Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tournon to Annecy

On July 14th, I rode from Tournon to Annecy, discovering two minor mountain passes along the way.

View Tournon to Annecy in a larger map

Shrouded pear trees on the road to the
Col de Tamié
After a lovely little breakfast at the B&B, I got my usual early start. When I told the proprietor that I was headed to Annecy, he knew I would be crossing the Col de Tamié. I found that comforting, in a way, that people know about these "cols" outside of cycling.

Again I was putting miles on a wounded bike, but by now I was gaining confidence that the broken rear spoke wasn't going to make the rear rim get any worse. And given that today was a holiday, it certainly wasn't going to get fixed today regardless.

The morning was very pleasant, becoming slightly muggy as I climbed. The fog got thicker as well, particularly as the road began passing through woods.

D201c heads into the clouds
Fog on the road toward the Col de Tamié
At the top there was the usual sign, and I took my usual picture next to it.

One of the cheese-making residents of the
Abbaye de Tamié
The previous evening the B&B proprietor had mentioned the Abbeye de Tamié, which produced the cheese I had for dinner and may have been originally responsible for the building I slept in (that part wasn't quite clear). I was expecting it to be right there at the summit, but as it turns out it's a little further along. There was a sign for a turnoff, and since this was a short day, I was inclined to take all the side-trips that sounded interesting.

I followed the driveway for a bit, not really knowing what to expect, and eventually came to a sort of visitor's center. Clearly this was a larger operation than I expected, and since I didn't really want to invest that much time, I continued on my way.

The valley around Seythenex
A little further along I saw signs for a Grotte and Cascade (i.e. cave and waterfall), so I followed that lead, too. It took me down some little roads that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. That was good, but the actual destination was a tourist area; you couldn't see anything from the road. I continued on.

Toward the Col de la Forclaz
My plan was to follow the road along the west side of the lake, the left side from this direction, to the city. But as I was pedaling along I saw a sign for the Col de la Forclaz, which seems to go around the east/right side of the lake. Well, why not?

I came to learn that the Col de la Forclaz is a substantial climb, marked as 8 km but that includes some downhill sections. It was very steep, with lots of sections of 10% or more. The most difficult kilometer was in this section, at 11.4%.

If you're looking it up, you probably want to know that there's a different pass in Switzerland with the same name. This one has been used a few times in the Tour de France; I think in 2004 it was a category 1 climb (and the Col de Tamié was a Cat 2 in the same stage).

The Col de la Forclaz
Apparently the pass is used as a base for paragliding. It was busy as I passed through, with a few cyclists and lots of others enjoying the hiking or paragliding. I headed down the other side a bit, found a good spot for a picnic, and had a sandwich.

The Annecy lakefront, as the rain clears
Shortly afterward it began to rain. It was coming down hard, but not especially cold, so I was happy. The rain let up just as I entered Annecy along its very pretty lakefront. After being disappointed in my brief exposure to Albertville I wasn't expecting much, but Annecy turned out to be fantastic. The infrastructure seemed healthy, the lakefront was lively, and the touristy old town was much more than I expected.

Rue de Pâquier in Annecy
This place even has canals!
At the hotel they put my broken bike in the basement ("backstage", as the hostess put it), and I showered and enjoyed the sights. Dinner was a terrine, Tajine du Poullet (a sort of stew with chicken thighs), and crème brûlée.
My view for the fireworks. It filled up
as the sky darkened.

As it was also Bastille Day, after a short rest at the hotel I went back down to the lakefront to see the fireworks. I hadn't asked anybody where they would be; it was pretty obvious. The park filled with tens of thousands of people and finally the show started. It was fantastic, similar in scale to those of Washington, D.C. on the Fourth of July, despite Annecy being a relatively small town.

Elevation profile
This was a short day, at just 33 miles and 3800 feet of climbing. The day held several discoveries, notably the fierce Col de la Forclaz climb and the wonderful town of Annecy.

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