views of the Chamonix ski area, the peaks and the glaciers of Mont Blanc are stunning.

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N902 Monthey - Cluses
2004-07-16

N46?09.164 E06?39.629
From the Swiss side, you really have to do a little dull riding, unless you've just come via Aigle. From Aigle, across the French border, the road climbs the Pas de Morgins, a great road , reminiscent of the Mendel pass near Bolzano. Through Châtel, a little village that'd look really cute in the winter, the road narrows, and you can chose the better road via Annavaux, which is really quite good, or the very narrow and tight routes down to Le Biot. Only take the southern routes if you're not in much of a hurry. I wouldn't recommend this for large tourers. From Le Biot down to Morzine is alongside a river through trees. A moderately bumpy when we were there, it didn't slow us down much. We had a memorable little race with a British holiday rep in a white escort (who seemed to know the road, to our defence). Between Morzine and Cluses, the road is a wider main-road, with little chance of being stuck behind traffic anywhere. Good surface and some nice wide hairpins.

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N212 Meg?ve - Gorge de l'Arly - Ugine Gold medal symbol
2004-07-09

don't miss Twisty N45?48.077 E06?29.646
Gorge de l'Arly. 13km of heaven. Avoid during peak times, as it's on the main route to Albertville. That also means the road is well surfaced. It runs along a twisty gorge of the Arly river, which would otherwise be quite picturesque. However, I rarely got time to look.

Why is this the most dangerous biking road in the Alps? On the face of it there's a perfect surface and some brilliant bends with good visibility. This road shouts 'Ride me to the limit', but the traffic is frequently going 60 mph slower than you. Long lines of cars and campervans crawling around one brilliant bend , followed by another half dozen curves to die for. And die you may. I've made more brainless beyond belief crazy overtaking manouvers on this one road compared to the rest of my 20 biking years put together.DON'T RIDE IT WHEN IT'S BUSY.


This is what I wrote in my diary ...
What my passenger thought...

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D217 Flumet - Cormet de Roseland - Bourg St. Maurice Silver medal symbol
2004-07-09

don't miss scenic route Hairpin Twisty N45?41.479 E06?41.447
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This used to be very bumpy and narrow and I rated it one of the hardest stretches I've ever done. Nearly all of it has now been remade (2003/2004), partly widened and resurfaced, especially the previously awful eastern drop down into Bourg which for me makes it the number 2 in this area. The first section from Flumet is relatively easy, climbing up on wide gentle hairpins and a superb sufrface with some potential knee-down stretches, especially the section before the Lac du Rosseland and just past it to the top of the pass..
The east side if the pass starts (from the top) pretty nicely, but after a few kilometres where the road drops over the head of a glaciated valley and you can be greeted with a fantastic view of Mont Blanc if you're lucky. The bottom section used to be awful, but has been widened and flattened at the hairpins and almost totally resurfaced. It runs through thick woods and eventually levels out down to Bourg St. Maurice.

If you're doing this route it's probably worth a quick trip up the ....

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D902 Beaufort - Col du Joly - Les Contamines
2005-06-29

scenic route
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From Beaufort to the top is a normal road. From the top there is one of the closest and most beautiful views of Mont Blanc. From Les Contamines to the top is not asphalted but the gravel is very smooth.

Thanks to Dario

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B21/SS27 Aosta - Great St. Bernard - Martigny
2008-03-18

don't miss scenic route N45?52.154 E07?10.014
link to more photos
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Grand.Saint.Bernard website

Note: Passport control at the top into and out of Switzerland.

The Italian side of the Great St Bernard (2469m)is a main, busy exit out of Aosta up to St.Rh?my-en-Bosses and is a fairly gentle one passing through light woodland, and pretty heavy traffic of cars, caravans lorries and busses all aiming for the tunnel (hopefuly) and at certain times of the year millions of butterflies most of which have a lemming-like death wish. A more memorable trip down this particular pass became notoriously titled The Great Butterfly Massacre. Still they look prettier spattered over your lid than the usual stuff.
The main road goes straight ahead and the pass road forks off to the right, shortly after which is an unexpected very sharp right-hander. This is the start of hairpin-city. This bit has been and is undergoing major roadworks. And it looks like being that way for probably a couple of years. It is very narrow and very twisty and steep especially on the climb to just before the plateau at the top in a bleak and desolate landscape.
We rate this stretch as difficult, especially in the wet - and even more so with the roadworks.

The Swiss side is basically uninteresting except for two bits. The very top, which is almost traffic free and running down through open high-moor scenery. The section where the road joins the main tunnel-road is dull as hell, running through a 5 mile gallery/tunnel section. Further down the road turns into a very wide sweeper stretch often with 2 lanes each way. Surface great. Riding fun average.

