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issue 6

bikepacking & long distance cycling

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Website www.viavelo.cc

Words and photography Chris Van Akeleyen, Jeroen Dijkstra (Jerome), Willem Megens

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Š 2016, ViaVelo Magazine Copyright remains with the publisher. No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher.

Words Romain Rosant Photography Guillaume Bedard, Lars Bengtsson, Francois Carrier Deziel, Alexander Giesswein, Hamza Mutlu, Leonardo Rey, Ilaria Sangaletti, Eleanor Suggett, Rudi Verhagen Cover photo Alexander Giesswein Translation and proofreading Hanneke Bergsma Concept and layout Stephan van Raay

Photo by Stephan van Raay

Welcome to issue 6 Mountains. Inseparably linked to cycling, particularly to the adventurous type. Why are we drawn to hills that much? Why do we want to sweat, tire ourselves and suffer to get to the top? The view, the kick or the fysical effort itself? Or maybe the unknown behind it? Riding uphill I constantly think about how I should take on the climb. Even when I’m not on my bike but in a car. As a person born and raised in one of the flattest countries in the world, hills almost have a mythical status to me. Looking at photographs of stunning mountain landscapes my eyes widen and my legs almost start the pedaling motion. That is why I really enjoyed making this issue with amazing stories written and photographed by the inspiring cyclists on the previous page. Enjoy! Stephan van Raay

Contents 6

The places we ride

16 Traveller 18 TransAlp 16 44 Ireland in 5 images 56 Idaho Hot Spring Trail 78 Bivouac on the col

Photo by Stephan van Raay Foto Laurens van Raay







Photo by Eleanor Suggett Lamps Moss - a wonderful, but steep, road in the Yorkshire Dales, England @elesuggett viaVelo magazine


Photo by Hamza Mutlu 8

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Photo by Lars Bengtsson | 10

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Outside Kazbegi, Northern Georgia, along the so called Georgian Military Highway

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Photo by Leonardo Rey | 12

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Kjรถlur, Route F35, Iceland |


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Photo by Ilaria Sangaletti 14

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Colle Fauniera (also known as Colle dei Morti, ‘Hill of the Dead’)

Cottian Alps, Piedmont, Northern Italy (2480 meter)


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We’ve already crossed the entire country to get me bicycles


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TRAVELLER Words and photography by Jeroen Dijkstra


aindrops rhythmically drum against

my tours. Step by step I came closer

the roof of the car. The windscreen

to that magical distance, and closer to

wipers of the Toyota have to work

accomplishing my dream. Until I became

overtime to keep the windscreen free

ill a couple of years ago. Bye bye dream.

from raindrops. Together with my father I am on my way to pick up an old Koga

But I fought my way back, and extended

Miyata randonneur bicycle. We’ve already

my tours from ten to fifty kilometers.

crossed the entire country to get me

And from fifty to a hundred. The longer

bicycles. It’s starting to become a yearly

the distances became, the closer I came



to realizing my dream of cycling around

Messenger plays in the background, I start

the IJsselmeer. And even though the

to feel nostalgic.

Koga Miyata I was about to pick up was




meant as a winterbicycle, ever since I It was my last year of primary school, and

saw the bike advertised on the internet I

after years of female schoolteachers I

couldn’t think of anything but how perfect

finally had a male one: schoolmaster Bram.

this bike would be for a tour around the

Bram was a cyclist, so I immediately liked

IJsselmeer. All of a sudden I was woken

him. One day, schoolmaster Bram told me

from my daydream by the voice of the

about his tour around the IJsselmeer. With

sat nav saying: “You have reached your

a distance of over 400 kilometers from my

destination”. Yet another step closer to

hometown, it was more than just a tour.

that one magical tour.

There was something magical about it. I was sold right away. For years I extended


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Words Chris Van Akeleyen Photography Chris Van Akeleyen & Alexander Giesswein

Once those trails turned technical the grins grew wider


visit to a friend in Japan back in 2013 led to a big bluff: we would go bike packing across the island the next summer. Plans were made and the trip came about, sparking the love for cycling and being out in the wild. Two years, a baby and countless e-mails later we had planned our next adventure: Alex would return to his Austrian homeland and lead me and an old bike polo compatriot Dan, up and down the mountains of Austria, Switzerland and Italy. On paper it all looked a bit crazy; how many vertical meters could we handle in one day? Let alone on a fully loaded steel bike, on dirt roads, for days on end? Ominous clouds hung low overhead as we rolled down the valley in formation for the first time. Brakes were checked, straps were tightened and brakes were checked again, and again. A bike with a few days of food, all the gear needed to be selfsufficient, rolling on dirt-friendly tyres

