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Old 10-02-2013, 09:11 AM   #1
The Blue Kazoo OP
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A Stella trip to the Alps

Hey inmates, I'm going to post a RR on my summer trip to the alps back in July, hope you enjoy.

Its was a solo trip from Ireland to the Stella Alpina rally in the Italian Alps and back taking in as many alpine passes as possible.

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DSC06325 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Bike: Triumph tiger 800xc,
Tyres: Michelin anakee 3 (more road trip than dirt, but no issues with either surface when needed).
Total mileage: 3200km door to door, plus return ferry trip!
Mixture of camping and budget hotels.

So lets get going, all packed and ready to leave home. It was exciting to be finally packed and fueled up to go, even the weather was cooperating with some lovely sunshine. It was bittersweet to be leaving Ireland during one of the best heatwaves in a decade (an Irish heatwave is one or more days above 20C or depending on the year it can be actually measured in hours rather than days ).
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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

I decided on the overnight ferry from Ireland to Cherbourg in France, and then gave myself two days riding to reach the alps. After arriving in France I was eager to get some distance under my belt and rolling off the ferry at about 4pm I open the throttle and point the bike south. Stopping once to refuel I reach my first nights rest on the outskirts of Tours, roughly 400km from Cherbourg.

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DSC06124 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

As the Stella alpina rally is on the second Sunday in July I find myself heading south along much of the same route as the 2013 route of the Tour de France. My schedule puts me one day ahead of the Tour today, which for a cycling fan is cruel. However, the temptation to hang around and watch the Tour the next day is countered by the closed roads and heavy traffic and detours which accompany the beast. I take some satisfaction in riding on the same roads as the pros on hours ahead of them.

After a noisy, humid night in a budget hotel I awake to another beautiful day. Today is going to break the back of the trip and get me down to the foothills of the alps. My route takes me from Tours-Clermont Ferrand- Lyon- Chambery and is roughly 600km in total. I start full of hope of using lovely quiet backroads but soon lose patience and hit the peage motorway and blast off in the hope of an early campsite beside a mountain lake!

After a long day on motorways and a piping hot slow commute around Lyon in shit traffic I arrive at my destination Camping Bellevue on Lac d'Aiguebelette.

A new perspective, wish I could relax like this..
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DSC06139 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

So 24 hours after arriving in France I settle down in my tent with the alps on my doorstep! Tomorrow I start riding the roads I've been planning all Spring long, its biking Christmas eve.
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:10 AM   #2
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Day 3 Chambery to Briancon.

A short ride of 200km or so but on the good side its all on nice twisty alpine roads, the sun is shining and all the high passes were well cleared of snow.

First up is col du Glandon 1924m.
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DSC06150 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Alpine backdrop by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06156 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

A short detour to the Col de Croix de Fer is next and the views are wonderful. Riding the bike on these roads is amazing, the constant battle between stopping for photos or pushing on into the next set of hairpin turns is relentless.
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DSC06165 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

As I mentioned earlier, Le Tour is hot on my heels and I have a date with the famous Alp d'Huez, just an insignificant dot on a map right?
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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]
The 21 hairpin bends of this climb are just cruel for cyclists but I bet they feel a lot more satisfaction on reaching the summit. Me, I was just happy to enjoy these superb roads but I did find myself vowing to return and tackle it by pedal power in the near future.
I stopped for lunch in Alp d'huez and then the plan was to ride over the route de col du Sarenne, but it was closed a week ahead of the race to stop camper vans and cars blocking the narrow road. Another reason to return here And so with a big smile I descend the 21 hairpins again, bummer!

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DSC06199 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

The ride up the Col Du Galibier blow me away. This was a road which made riding the bike and taking in the vistas just too much. So most of the pics I took are stills from the helmet cam but you can still appreciate the stunning surroundings.
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DSC06207 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Twisty by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Twisty way down by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Each new alpine pass exceeds the other, I am so glad for the opportunity to ride here. There are numerous more exotic places to ride, but the alps have always captured my imagination the most, I need to find a way to live here

After the highs of this day I book into a lovely guesthouse in Briancon and go to do the touristy thing around town, explore the old fort and have some beer.
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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]
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Old 10-03-2013, 07:21 AM   #3
Frey Bentos
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Jealous. keep it coming.
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Old 10-03-2013, 08:21 AM   #4
The Blue Kazoo OP
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Briancon to Stella Alpina campsite.

Saturday 13th July.
Route for the day, head up to the Col d'Izoard and then turn around and ride over the border into Bardonecchia, stop for lunch and then head up to the campsite for the rally near the refuge.