For a light diversion, at Le Ch?ble take the road up to Verbier. A serpentine of great hairpins takes you up to the Verbier plateau for a drink.
Check out the loony Norwegian\'s video at www.roadmc.com

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S26d Aosta valley
2004-07-04

avoid if possible Sweeper
The Aosta valley can be hot and congested. Do not visit Aosta (Industrial). Head east along the A-road that runs north of the town. Follow the signs to the Mont Blanc Tunnel (which you should avoid BIG time). The Aosta valley motorway passes through a number of short to long tunnels and is a toll section. If the weather or traffic is bad it might be worth considering; it's certainly faster than the main road. The A-road can be sheer purgatory, as it is full of trucks avoiding the toll on the motorway heading for France. A bit of a Hobb's Choice, I'm afraid.
However, do perservere, as when you get to Pré-St Didier, the traffic mostly turns north toward the tunnel.
The part of the Aosta valley just before the road divides is supposedly one of the most scenic valleys in the Alps (apparently, I can't say I find it anything other than ordinary). The valley is narrow, steep, heavily forested and has huge motorway viaducts snaking along it. ... and one particular fast, tightening bend over a bridge that could be lethal if you ignore the signs.

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SS26.N90 Bourg St. Mauruce (Séez)- Piccolo St Bernardo - Aosta
2005-06-13

don't miss scenic route Hairpin Twisty Sweeper N45?40.019 E06?52.224
link to more photos
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The "Little Saint Bernard Pass" can be divided into 2 halves:
The French side:
Starts out in a set of hairpins then into the woods with lots of twisties. There are great views over the valley to the Colde l'Iseran. The hairpins are wide-ish and not too steep.
The Italian Side:
A better surface, steeper and there's a narrow section in the trees where overtaking is difficult. Then the long fast section to Aosta whichwould be quite nice were it not for the gravel pits, towns, electricity pylons.....
At the top of the pass is the French border and a large statue of St Bernard which disappointingly was not a large alcoholic dog. The surface all the way is very good.
Bourg St. Maurice is fairly uninteresting, but has a useful supermarket and petrol.

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Morgex - Colle San Carlo - La Thuile
2004-07-04

There is a small pass running to the south of the main Petit St. Bernard road - between Mogex and La Thuile, The Colle San Carlo. It's an easy climb on a wide, not too steep, forest road up to the open rock and grass landscape of the Testa d'Arpi mountain. The hairpins are not that demanding and the surface is excellent. This makes and excellent deviation on the way along the Aosta valley.

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Town logo D213/N6 Around La Chambre
2004-07-09

N45?21.542 E06?17.983
link to more photos
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Two routes here, easily overlooked in the effort to get away from Albertville. They are also relatively traffic-free due to the major roads nearby. The Col de la Madelaine and the combined 'Y'-shaped Col du Glandon and the Col de la Croix de Fer.
For a place to stay, La Chambre is central and has a couple of shops and a bank or two. It's spitting distance from three good passes plus others nearby. It is very small and quiet though so if you're looking for nightlife, you'll be forced to visit the only bar that was open whe we were there in July. The Pub Le 171 is a small freindly bar packed with old bike memorabilia and the walls are papered with '70s and '80s LP covers. Enquire here for board, as they work with the place next door (Les 3 Vo?tes) which is a partly converted centuries old house for bikers only. Breakfast is served in the Pub le 171.

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D526 St. Jean de Mauriene -Col de la Croix de Fer - La Chambre
2004-07-08

N45?14.148 E06?11.400
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The start and end of this route are only 10 km apart, but it takes you 55 km to do it.
Fill up in St. Jean if you're getting low. The road climbs through trees high on the right side of a narrow (basalt?) gorge, through three (or so) unlit tunnels - two of which have bends in them, eventually opening out onto a high glaciated valley where there are a few ski resorts and fab scenery. The road surface used to be excellent all the way, probably because of the resorts in winter, but has deteriorated in recent years and can only be described as average now [2002]. From the ski resort of St.Sorlin d'Arves, there's a final steepish knee-down climb up through high moorland to the Col de la Croix de Fer [2062m]. A short drop to the 'saddle' where the road to the Col de Glandon turns off right. The surface is average, on the whole.

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D94 La Chambre - Col de la Madelaine - Pussy
2004-07-09

don't miss scenic route N45?26.629 E06?22.721
link to more photos
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If you're in a hurry take the main road to Albertville (but then, why would you be ?) otherwise....
A really nice climb through trees to the Col de la Madelaine [1984m], where the road gets a bit narrower and bumpier, but it never slowed us down (quite the opposite, in fact).

