La Maurienne – A cyclist’s Alpine paradise

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The La Maurienne region is typically known for its ski slopes, but in the summer it is transformed into “the largest cycle area in the world” complete with caring hosts, comfortable accommodation and events throughout the year.  La Maurienne’s mountainous terrain provides a challenge for athletes and a scenic and leisurely backdrop for cyclo-tourists. The area offers 48 cycling paths stretching over an area of 1600 km in the Savoie region of France.

The paths
Sticking to its reputation as a destination for skiers, La Maurienne’s cycling paths are labeled like ski slopes according to their difficulty:  green, blue, red and black.  A suggested green route is La Montée à l’Ecot-  ideal for cycling, hiking or canyoning. Or a heritage tour of the Bonneval sur Arc, which is ranked as one of “the most beautiful villages in France”. There are two green routes whose elevations do not exceed 300 metres.

 A blue course to try is Tour aux portes de la Maurienne. This route has a 22.5 km return with gentle slopes at the start of Aiguebelle. The area has six blue routes all with elevations below 600 m.

 There are 11 red routes with elevations below 1000 m and 29 black routes with elevations over 1000 m. These paths are the most difficult and all require excellent physical condition. Le Col de la Croix de Fer -a black path borrowed by the Tour de France 15 times since 1947- is a 58 km roundtrip that crosses through scenic French villages before its last climb where cyclists are rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views.

An extra challenge
19 of La Maurienne’s routes are equipped with the Timtoo system. This system allows you to time your routes and even compare your times to those of past and present cycling champions. A chip attached to the cycle, along with a terminal at the start and finish of each course, are responsible for keeping track of time. Cycling speeds are then available at www.timtoo.com.  Chips can be purchased for €30 or leased for €4 per day from some tourist offices in the area. Additionally, there are nine large paths that are marked with useful  information including the altitude, the average percentage of slope on the next kilometre and the number of kilometres remaining on the path. This information is valuable for monitoring exercise intensity during ascent.

An exciting summer
If there were ever a time to visit La Maurienne it would be this summer. The valley will be hosting three races- two for amateurs as well as the only two Alpine stages of the 99th edition of the Tour de France July 12-13.