certainly demanded to be treated with respect on that first greasy decent. As we were in search of interesting trails rather than a Strava mileage tally we hopped on a train to Imst where we kicked off our tour. From Landeck on Via Claudia Augusta we were pointed straight up a mountain and through some beautiful terrain. I remember clearly the three of us grinning ear to ear after the first taste of the gravel trails. Once those trails turned technical the grins grew wider, though I’m sure the adrenalin added to the effect. We all had varying degrees of off-road experience, ranging from beginner to proficient, though the loads we were carrying added to the challenge. Still intact, the day ended in relatively civilized fashion at a campground in Pfunds where we set up the tents and went in search of what would be the first of our traditional refreshing Radlers.

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Back on Via Claudia and following mostly gravel roads we were on our way to Switzerland. Warnings from locals gave us an idea of what was to come: lots of going up. We climbed 2300m that day, mostly on beautiful fire roads but it also included passing through Uina gorge late in the afternoon. This narrow and rocky canyon was no joke. By this point we were accustomed to pushing, but this was our introduction to carrying and every gram of supplies and gear made itself known. One slip too far and we would have to put the bike rescue plan (borrow hiking boots and rope to retrieve the remains of a battered bike) into action. The breathtaking views and loud roar of the waterfalls made it all worthwhile. With some sunlight left after exiting the canyon we set up camp in between the marmots and cows. Thinking we were alone in all we could see, it was a surprise to have a visit from a cattle herder with his entourage of young daughter, two donkeys, dog and of course a goat. He’d just started his 9 week stay accompanied by 310 cows in the surrounding high meadows and the moving troop had left

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him with a few beers he was keen to share. He was gracious enough to invite us for a chat in his cozy little hut, this is an offer that shouldn’t be declined and it’d be not a bad place to spend the summer. Despite the warming food and ale, that night was a cold one with temperatures dropping down to about 2 degrees Celsius. That and the hundreds of cowbells made sure we had an early start the next morning. We bid Switzerland adieu and crossed through the rickety fence at the Italian border into South Tirol. The Passo Slingia was quite spectacular with gravel roads

going downhill past lakes, waterfalls, and an Alp Fest. The road just kept going down (cue more brake inspections) and a bike path brought us to Glorenza. After a coffee we started the ride up to Sulden, a ski village in Stelvio country. Taking us from 880 meters up to 1897 meters this hot stretch of switchbacks with countless motorcycles and tour buses was a challenge. After making it up yet another mountain we granted ourselves a resting day up in the ski town and sought out the requisite Radlers. That resting day was spent on a bus trip to a neighbouring town to learn a valuable

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The hundreds of cowbells made sure we had an early start the next morning

lesson on how seriously the Italians in this region take their siesta. We were left gazing longingly through shop windows at the brake pads and cooking gas we needed. Having been off the bike for the day, the short ride from central Sulden up a relatively gentle grade to the start of the gondola was a shock, and the effects of cycling on altitude were immediately felt. We took a gondola up to the Schaubach Hutte and spent the rest of the day fiddling on our bikes, drinking beers and wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into. The next day we’d set out to cross the Madritschjoch peak up at 3125 meters. The altitude, snow and sheer steepness of the mountain made this much tougher than we anticipated. Even Dan’s 2.1 tyres were no match for the remaining snow, so the hike up to the top was brutal but beautiful. Fat bikes were added to the collective wish list. What goes up must come down, so the rest of the day was spent going downhill. Not exactly ideal

terrain for heavily loaded non-suspension steel bikes, we knew this so walking was always in the plan. Some shrewd remarks from passing MTB bros sparked the competitive fire and a few more risks than strictly necessary were taken. With ìthe prosî still in sight we made deep into the valley in one piece and mostly unscathed. Naturns was our end point for that day. The plan for day 6 was either take a hilly route north of the mountain range or a more flat, though much longer, route to the south side. After checking with some locals we found out that there was a possible shortcut that could save us time and unnecessary climbing and drop up directly into the range. We rode to the city of Meran, asked for more directions and found a ski gondola that took us to the top of the mountain. After some extra climbing we descended into the valley through amazing forests and beautiful terrain. We had great fun on the mix of gnarly singletrack, flat gravel roads and some high speed asphalt and ended up

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in Rio Bianco, a town with a probably 12 inhabitants. With Radler served, advice collected and camp erected on the outskirts of town a bonfire was lit marking a perfect end to a great day of riding. Next on the list was the Passo di Pennès. We started down in the valley and the climb up to 2215 meters was heavy. Switchback after switchback, 13% up, motorbikes and fast cars racing by. A plate of potatoes, bacon and egg at the hut on top never tasted better. Zipping 15 kilometers down the mountain into Sterzing was fun too. As

usual Alex went barrelling by us, by this point the perception of the heavy bikes was more described as stable rather than the earlier ‘sketchy’. Day 8 started with a flat ride through a valley straight to the foot of a mountain. The last one of the trip, 953 meters up to 2255 meters. The weather was beautiful and the view over the valley was spectacular. Once on top we were about to cross the Austrian border when the rain started pouring down. Finally we had justification for carrying the rain gear.