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D902 Bourg St. Maurice - Col de l'Iseran - Lanslebourg Bronze medal symbol
2004-06-14

don't miss scenic route Hairpin N45?25.027 E07?01.853
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One of the "big ones" - the Col de l'Iseran is 2769m. If your bike's not running touch rich at the bottom, it sure as hell will be when you're at the top ;-) . Fill up in Bourg if you're getting low on fuel. From here to Val d'Isére is fairly busy with resort traffic, but really good until just before Val d'Isére where the road is too busy to be fun. Watch out for the unlit tunnels with bends in them just before Val d'Isére.
However, once through the town, the road changes into a high-alpine playground. After a straight-ish bit the road turns sharp right over a small bridge then it's up, up, up. A great surface and a steepish climb to the pass heights - watch out: no crash-barriers! There is snow at the top (and skiing) all year round and often on the roadside until early July.

While the northern ramp is steep and relatively short, the southern side is longer and less steep, generally much greener and faster. I'm really not sure which way I prefer doing this, but I think from the south, the longer gentler climb makes braking easier and you can get up some pretty good speeds. The scenery is much more dramatic as well, with some great views on the glaciers on the mountains to the south. More-or-less a ride through a valley floor until Bonneval-sur-Arc, the road then climbs up the mountain. This bit is less well surfaced and a bit bumpier than the northern side.
You can find the Val d'Isere webcam here: www.valdisere.com/..../webcam.php

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Town logo N6 Lenslebourg
2004-07-10

N45?17.109 E06?52.449
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We stayed here overnight, thinking it'd be a good start for the Iseran. We were right. Unfortunately the place was almost full and we had a bit of bother finding a room then somewhere to eat. The village itself is built along and just above the river 'Arc', and reminds me of an old mining town from an old western. Otherwise we'd recommend a stay here if you like relatively quiet places.

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Town logo N6 Lenslevillard
2004-07-04

N45?17.454 E06?54.877
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Just up the road is Lenslebourg's altogether nice sister, Lenslevillard. The old village on the hill has some nice restaurants.

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N6/S25 Lenslebourg - Col du Mont Cenis - Susa
2002-06-01

don't miss scenic route N45?15.567 E06?54.052
link to more photos
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The Col du Mont Cenis [2083m] is a road we hadn't done for a few years. Back then it was bumpy and so-so. Now, it is still a 'game of two halves':
It's quite short, so you could go over then back if your planned route doesn't take you over the border. I'd take the time to do it.
The French Side:
Starts off with some hairpins then snakes up through medium-tight curves to the lake. The surface is not great, with quite a lot of longitudinal ridges covered in gravel.....but it's ok.
The Italian Side:
a bit tighter and twistier and recently resurfaced....wonderful. There is a steep drop past the reservoir wall which is spectacular.
The bad point: Busy with lots of lorries! Get up early, or at the end of the day.
Moderately difficult. Recommended.
Check out the loony Norwegian's video at www.roadmc.com

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N6 Modane - Lenslebourg
2004-07-04

Sweeper N45?13.522 E06?46.125
link to more photos
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This is a fast, ton-up-sweeper-and-straights road taking a lot of holiday traffic. Basically it's crap up to Modane so just grin and bear it, then gets really quite good after that towards Lanslebourg. Wide, good surface and not half as much traffic, as most of it's gone on the motorway through the tunnel to Bardonècchia in Italy.
The fort at Bramans is particularly impressive.

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D4 La Clusaz - Cluses
2004-06-19

N45?59.534 E06?28.529
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Average to low pass. The road is well-kept as there are tons of ski resorts up here. Some nice scenery and a nice ride. Road surface variable, mostly average.

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D909 Bonnevill St.Pierre - Flumet
2004-06-19

scenic route N45?52.334 E06?27.900
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The northern end starts on a minor road in trees in the edge of the town, climbs and widens to a great surfaced stretch right over the Columbière. The road is in good nick because of the ski resorts up here and the hikers in the summer. The top of the Aravis offers a good view of the Mont Blanc summit, probably the only view you'll get of it.

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D526/527 nr Bourg-d'Oisans-Col du Glandon - La Chambre
2005-06-18

don't miss scenic route N45?14.632 E06?10.468
link to more photos
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The Col du Glandon (1924m) Runs north-south and the first part of the south ramp is quite good, you have to ride up the front face of the reservior dam wall. Otherwise the surface is average. The road runs through the river valley up to the top reservoir and the turn off for the Col de la Croix de Fer. Alpine scenery through conifer woods and grassland. Down to La Chambre.

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N6 Modane - Lenslebourg