Our Top 5 summer activities series continues with our recommendations for 5 fantastic road bike rides. This was a very hard list to compile as the choice of roads and climbs around us is enormous, but after much deliberation, here are 5 of our favourites (GPS route downloads available via the links)…
Short: Saisies via Crest-Voland
So you’ve arrived in La Giettaz for a cycling weekend, it’s lunchtime and you’re looking to ride for a couple of hours to check your bike set-up and get your legs working? Or perhaps you’re here with non-cycling family and you’ve only got limited time to get a ride in? Look no further…
The Col des Saisies is a regular feature on the routes of the Tour and the Dauphiné, but to my knowledge neither event has ever used this alternative route to the summit. Shame, as it’s an absolutely beautiful (and challenging) climb through forests and pastures, with fabulous views and almost no traffic. The descent back to Flumet via the main road is great fun too. If you’re really pushed for time you can cut the ride short at Crest-Voland by heading straight across to Notre-Dame de Bellecombe and back to Flumet.
Medium: Héry / Epine / Croix-Fry / Aravis
In my first year of serious cycling after moving to La Giettaz, this was the ride that really got me hooked on cycling the Alps and it’s now the quintessential Chalet La Giettaz bike ride. You have three climbs of increasing difficulty and some beautiful, sweeping descents. For the most part, the roads are very quiet and the views are spectacular. I think the Col de la Croix-Fry is my favourite climb bar none. The ride can be made slightly softer by taking out the first climb to Héry and instead following the main road all the way down to Ugine. Alternatively, gluttons for punishment can make it harder by tackling the Col du Plan-Bois instead of the first half of Croix-Fry, before rejoining the road to the latter in Manigod.
Long: Cordon / Cluses / Colombière / Aravis
Take a good look at the map before setting out on this route, as we’re taking some back roads that are maybe less obvious at first glance than you would think. It would be easy enough to follow the main road from Megève down to Sallanches, but to do that would be to miss the postcard-perfect rolling roads through Cordon, with some awesome views of Mont Blanc along the way. Likewise, in Sallanches, take the less obvious route past the Lac des Illettes, instead of the main road out of town, for a close-up view of some impressive waterfalls, as well as less traffic. The Col de la Colombière is a classic Alpine climb with a fabulous descent back to Le Grand-Bornand before the final climb back over the Col des Aravis. You can increase the difficulty by using the Col du Romme from Cluses, rejoining the Colombière road at Le Reposoir.
Very Long: Aravis / Bluffy / Forclaz (Annecy) / Ugine / Arpettaz
No cycling holiday in La Giettaz would be complete without a visit to Lake Annecy. The coffee stop at the café at the Col de la Forclaz, with incredible views over the lake, is a real treat to look forward to. Watch out for the paragliders taking off from the ramp beside the café! After a quick blast along the valley floor, you tackle the Col de l'Arpettaz – another absolute gem of a climb on deserted roads, with more hairpins than you can count.
Epic: Ugine / Forclaz (Queige) / Pré / Roselend / Bisanne
Strap yourself in for an unforgettable day in the saddle that tackles two of the most brutal climbs anywhere in the French Alps. The Col du Pré will feature in the Tour de France for the first time this year, and it’s sure to be a hit, not only for the seriously tough ascent but also the wonderful panorama at the summit across the Lac de Roselend. There’s no doubt it’s a thrill to ride across the dam – stop and have a look at the vertiginous drop on your left! The onward climb up to the Cormet de Roselend is easier on the legs but the beautiful scenery continues, and the descent all the way back to Beaufort is one of the best. The sting in the tail comes in the shape of the Bisanne climb back towards Les Saisies – take the main road instead if your legs are cooked.
These are just a sample of some of the routes around us. Many more are available on my Ride With GPS page at https://ridewithgps.com/users/185323/routes. We’re always happy to help with route planning and other logistical help. We can also provide minibus support on your ride – please contact us for more details of this.