Tour 2004,  28 June - 2 July

stagedistance (km)climbing (m)
Lignières - Les Verrières - Châtelblanc - La Serra - Oyonnax1851970
Oyonnax - Le Cendrier - Pisseloup - La Rochette - Plans d'Hotonnes1382830
Plans d'Hotonnes - Grand Colombier - L'Épine - Granier1393110
Granier - La Cluse - Romeyère - L'Écharasson - Chapelle-en-Vercors1723440
Chapelle-en-Vercors - Croix-Perrin - Grenoble71920

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Stage 1 (28 June 2004): Lignières - Les Verrières - Châtelblanc - La Serra - Oyonnax


Just as wished, the weather forecasts were good for at least 3 days counting from this Monday morning. I was in Lignières since the eve and had breakfast with my parents and my brother Alain before starting for this year's bicycle tour. First, i went down to Neuchâtel, then towards the Val de Travers. I rode all the way up to the Champs Berthoud short before Les Verrières and the border to France. The sky was cloudy, the temperature was perfect and there was not too much traffic: everything was all right. Only as i came down on the main road south of Pontarlier did i encounter many cars and trucks, but i did not had to go far on this way and turned right towards the lake of St-Point. Especially along the lake, but then also along the upper course of the Doubs river, i was crossing a region with some tourism. I passed Mouthe, the source of the Doubs, around midday and continued towards the south-west over Châtelblanc, passing then from the Doubs into the Jura department. Then i turned left to the Savine pass, which was of no particular interest except that it brought me to Morbier, a town famous for its large pendulum clocks, which French name is... morbier. I stayed on the right side of the Bienne valley and climbed to Château-des-Prés before riding again south and down to St-Claude. This city is entirely built on the slopes of several valleys coming together there. I had a drink and a sandwich on a terrace and exchanged a few words with a cyclist from Basel on a two- day tour. Then, however, it was not easy to leave St-Claude and its strange traffic regulation; at least i did not have to ride too much up and down before finding the exit towards the Serra pass. This climb was quite hard, not so much because of the slope itself but because it was now hot. From the pass, i had to ride all the way down to the valley before i found an hotel.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Les Prés (Lignières)0920 
Les Gravereules195030
La Coudre1155060
Champs Berthoud50940190
Le Frambourg63860 
Les Combettes6795090
Le Crétêt108950150
Les Martins112860 
La Savine115990130
Les Mouillés125860 
Les Prés-de-Valfin140860 
Sur la Côte14188020
La Serra1661050620
total185 1970

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Stage 2 (29 June 2004): Oyonnax - Le Cendrier - Pisseloup - La Rochette - Plans d'Hotonnes


The weather was fine as i left Oyonnax for this second stage. Riding first south-west, i had to cross two small mountain ridges before a steep descent from the Berthiand pass towards Cerdon, in a valley with some vineyards. Then, apparently almost erratically, i went over several passes and across or along valleys of the region, the Bugey. The passes of Montratier, Le Cendrier, Pisseloup, Le Cruchon, La Berche and La Lèbewere not high and most of them were small department roads in the forests. The shade of the trees was more and more appreciated as the temperature was climbing and climbing. The main activity in the valleys was agriculture. Many houses appeared abandoned, showing that the local economy is not flourishing. For the cyclists, it is disappointing to see that all fountains are either dry or their water marked as non-drinkable. And there are no shops or bakeries except in the larger towns. After riding twice over the same ridge (La Rochette and Cuvillat passes), i hoped to find an hotel in L'Abergement. There had been one on each side of the river, but both were now closed. I asked people and they told me to climb to a small resort higher on the valley side. Because i was now tired and thirsty, i did not really appreciate this supplement. And when i arrived at the Plans d'Hotonnes, i had to ask at four different places till i found a place to sleep. At least it was a very nice little 'gîte', at a beautiful and calm location. The dinner, as mostly in France, was delicious and plentiful (even for a cyclist).

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Quatre Buis8690170
Pont de Préau (Cerdon)38300 
Le Lancieux49790290
Le Cendrier5279060
Le Cruchon7090060
La Berche75860 
La Lèbe88910130
La Rochette1101110500
Les Ollières (Lompnes)118800 
Les Plans d'Hotonnes1361120370
La Grange des Plans1381040 
total138 2830

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Stage 3 (30 June 2004): Plans d'Hotonnes - Grand Colombier - L'Épine - Granier


