This area of France is known as La Terre de Vélo - the land of the bicycle. In Briançon, where we were on Wednesday, there are massive banners declaring this. Briançon is the gateway to three classic climbs, Col d‘Izoard, Col de Lautaret, and Col du Montgenèvre leading to Col de Sestrière - the latter being the target of today’s ride.
The bonus for this ride is that you ride from one country, France, into another, Italy. No customs, no red tape. The beauty of a unified Europe.
Briançon is a beautiful town, which is nestled in the valley between these three mountains, and with a small, walled centre of town with a church and the typical narrow cobbled streets. Filled with bars, cafés and restaurants. The ride out of town was no less typical, with some beautiful winding switchbacks to climb, and stunning views to see. The road straightened out once in the town of Montgenèvre, to the town of Clavière in order to pass through the old custom area, into Italy and through the old tunnel and downhill to Cesana Turinese (we are now in the Turin province) where the climb to Sestrière begins.
Sestrière was a disappointing town, with modern appartments and little character, so I was more than happy to descend again down to the beautiful Briançon.
After a hard day cycling, I thought it would be completely normal to get a big lunch - a classic Tartiflette de la montagne, but by the look of the raised eyebrows, it was rather unusual.
Raw milk reblochon, emmental, cornichons, ham, all roasted up, into a creamy, spectacular and filling meal, and a good way to end the day’s activities.