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We raced down the mountain as much as slippery rock allows racing

We raced down the mountain, as much as slippery rock allows racing, and by the time we found a place to camp in Zamser Grund the skies had cleared and the hot meal was more than welcome. Around noon the next day we rode into Mayerhofen, another ski town, this time bustling with weekend visitors. It was a different kind of shock to the system to ride our bikes into a crowded shopping street filled with tourists. After a quick coffee we escaped onto a bike path that led us straight into the Zillertal valley, the place where Alex grew up. After 8 days of mostly gravel and rocks, it was fun to

stretch the legs and in freight-train style with Alex as the locomotive we chased down Lycra-clad cyclists. It pays to talk to people and a farmer was nice enough to let us camp on his land, which just happened to have a view over the whole valley and much of Tyrol. Here we cooked the remaining food while watching the clouds roll in and spent our last night out in the wild plotting the next trip. One final stage remained, passing through the Kundler canyon, the last beautiful slice of Austrian nature before finishing of the trip at the Wildschônau Brauerei. Three Radlers bitte!

Daniel Scott [@flailings] grew up riding BMX and dirt bikes in Adelaide, Australia. Currently based in Berlin, Germany, he travels around Europe on two wheels as often as possible. Austrian-born Alexander Giesswein [@staygold_jp] loves to hunt for KOM’s in and around Tokio, Japan. He’s also a competitive CX racer in the local league. Fixed gear bikes and hardcourt bike polo got Chris Van Akeleyen [@chrisvanakeleyen] into riding bikes. These days it’s more about riding race bikes as fast and as far as possible in Antwerp, Belgium. More photos on [flickr.com].

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Photo by Rudi Verhagen

IRELAND IN FIVE IMAGES Words Willem Megens Photography Willem Megens, Rudi Verhagen

In the summer of 2016 Rudi and Willem cycle two weeks in Ireland. The route is from Cork to the west coast, and from there to Boyle, along steep sea cliffs, over mountain passes and along many lakes. In thirteen days they ride some 1.150 kilometers and climb 9.500 meters. Go to www.themeeg.nl for the full report.

Healy pass road: fighting the elements Tired of the continuously pouring rain on the peninsula Beara we take a shortcut via the Healy pass. There we battle against the fierce wind. This pass road was constructed during the Great famine (1845-1850) to improve access to remote areas.

Photo by Rudi Verhagen

Photo by Willem Megens


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Ballaghisheen: turf lying next to the road In the Netherlands turf is something of the past, known from the Breda Peat Boat (1590) and the poor laborers shoveling peat in the province of Drenthe in the 19th century. On numerous spots in Ireland this energy source is still being produced. What remains are straight ditches.

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Inisheer Island: O’Brien’s Castle is watching us After having cycled in the Burren area we take the ferry to the compact Aran Island. We camp at the bottom of a hill, which is dominated by the O’Brien’s Castle that dates from the 14th century. After Rudi has skillfully pitched the tent we head for the pub.


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Photo by Willem Megens

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Sky Road: a picturesque coastal area We cycle through the barren Connemara area to Clifden. From there we continue on the Sky Road: a narrow and sometimes steep coastal road to a viewpoint. Nature is turned into productive land wherever possible; no escape even for the tiny islands.

Photo by Willem Megens

Easky: Never a dull moment with these locals Today’s trip is really boring: riding along the coast in rural area, lacking any highlights. We complain to these two locals. But they are not very responsive. That’s all we needed… We quickly finish our lunch and move on!


