Col de Méraillet (1,605 m), Cormet de Roselend (1,968 m) and Col de l’Iseran (2,770 m)
The first two hills of the day (Col de Méraillet and Cormet de Roselend) are pretty much the same climb. From the top of Méraillet there’s a short descent around the Roselend Lake before the relatively short climb to the summit of the Cormet begins. The Col de Méraillet takes a picturesque route through forests and the view across the lake is stunning. The Cormet de Roselend took us above the tree line and has an amazing descent to Bourg Saint Maurice.
We stopped for morning coffee in Bourg and visited a cycle shop in search of casquettes (cycling caps). I’d left mine in the box in Geneva where it probably got binned, Luke didn’t bring one, and Marcus maintained that his hair provided sufficient cover and didn’t want one. The shop in Bourg only had one hat so I bought it: An Ag2r La Mondiale team cap in dismal brown.
At 2,770 m, the Col de l’Iseran is the highest point we reach on this tour, in fact, it’s officially the highest pass in the Alps*. It connects the valley of the Isère and the valley of the Arc River between Val-d’Isère in the north and Bonneval-sur-Arc.
Before tackling the climb proper, we stopped in the ski resort of Val-d’Isère for lunch, which turned out to be more difficult than we thought. Almost everything was closed. We eventually found a restaurant that was open and paid too much money for not enough food. It was better than nothing though.
The Col de l’Iseran is a nice ride with plenty of stunning views and quite a lot of snow around near the top. I rode up with Marcus and we got some good photos of the roadside snowdrifts.
The ride down the Maurienne valley to Modane was tough with a strong headwind and having found a hotel we sank a few beers before heading up to the rooms to shower and change. Dinner was in a local pizza restaurant where we munched our way through a full three courses.
* There remains some debate around which is the highest pass in Europe, but I’m going with the Col de l’Iseran. The road around the Cime de la Bonette reaches an altitude of 2,802 m, but this is not a “pass”, but merely a scenic loop. It is, however, the highest asphalted road in France and is the highest through road in Europe. The actual Col de la Bonette rises to 2,715 m so there are three Alpine road passes whose altitudes are higher: Col de l’Iseran (2,770 m), Stelvio Pass (2,757 m) and Col Agnel (2,744 m). The highest paved road in Europe is the access road to Veleta in the Sierra Nevada, Spain which reaches 3,392 m, but it is not a through road (or a pass).