A must in every rider's life. The scenery and the roads are amazing. The passes are high and you are on the mountains rather than looking at them from a distance.
Starting and ending in Saronno near Milan, we picked what we believe are the roads that if you were to come just once in your life time to the Alps you really would not want to miss!
In this first part, we ride from west to east, starting with the Maritime Alps and ending with the Bernese high Alps. In between lie passes such as Col de la Bonnette at 2800 meters, the beauty of the Col de Izoard, the Small and Greater St Bernard, Mont Blanc with its majestic 4807 meters above sea level and so much more. You also get a chance to ride along the shores of Lake Maggiore and witness the richness and beauty of northern Italian architecture displayed in some of the most stunning villas along the lake front.
Touring programme day by day:
Day 0: your countdown to the tour is over. It's Saturday and you need to be in Saronno. Your closest international airport is Milan Malpensa (MPX). There is an easy train transfer with the Malpensa express and the hotel is 5 minutes away on foot. Briefing starts at 4pm. We shall finalise the paperwork and pick up the bikes from the depot. The welcome dinner starts at 8pm. Let the fun begin!!
Day 1: after a quick highway transfer to Cuneo we tackle the first section of the Alps, the Maritime Alps over the Col de la Lombarde (Col = Pass in French) and the magnificent Col de la Bonnette to reach Barcelonnette. The Col de la Bonnette contends to the Italian Stelvio pass and to Col de l'Iseran, the highest road in Europe. The cunning French added a scenic loop road to the pass These two passes offer great riding and stunning scenery as they are part of the French National Park of Mercantour.
Day 2: we leave our luggage at the hotel and ride a loop south of Barcelonnette to the Gorges of the Verdon river, it's a really impressive canyon for size and depth. On the way there we ride through Digne les Bains and witness the famous lavanda fields of Provence. On the way back to Barcellonnette we shall witness the Gorges de Dalluis, an amazing valley cut by the river Var.
Day 3: we leave Barcelonnette and ride to Guillestre along the west bank of Lac (Lake) Serre Ponšon. Just passed Guillestre, we head for an amazing pass: the Col de l'Izoard. It offers an incredible natural spectacle. At the end of this pass the town of meridian clocks, Brianšon, offers an interesting break from riding and you'll be able to enjoy a stroll though its historical centre. Our ride reaches the Col de Lautaret and then keeps climbing over the infamous (Tour de France toughest stage) Col de Gallibier to reach the small village of Valloire, our stop for the night.
Day 4: After we have crossed the Col de l'Iseran, the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps (13 meters more than Stelvio), and ridden through Val d'Isere, we cross the Petit St Bernard into Italy and stop the night in Courmayeur at the foothill of Mont blanc on the italian side.
5: we have a chance to take the gondola from outside of our
hotel to the top of Montblanc. The views from the top of the highest
mountain in Europe are amazing and well worth the cost of the
ticket. Our ride takes us to Aosta (probably our lunch stop) and
then over the over the Grand St Bernard pass. At the Grand St
Bernard we visit the hostel at pass height, famous for the
dogs. These generous dogs originate from here and were used in
snow storms to find
Day 6: ("rest day" on the passes) the Swiss call it the "Paessekarusel" because you draw a big circle on the map by hopping from one pass to another, but also because it's like a biker's amusement park! We start with the Gotthard pass, riding parts of the old "tremola" down hill. It is called "tremola" because on parts of it there are still the original cobble stones (tremare = trembling). We then go for the Neufenenpass, the Grimmsellpass and finally the Sustenpass back into Andermatt. Great views and great riding!
Day 7: It is our last day of part 1, we return to our starting point in Milan. But before this we ride the 6th of the "big 6", the Oberalppass immediately followed by the Lukmanierpass that takes us back into the Italian speaking area of Switzerland. From Bellinzona we head for Locarno and then cross the border back into Italy at the top of lake Maggiore. We ride its coastlines on our way back to Milan.
Day 8: it's "arrivederci" to those who are only doing Part 1 and "benvenuti" to those starting Part 2.