Day 15 – Orsieres to Aosta

This is the big day where I have to get over the Gd St Bernard pass, and I did it. I set off at 7:30am at 1000m altitide. 25km later at 1pm I made it. I’d risen to 2.5km altitide. All the cyclists that were on speedy racing bikes and passed me on the way up congratulated me – it was reassuring to see even them struggling on the best suited bikes!

Coming down was scary. The Italian side is being resurfaced and in some places is just gravel on tarmac – not the best combination with small wheels, slick tyres, a trailer and overheated brakes. So I took it slowly and made it to Aosta. At the campsite I met English Dave, who is driving around Europe and cycling all the mountain bike tracks. I went for pizza and beer with him and a couple of French girls also from the campsite. Good day.

Today managed to roll trailer twice. I realised it’s because the design is not perfectly balanced, and my packing was making it worse. When turning left into a corner on an adverse camber and braking it has a tendancy to shift its weight and roll. I broke the flag on one roll, so it’s now a bit shorter. I’ve also re-packed it, and know what situation can cause it. Hopefully it won’t happen again.

Day 14 – Lausanne to Orsieres

I was expecting today to be tough, but the morning was fantastic. The road towards the Grand St Bernard pass is very flat up the valley for 80+km, so I made excellent progress. In Montreaux I met Klaus Rosga, who was cycle touring with a trailer, and had been over the Gd St Bernard with it. Glad to see it is possible. Tonight was the first time I free camped – I just couldn’t get any further, and saw a nice secluded spot.

Day 13 – Ornans to Lausanne

Good day – 105km in hilly terrain. Paul and Treena were right, the climb out of the valley from Ornans was really nicely gradiented, I didn’t use my ‘granny’ gear once all day. Climbed to 1046m (3431ft), and crossed the north sea – mediterranean watershed. Got a stamp in my passport going into Switzerland, and found the campsite in Lausanne.

Other notes from today – I changed the rear tyre. The sidewall was splitting in 6 places, with the biggest two joining up.
– Special thanks need to go to Jo and Alex. Wherever in Europe/Australia you are now, travelling for the couple of days with you really picked up my spirits and got my on my feet. Thank you.
– My beer gut is gone, and my legs are huge now!
– It feels really good finally crossing an international border.

Plan for France

It’s been a while since my last post, but my computer and internet have been fixed twice since then!

The plan for France is to generally follow Anne Mustoe’s route, but with a few changes.

Anne went in to Boulogne, and I originally planned to do the same, but the ferries that go in to Boulogne only take cars, not passengers or bikes or motorbikes or lorries or anything else, just cars. The only other choice of ferry leaving from the Dover area goes to Calais, so that has to be where I’ll take the ferry in to. Anne doesn’t detail her exact route, but from reading and re-reading I’ve managed to work out her approximate itinerary. So from Calais I plan to take ten or eleven days crossing France to Switzerland, going via Arras, St Quentin, Reims, Vitry-le-Francois, St-Dizier, Chaumont, Champlite, Besancon and Pontarlier, with those being the approximate places where I’ll spend the night. There are various interesting sites in some of those places, for example the war cemeteries during the first few days travel, and then General/President de Gaul’s home village, and of course the atmosphere and life in the villages towns and cities being an attraction in itself.

Obviously I won’t be able to cycle 120km a day 7 days a week, so the average distance while crossing France will be a leisurely 70-80km a day, including rest days once a week, which I have scheduled usually for a Sunday, but sometimes a day or two before or after so I can stay somewhere interesting instead of being “stuck” in a tiny village with no services open for an entire Sunday.

From the last stop in France, Pontarlier, I’ll cycle over the Jura Mountains into Switzerland, and on to Lausanne. Downhill all the way after the pass, I’m hoping the 63km total for that day will be possible, as only about half is uphill. From Losanna (I’m on the Italian map and spellings now) the route takes me over the Great St Bernard pass, no small undertaking. From Losanna I’m hoping to be on the coll in three days, the first one being a long day around the flat roads along the shore of the lake, then growing shorter until I’ll have to cycle 28km from Champex to the top of the coll. However, since it is freewheeling all the way to Aosta and further, my distance for that day should total over 95km.

From here it’s the Italian leg, which will be detailed in the next post.