[ blog » 2020 » 08_Tour-Alps ] d03: Culoz to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne (by Philipp Gesang, location: Saint-Michel campsite)

With that one extracurricular day at the Colombier done, I continued on towards the Alps. Passing the magnificent Lac du Bourget I took a break at Aix-les-Bains to admire the scenery. It has been three years since I last visited the town and my memory of it was already beginning to fade – about time for a memory refresh cycle! Already early in the morning the beaches were busy, lots of people enjoying the sun before the heat gets unbearable around noon. And boy, that was some heat. At one time the Garmin measured 42 degrees! La canicule at work.

In the saddle it’s not that bad though, as long as you maintain a steady pace. Which was entirely possible considering how today’s route mostly went through flat valleys with excellent infrastructure. Chambéry was as pretty as I recalled, and more importantly trivial to navigate due to a superb system of bike paths. From there I passed by Montmélian, which I visited on an earlier tour, and – recollections of the rather industrial Isere valley – headed over a hill into a little side valley with a stream called le Croisetan flowing through it, parallel to the Isere. This turned out one of the better planning decisions as the roads in that region were quiet.

After I located the entrance to the Vallée de l’Arc I followed the main route – the one that isn’t the autoroute to Torino – and for the most part I had a real blast riding it. Until Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne the slope is negligeable which makes it possible to ride at that steady pace that is so conducive to cooling. Water was refilled at a convenient cemetery along the way, so in that regard I was not suffering too much either.

Until the coming thunderstorm over the Maurienne sent a preview in form of intense headwind my way which made the last 20 km a real pain to complete. I mean, on a three percent downhill I shouldn’t be coming to a grinding halt, should I? While I was familiar with that sort of wind from Scotland it still took me by complete surprise.

While I was approaching the real mountains near the midsection of the valley, the cyclist crowd got denser. I hadn’t really seen anyone on two wheels since what must have been Chambéry, but now they just started pouring out of the nearby valleys. From around where the road branches off to the Col de la Croix de Fer I practically always had line of sight to another cyclist. My crowd! At Saint-Martin the clouds already imbued the valley with a somber color scheme, and as expected it started pouring soon after I had pitched the tent and hung up my laundry to dry. Well I guess I’ll be climbing some mountains in damp clothes tomorrow, Scotland style. To add insult to injury the “free wifi” at the Saint-Michel campsite blocks outgoing connections to the port that I run sshd on, forcing me to again opt into the extortionist LTE tariff just to upload a blog entry. Which isn’t even the strangest thing that happened on this campsite so far, I also befriended a guy from Dijon who speaks German as badly as I do French, and helped him set up his monster of a tent. Now the guys in the bungalow next door are blasting Spanish pop music. Who is that Jose guy anyways?


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