After a nice descent in the Val Romey valley, i turned left and climbed towards the Col de la Biche (pass of the hind). It was quite a long but pleasant climb, all in the shade in the morning and with almost no traffic. Short after the pass, i left the road to take a foot path and then a gravel road. This shortcut allowed me to reach La Selle and to climb to the Grand Colombier without having to go all the way down to the valley; but these were really 3 km of cyclocross! The Grand Colombier is the last summit of the Jura and has the Rhône river at its south foot. There are four different ways to climb to the pass, which is very close to the summit. All these roads have irregular slopes, with some very steep parts. I was happy that it was not yet too warm and the pass rewarded me with a beautiful panoramic view... and with a nice, long descent to Culoz. The further down i came, the further up went the temperature. It was noon as i arrived at Culoz, at the bottom of the lower cliffs of the Grand Colombier. I bought something to eat and to drink, crossed the Rhône and rode straight south. After some 20 km, the road left the river and started to climb gently to Novalaise. Before reaching this town, however, i made a small detour over the Crusille pass. I had to beg for some water because the water of the fountains was always again declared non-drinkable. After a short descent, i reached the foot of the Épine pass, which would bring me to Chambéry without real difficulties. In Chambéry, it was now hot. In the first slopes of the Granier, i had again to stop and beg for some water. There ware several other cyclists climbing to the Granier, all obviously on a short ride and less tired than me. After the pass, i stopped at the first 'gîte' which i found on the way. It was at the very small resort of Granier. I was happy to find again a place to sleep in the mountains, with fresh air and calm surroundings.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
La Grange des Plans01040 
La Biche281330800
Forêt d'Arvières33990 
La Selle351180190
Grand Colombier391500320
Les Viviers94620370
La Crusille96570 
La Fosse131820390
Le Granier1371130310
Granier station139970 
total139 3110

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Stage 4 (1 July 2004): Granier - La Cluse - Romeyère - L'Écharasson - Chapelle-en-Vercors


The fourth stage started with a descent along the Entremont valley, but soon i turned right and climbed to two small passes (Cluse and Égaux) with a little, very picturesque village between them, Corbel. Again, there was very few traffic and i could just enjoy the ride. Later, on the main road to Les Échelles, there were more cars, but i was in a descent and came fast down. The name of the next pass did not apply well: 'Mille Martyrs', but i did not have to suffer like 1000 martyrs since it was an easy climb. And then i had a long descent to St-Nicolas-de-Macherin, which finally brought me to the Isère valley. For some parts, i had to take the national road, but for other parts i could ride on small roads. Like after Tullins across walnut orchards.
To end this quite flat part, i entered the Vercors massif. First, i wondered where the road to the Romeyère pass would run since there was just one big rock barrier. After about half of the climb in the forests, i understood: the road was carved in the rock itself, before reaching a high valley. There was a commemorative stone about some fightings between the french résistance and the german troups during the second world war. The whole Vercors region has a lot of such tokens. The last part of the climb was gentle, between forests and meadows. In the descent, i turned right just before the village of Rencurel, towards the small pass of Prélétang. This was not just to add one more pass to my collection but also to avoid the road in the Bourne canyon, which was closed because of falling rocks. The road over Prélétang, however, was in bad condition. After Presles, this was better again and the road came down from steep cliffs over Pont-en-Royans. I stopped there to eat a sandwich, where houses are built right on the rocks over the Bourne river. I went to St-Jean and started the last climb of the day, to the Écharasson pass. It was already near 6 o'clock as i arrived at the top, but i still had to ride over a small, gentle pass (Carri) to reach La Chapelle-en-Vercors. In this nice little town, i had no problem to find an hotel.

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Granier station0970 
La Cluse91170340
Les Égaux17960120
Pont-du-Curé (Les Échelles)33360 
Mille Martyrs42880520
St-Jacques (Moirans)68210 
Port de St-Gervais88180 
Le Violon (Rencurel)107850 
Toutes Aures126560 
Les Autarets1591050 
total172 3440

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Stage 5 (2 July 2004): Chapelle-en-Vercors - Croix-Perrin - Grenoble


I don't know where and when i got it, but after 4 stages i had a bad cold! It was clear: i had to give up the final goal of this tour, which would have been the Mont Ventoux. Instead of going further south, i had to ride to a place where i could take a train back to Switzerland. I chose to go to Grenoble. I was breathing with difficulty, but my legs were still doing well. First, i went down to the Vernaison stream, then up to St-Julien and down to the Bourne canyon. (In front of me, i could see Rencurel and the Romeyère pass, where i had been less than 24 hours earlier.) In spite of my poor health, a made a small detour over the pass of Croix-Perrin to reach Lans. There, i just crossed the road along the valley and continued to St-Nizier. Finally, there was just a long, long descent to Grenoble.
I arrived at the main station of Grenoble around noon. Unfortunately, there were not many trains towards Switzerland. The 'best' connection to Geneva would not leave before half past three and i would have to change twice. For the second change, in Culoz, there would even be more than one hour to wait. Well, i told to myself: 'don't cry, it could be worse'. I didn't cry... and it became worse: the train from Culoz was 30 minutes late, even 40 minutes as we finally reached Geneva. It was 8 o'clock. Eight hours for about 150 km: i would have been faster by bike! That's the french train system: either you are on a track to or from Paris, or it's almost a nightmare. From Geneva to Neuchâtel, no problem, there is a train every hour (but the price to take a bicycle onboard is high and it is even necessary to take a reservation for it).
I was really happy as i was finally back in Lignières, where i could recover... and start dreaming of another bike tour... to the Mont Ventoux???

 distance (km)altitude (m)climbing (m)
Bobache (Tourtre)7690 
Gorges de la Bourne20700 
Le Goulet (St-Nizier)501170170
total71 920

PS / 22.7.2004