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Photo by Willem Megens

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Photo by Guillaume Bedard

Words Romain Rosant Photography Guillaume Bedard & Francois Carrier Deziel

What follows is the most amazing single-track any rider can dream of


irst let’s just make something clear, Idaho is not just the land of potatoes! Our fall 2015 tour of the Idaho Hot Spring Trail shows us that it’s a backpacker’s paradise. Leaving Montreal (Canada) we plan to do the lower main loop in ten days. The full loop is over 500 miles with a great choice of single-track options. We are riding our fatbikes with brand new 29+ and 27.5+ wheels. Along with the bare minimum to survive and a GPS track provided by the Adventure Cycling Association we are en route for the ride of a lifetime. It’s becoming a yearly tradition for an adventure fix, entering a playground that is first and foremost an amazing and endless amount of breathtaking scenery. As we are leaving Boise on our first day of the trip, we make a relatively gentle ascent towards Lucy Peak State Park in order to reach our first camp at the edge of Arrowrock Reservoir. The lunar landscapes sculpted by dams sharply contrast with the surrounding aridity and massive accumulation of water created by the artificial pond. We literally feel like being in an oasis in the middle of the desert. The only downside is that the water contains a large amount of algae and that we need our coffee filter before we can drink it. Otherwise the road is smooth, the views spectacular and the weather is on our side. We continue our journey northeast, on the North Fork Boise River Road and then the Middle Fork Boise River Road. The ascent is still


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Photo by Guillaume Bedard

Photo by Francois Carrier Deziel


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smooth along the river as we get to the campsites at Pfifer Creek Road. Our first beer of the trip is a good old Budweiser that we deeply enjoy as we sit with both feet in the river. The landscapes are changing quite fast now and we discover the mountains and a much deeper forest. Until the third day, everything was pretty smooth. ‘Epic’ could be a word to describe it, but the locals would call it ‘insane’. When we are heading towards Atlanta the inclines get steeper, especially when we reach Willow Creek Trail single-track. The track becomes more brutal with every step. We climb 2200m while following the Flint creek and the Decker creek trailhead; the last part being mostly a hike-a-bike section. As we reach the summit the sun sets and we stop to camp for the night. The sunset is particularly beautiful up here. Besides the view we also enjoy our well-deserved rest, even though we have to sleep in all our clothes in these low temperatures. What goes up must come down. What follows after yesterday’s climb is the most amazing single-track any rider can dream of. A great reward for all the hard work of

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Photo by Guillaume Bedard

Photos by Guillaume Bedard


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the previous day. It’s nothing but downhill in the Sawtooth National Park. We almost lose Romain at the corner of a cliff at some point. When we stop in Featherville for a burger and some supplies, we find the grocery store closed. Fortunately, the local cafÊ owner is more than willing to help us out, and he lets us buy all the snacks we need to reach Ketchum. While we are then heading for the five point campground, we notice that the South Fork Boise Road has just been hit by a landslide due to overflowing water from the nearby creek. The fallen rocks are so big that even pushing our bikes is not an

option. We literally have to lift them off the ground in order to go forward. The fifth day begins uphill with the Carrie Creek road along the Dollarhide Mountain. We reach the summit (2600m) around midday. What lays ahead is another of those mythic descents to Ketchum in the Sunvalley. We arrive into town like three pilgrims; dirty and smelly. Our singletrack option took some extra time so we decide to sleep in a hotel for a good night of recovery. We dry our gear and plan a 120-kilometer ride for the next day. But for the night we enjoy every bit of the

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Photo by Francois Carrier Deziel 66

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Photos by Guillaume Bedard


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mountain town. The small hotel room looks a lot like a bicycle garage. We take much needed showers and attempt to put on a clean, civilized appearance with the few clean clothes we have left. As we head out for real food, the pizzeria around the corner ends up to be our final destination. Two XXL pizzas and IPA beers coming our way. We eat like there is no tomorrow. But there is a tomorrow, and it starts just before sunrise. We leave Ketchum as thieves in the night, and by the light of our headlamps we climb about 50 kilometers along Highway 75. After Galena, we take ‘the old road’ to the summit. It’s more of a horse trail than a road and therefore as rugged as you can imagine. The summit at 2600m brings us a scenic view of the valley. The sun and the wind are on our side, and the valley road is particularly nice and smooth. After several hours at a good pace and countless herds of sheep crossing the path we get to Stanley in the late afternoon to refuel before we camp. Following the Nipa and Tuc road we are getting short on water. Needing it for dinner we keep pushing until we get to Sheep Trail Campground. The fire, water and most importantly the beer, are much appreciated. On that single 130 km day we saw both sunrise and sunset from our saddles.

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Photo by Guillaume Bedard


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Photos by Guillaume Bedard


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The next morning is particularly chilly, and we need to start a fire in order to get Guillaume out of his tent. Next up is a paved shortcut where we ride like mad men in the Tour de France. We ride closely behind each other to protect each other from the wind and relay on the frontman to push those beastly bikes forward. Along the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route we stop for a ridiculously big burger. By the end of the day we get to Garden Valley Hot Spring and get to enjoy that naturally warm water. The only thing missing is a beer and Guillaume makes the ultimate sacrifice by biking those extra five miles to the nearest convenience store to get a sixpack of refreshing cold ones. The following ride to Idaho City is a lot of climbing and descending. . We end with a nice descent, and when we reach Idaho City around midday we ride faster than the nearby motorcycles. We park the bikes like horses at a classic saloon and enjoy a cowboy lunch.

