I aimed to recce a loop ride through the village of Notre Dame du Pre that avoided the N90 tunnel.
The Ride. I set out from the chalet towards Aime and took a left hand turn to Longefoy, just after the village of Macot-la-Plagne. Encountering problems with a slipping gear, I turned my bike upside down to investigate, and all my dried apricots, chocolate buttons and Tesco’s flapjack squares fell into the road. Ignoring the 5 second rule, I spent the next 10 mins picking bits if twig and leaf off them and returning them to my top tube bag. It seemed like an inauspicious start.
I headed gently upwards for around 8 kms to a beautiful section of road above the tree line from Longefoy to the village of Notre Dame du Pre. With the sound of cow bells and masses of wild flowers in the alpine meadows, I suddenly found myself having a ‘Sound of Music’ moment and realised how lucky I was not to be sitting at a desk somewhere. Both villages were very picturesque and I noted that Notre Dame du Pre had a restaurant/bar for future rides. The climb topped out at 1300 ms at the Col de Tra; not one of the famous Tour de France ascents, so in a slightly subversive way, I liked it all the more!
The descent was a steep set of ‘short limbed’ switch-backs on poorly maintained tarmac. It was hard on the hands but better going down than up.
At the valley floor, I attempted to find a way back avoiding the N90 tunnel and having checked it out on google earth, I thought I could see an alternative, but all my attempts to find a rideable road along the valley failed and I found myself at the blocked off entrance to the old tunnel. I conceded defeat for today and lifted my bike over the barrier on to the N90 and into the tunnel on a well-marked bike lane. The sight of the bike lane allayed my fears a little but a couple of hundred metres in to the tunnel and the noise from cars approaching from both directions was completely dis-orientating. It wasn’t dangerous, just extremely unpleasant, and luckily fairly short-lived at 650ms. After another fruitless attempt to access the old road at the tunnel exit, I finally managed to escape on the first available right-hand turn in Centrion (about 2 km). Having ignored the no right turn sign, I found myself almost immediately on a quiet two-way road.
I realized keeping off the dreaded N90 involved a certain amount of climbing up the side of the valley, and that eliminating it entirely would involve climbing another 450ms (vertically!). In the end I decided on a compromise and found an extremely narrow (and extremely quiet) tarmac road through Villette and back to Aime which included another 2km of fairly innocuous N90. I had a quick coffee stop at Rive Gauche, a restaurant/bar at the start of the Isere river cycle path, and mused on my somewhat failed first attempt at keeping off the main roads and finding some interesting non-tarmac sections.
The Verdict: Too much main road.
Notes for future rides:
Postscript: Not possible to avoid the N90 via Moutier (as no.1 suggests). Most likley N90 avoidence plan is to keep entirely to the south side of the valley on gravel tracks. This is not yet reccied.