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DSC06228 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

I'm not the only one with this plan!
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DSC06230 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06231 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

An Austrian couple on a KTM 1190 stop beside me, what a super looking bike it is. We chat and I ask the dude to take my photo. For a second I thought he was making off with my camera as he disappeared across the road and up a hill. Turns out he has a good eye for perspective and capturing the landscape, thank you sir.
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DSC06236 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

The obligatory photographer positioned at one of the hairpins snaps me, so a souvenir is born.
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Col D'Izoard by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06255 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

The descent from the Izoard to the Casse Desert
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DSC06271 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06277 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06286 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

The variation in the landscape is inspiring, the roads never cease to entertain and the blue sky is the icing on a very big cake.
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DSC06274 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Soon enough I find myself drawn back down from these wonderful roads and a sense of anticipation for what awaits me on the Italian side of these lovely alps. I'm heading towards Bardonecchia for some lunch and hopefully some courage to take this big bike off road.
I choose to ride from Briancon via the mountain pass Pian Del Colle (not sure if that is correct spelling, sorry Italia).

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DSC06305 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06296 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Arrived at the beginning! 1200km from home and a day early for the main event.
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DSC06307 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]
I have cold beer and some pizza in the cafe opposite the railway station. There are bikes and people of all shapes and sizes, but a heavy emphasis on dirt bikes and scramblers too. My brain starts to doubt whether this event is really aimed at all bikers. I wonder will my beast with loaded panniers and rollbag be too much for me to handle on the narrow dirt tracks
But I didn't come all this way to sit in a cafe wondering either

So with a bit of throttle and a lot of dust I'm up on the pegs and heading for my night camping among the stars and sounds of every possible motorbike engine humming in the night.
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IMG_0573 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06339 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Beats a hotel room any day.
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DSC06335 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06359 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Home for the night.
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DSC06314 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:05 PM   #5
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Bikes of the Stella alpina

A slow walk around the makeshift campsite revealed a true sense of what the rally is about. There was every type of bike imaginable.
Ok, so a large gathering of adventure bikes and off road thumpers are destined to arrive here, but it was the refreshing to see some unusual road bikes make the journey.

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DSC06354 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06323 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

This owner really has the best of both worlds.
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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

I woke early Sunday morning, which was Bastille day for the French guys. Already you could hear and see bikes blasting up the zig-zags. I planned an early start before the trail got too crowded and because I needed to hit the road by afternoon to start heading northwards through the alps.
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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06373 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06384 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

I haven't been to this event before, but from reading up on other trip reports it seems that it is possible to ride all the way to the Col at an altitude of 3009m or thereabouts, but only after all the packed snow has melted.
This year the compacted snow still caused a few problems on the higher shaded corners and eventually stopped progress at around 2830m going by my gps.
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DSC06385 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Rocky road by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Mud and snow by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Eventually I reached as far as the track would allow progress. The end, kind of came abruptly and without much fuss, everyone just abandoned their bike where the snowline was impassable. I enjoyed the highpoint, a personal best. Coming from a country where the highest road only reaches 600m'ish, and the highest peak is a lofty 1029m this was a Sunday morning ride to be cherish.

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DSC06376 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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DSC06375 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Going back down the trail was not without its tricky moments too. Also there was now more riders coming up which made the tight snow & rock strewn hairpins a real challenge, for me anyway.

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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Soon, the tricky sections were over and I could relax a bit more and enjoy the ride. Again, the need to stop for some photos weighed heavy against the want to keep on riding. It was trail I never wanted to end.

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DSC06391 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

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IMG_0572 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

Back down at the campsite, I'm pretty happy to have survived the trail without any mishaps, after all this bike still has to get me the 1200km back home in one piece. I love this tiger 800 more and more with each new experience.
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Untitled by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]

I pack up my tent and gear. I have had a great time hear in the mountains. But its time to put some miles under my belt by heading north following the Route des Grandes Alpes which will finish one of the best Sundays I've ever spent on a bike.

Ciao! Stella Alpina.
I head off as another guy begins his ride up.
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DSC06397 by gormedic, on Flickr[/IMG]
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Old 10-07-2013, 12:14 PM   #6
Frey Bentos
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Lovely!
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Old 04-18-2014, 10:40 AM   #7
kejago
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Deserves a bump!

Anyone up for a 2014 Stella?
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:30 AM   #8
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Loved the pics. Nice report. Thanks.
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Old 04-18-2014, 09:50 PM   #9
joenuclear
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Nice!!!
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