I planned to ride a couple of loops that Ben, a local cyclist, had recommended. The routes incorporated most of the tarmac ‘balcony’ roads in the valley (a balcony road is one that contours along the side of a valley, at a certain height above the valley floor).
The Ride. Set off for Bourg St Maurice and tried to find the ‘white road’ marked on the maps that follows the river Isere around from the Power station to the auberge de jeunesse in Pont de Longefoy, keeping to the south of the river. No luck! Later found out that it is barely rideable by mountain bike, and very difficult to find, so a no-go for roadies. Continued through Seez and found the D84b with no difficulty. A beautiful uphill road through the forest to Villaroger, with glimpses up the valley to Val d’Isere.
I missed the right and then sharp left hand turn in Ste-Foy-Tarentaise partly due to very confusing cycling signposts and partly because my GPS was way too zoomed out. I found myself in the village itself, which was lucky because it was worth exploring. Lots of very narrow passages and streets with enticing views to the mountains.
After filling my water bottle at one of the many troughs I continued on up through the villages of la Masure with the occasional steep uphill trawl, at last swooping down through Montvelazan to BSM for lunch.
I stopped at a restaurant called L’Angival which served an excellent Plat de Jour of pork ribs and mash potato, and then onto the second part of the ride.
The road up to les Chapelles was a steady but hot climb. Managed to re-fill my water bottle in Montgirod. The village of les Chapelles had an interesting church, very narrow old streets and a real feeling that nothing had changed for a long time. An old couple who must have been at least in their 80’s were working their vegetable garden. Didn’t dare take a photo, but wanted to. I was also tempted by a very narrow road leading up the hill, which I noted for later exploration.
The rest of the ride was a breath-taking roller coaster ride along the side of the valley with views across to the snow-capped mountains of Bellecote, Mont Pourri and beyond. I had one of those endorphin fueled moments where my world was 100% complete.
The Verdict. Difficult to improve on. A great ride for roadies who want a day off from riding up cols.