Guillaume Bedard


Francois Carrier Deziel


There we learn that a huge forest fire is raging nearby. The thick smoke is already beginning to engulf Idaho City. Unfortunately both we and the fire are heading in the same direction. We are trying to avoid getting stuck behind roadblocks for an indefinite period of time since we have a plane to catch in two days. Armed with a scarf over our noses we decide to put our trust in the smoky road, the goal being a seat on that plane. Fortunately the firefighter later confirms that the road is now cleared and that it is safe to camp on the Creek Road Grimm. Still we hear sirens all night while a thin layer of ash deposits on our tents. We eat breakfast as ash is still falling. Although the fire seems under control, the smoke is still around on the eve of our final day. 50 kilometers later we arrive to warm showers. New plan: a bike tour to every brewery we can find. Finally, we pack our bikes on time to return home the next day.

Romain Rosant

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Photo by Francois Carrier Deziel


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BIVOUAC ON THE COL Words and photography by Jelle de Bock


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The sun burns on my back, and as I ride I see the drops of sweat fall down on the dusty path


eptember 2015, France, departments Savoie, Isère, and Hautes Alpes. 169 kilometers of bikepacking from SaintJean-de-Maurienne to Modane around the mountain massifs of Aiguilles d’Arves and Mont Thabor. The journey’s points of departure and arrival are easily accessible by train. The track follows parts of the Tour du Mont Thabor until Nevache, and finishes via the GR5 in Modane. I take my time and divide the tour into five days, camping on or near cols. I enjoy the peace and quiet and the views of the tops of the Ecrins and the Vanoise. I brought all the food with me, and water is easily found in the villages I pass during my descents through the valleys.

On the first day my legs aren’t quite functioning yet. It’s a gray day with an occasional downpour. The bike is still heavy from all the food I’m carrying. I need all day to climb the 1,600 meters to one of the few flat surfaces where I can make my camp. The second day it starts for real. I push my bike over the 2,291 meter high Col de la Valette and take the challenging singletrack in order to reach the La Valette river. Descending through the valley I follow this river for a while and arrive in Besse (1,530 m) in order to stock up on water from a nearby tap. I’ll need it. The sun burns on my back, and as I ride I see the drops of sweat fall down on the dusty path that takes me to Plateau d’Emparis, 800

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meters higher. I leave the mountain huts behind, and just past the highest point of the day I make my camp, overlooking the snow of Les Deux Alpes. It is a cold night, and I decide to wear my down jacket in my sleeping bag. The advantage of a high camp is that the next day usually starts with a long descent. Today I will enjoy a total of 1,800 meters of descending, but also 1,922 meters of climbing. Riding past small villages and over beautiful paths, I come closer to the big challenge of the day: via Col du Lautaret to Col du Galibier. I quickly leave the road behind and follow a path that meanders up to the col. In the distance I see campervans and motorists up the road. Here on the path it is quieter but also much steeper, so I have to push my bicycle uphill for the most part. Downhill I first take the road, where I run into a large number of cyclists who tame this climb on a roadbike. This has been the most crowded part of the ride. About 700 meters lower I can start mountain biking again. I climb up to Camp des Rochilles. Besides some military barracks there is a small unmanned refuge, in which I spend

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the night. I’m glad that I have been able to experience this cycling classic. Behind every col a totally different landscape appears. Again the day starts with a long descent, but first I pass the mirror-smooth Lac Rond (2,454 m). The descent to Roubion, situated 970 meters lower, has it all: singletrack, double-track, rubble-slopes, forests, pastures, waterfalls… I enjoy it. Something else I enjoy is a high bivouac. Tonight I

make my nice and lonely camp close to Lac Chavillon on Col des Thures, with an altitude of 2,200 meters. What a view! The last day of the journey I follow the GR5 further up north and descent along the Col de la Vallée Etroite to Modane. Every day of this journey has a different style and a different character, and that makes it very interesting.


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ViaVelo 6 English  

Contents: • The places we ride • Traveller • TransAlp 16 • Ireland in 5 images • Idaho Hot Spring Trail • Bivouac on the col

ViaVelo 6 English  

Contents: • The places we ride • Traveller • TransAlp 16 • Ireland in 5 images • Idaho Hot Spring Trail • Bivouac on the col

Profile for viavelo