Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Grenoble to Allevard

On Monday I started my French bike tour by riding from Grenoble to Allevard.

View Grenoble to Allevard in a larger map

I had arrived in Grenoble the previous evening, lugging my bike in its box from the plane to the TGV train. As it turns out, that was the right idea; there would have been no place to put a constructed bike on the train, despite the little bicycle logo that appeared on the RailEurope web page. Still no idea what that meant.

Looking west from D1090, north of Grenoble
I unpacked and rebuilt the bike Sunday night. The biggest challenge with packing a bike is that the TSA will unpack it, and repack it with their usual level of competence. In my case, the bike arrived unbroken. I had a bunch of fiddly parts in a sealed plastic bag, and the TSA had left that open. But all the parts were still in the box, so I was OK.

Streets of Grenoble
After a barely-adequate breakfast I hit the streets at about 9:30. Grenoble is a small town by population, but it's pleasantly urban. I didn't have a feel for how traffic worked, but there were lots of bike lanes and lots of bicyclists. In town, all the bicyclists were commuters, on comfy town bikes and without helmets. I wouldn't see another lycra/helmet/road bike goofball like me until I was well out of town. While I was making calculations at every intersection, these commuters would glide gracefully through the town. Eventually I found that just following one of them, whenever possible, was the best idea.

From the map, the D1090 road looked like a good choice to head north up the valley. There's a parallel highway, so I thought it would be pretty quiet. Not so. There was a ton of traffic, but it was always polite. And since it was normally small cars (not SUVs or pickup trucks), there was plenty of room. Nonetheless, when I came across a winding little bike path, I took it.

At some point I decided that I would ride up to Pontcharra, then approach Allevard from the north, taking the long way 'round the hill between the main valley and Allevard. So I got back on D1090 and headed north. When I got to Pontcharra I rode around the whole town twice, trying to find a suitable place for a sweaty rider to get something meaningful to eat. I ended up at the supermarket, buying a packaged sandwich.

The church at St. Maximin
Back on the bike and feeling pretty good, I decided to take the D9 road around the hill, rather than the (apparently) flatter D925. This road climbed steeply at the beginning, then at a moderate grade up to 1800 feet or so. It passed through charming, tiny little villages along the way.

Having rounded the hill, the I descended into Allevard. I didn't know what to expect, having just picked a hotel out of in complete ignorance. The town itself was perfect, with a nice square surrounded by cafes and a suitably imposing church. The hotel was in a very old building, but was fine; the worst part was that I had to wait until 6 PM to check in.
The square in Allevard

Dinner was down the road at Les Trianons, and was spectacularly great.

Elevation profile
This first ride was about 43 miles, with 2200 feet of climbing. I was very slow, both in moving speed and in overall average. The slow moving speed is partly due to the heavy bag I'm carrying, but mostly due to me gawking at all the fantastic sights. Just as planned.

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