Monday, 14 August 2017

Final Reflections

This had been a very tough tour and most days I was right on my limit. The heat had been a major debilitating factor but also the big Alpine climbs are I think, longer and a bit steeper over longer distances than what we had experienced in the Pyrenees the year before. It was quite an endurance test and in hindsight an extra day to spread the climbing would have helped. Chris was imperious and his regular weekly evening mountain biking on the Mendips throughout the previous winter had clearly helped with his superior fitness. This year Phil, although clearly very fit, was not as strong on the bike as in previous years and I was much closer to him on the climbs particularly in the early part of the week.

Writing this blog a couple of months after competing the tour has helped put what we achieved into some kind of perspective. Although at the time I was a bit disappointed that we hadn't completed the official Raid route in its entirety it now seems insignificant and the memories are of stunning views, fresh Alpine mountain air, lots of excellent food, some  strong debates about all things Brexit, politics,life and the universe and being comfortable in the company of great friends.

Day 6: Beuil to Antibes, 56.1 miles 2,044 ft of ascent (climb as recorded on Strava seems dubious as it was mostly downhill!)

Over a pizza and several beers the previous evening we decided we couldn't face much more climbing  after the five very hot and hard days we had ridden to arrive in Beuil. We poured over my maps and agreed that once we hit the Vars valley we would deviate from the official Alpine Raid route and head straight down the valley to Nice rather than tackle the last few climbs in the Esteron range of the Alpes d'Azur.

To get to the Vars valley we first had to descend the narrow and spectacular Gorge du Cians. The river descends 1,600m in just 25 Kms and the twisty balcony road is cut into the sides of the sheer red shale cliffs. There are numerous tunnels hewn out of the rock. I was glad we were on the right hand side of the road with the river on our left as the drops looked very steep and the barrier by the side of the road offered little protection.

Upper reaches of the Gorge du Cians

Tunnels cut through the rock

Looking back up to one of the narrow points of the gorge
We met a herd of sheep coming up the gorge and the sheepdog took a fancy to the smell of the sun cream on my legs

Sheep dog taking a fancy to my legs

Sheep strewn across the road

Once we hit the Vars valley the road followed the river and the railway line- Chemins de Fer de Provence. It was a good road gently sloping downhill and for the first time on the trip we were able to ride chaingang or paceline style.

We stopped at a very popular roadside boulangerie, doing a roaring Sunday morning trade just north of St Martin du-Var. Phil felt Chis hadn't had enough cakes on the trip so bought him a giant strawberry tart to make up for it.

Chris tucking into a giant Strawberry and Cream tart.
We followed the River Var almost to its mouth just to the west of Nice airport. As we got nearer to the coast the road became a dual carriageway and very busy. Phil got ahead as Chris and I dithered as to which way to go but eventually we found the coastal cycle path which wended its way round to Antibes - the official end of the Alpine Raid. We arrived at our Hotel at just after 1pm giving us an afternoon to celebrate and enjoy the Med. In the evening we rode into Antibes to dine at an excellent fish restaurant - fitting food for our location.

Celebrating the finish in the Med-much to the amusement of the onlookers

Chilling out!  
The Cap d'Antibes

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Day 5: Jausiers to Beuil 66.1 miles,11,405 ft of ascent

There were a a large number of cyclists staying at the Hotel Bel Air and all were tucking into hearty breakfasts at the early slot. I hope we left enough for the rest of the guests who probably didn't appear until much later that morning!

Jausiers is at the bottom of the epic climb of the Cime de la Bonette, which claims the title of the highest road in France, if not the country's highest col. A sign at the bottom says it's the highest paved road in Europe but according to Wikipedia, Pico de Veleta in Spain is higher. To get to the summit involves 23 kilometres of climbing which took almost 3 hours (how do you replicate that in the UK?). It proved to be a very enjoyable climb. The first half was at a comfortable 6 to 7% and then after a slight dip the second half ramps up to 8 to 9%. The views were stunning and the scenery on a grand scale as the lovely smooth road twists through a coarse, prehistoric, boulder strewn landscape with patches of snow still lying around. When you reach the Col de Bonette at 2,715 metres there is a wickedly steep loop purposely constructed to claim the highest road in France. At the back of the loop we took a footpath and climbed to the top of the mountain and the stunning viewpoint. 
Climbing the Cime de la Bonette

Striking views back to the Ecrins

The Summit Pillar

Panoramic view from the summit

Looking down on the road loop which circles the summit

Views out to the South
As usual care was needed on the descent to avoid any straying motorbikes crossing the middle of the road. We passed some dramatic waterfalls and stopped in the small town square of Saint Etienne de Tinee for an early lunch. 

Waterfall on the descent

As its name suggests the town lies beside the river Tinee and is surrounded by high mountain slopes forested in pine and larch trees. We found a cafe in the central square after the first restaurant didn't seem interested in our custom. The square is actually a pair of adjoining squares, surrounded by brightly painted buildings, including the 18th-century Saint Etienne church (yellow) and the town hall (ocre red).

We then followed the sweeping Tinee valley downhill for 18 miles, losing a huge amount of height to Saint Sauveur sur Tinee following a separate cycle path away from the road for quite a bit of the route. The heat of the day increased, leaving us with one major climb left to conquer of our tour, the Col de la Couillole. This is not that high, especially compared to what we had been over, at only 1678 metres, but it still involved 1168 metres of climb due to the height that we had dropped from the top of the Cime de la Bonette. The col was the finish of stage 7 of this year's Paris to Nice race (the race to the sun) and was won by Australian Riche Porte. 

Although not quite as bad as yesterday's Col de Vars it wasn't far off and I struggled on the 16 Kms of climbing at an average of 7.3%. Phil texted me to say there was a cafe at the village of Roubion, but somehow I missed the first turning into this hill top village and took the second and failed to find it. I did at least find a water fountain and was able to replenish my bidons. Re-visiting the climb in Strava's virtual flyby mode it can be seen that Phil stormed up the second half of the climb and was actually 2 minutes faster than the polka dot shirt of Chris even though he was still someway behind him going over the summit. A sweeping short descent took us to our Hotel in Beuil. 

Col de La Couillola- no one around to take a photo of me (resisted a selfie!)

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Day 4: Cesana Torinese to Jausiers, 72.4 miles 11,749 ft of climb

We didn't make it up to the Colle di Sestriere (the 6th checkpoint) as we were too hot and exhausted the previous evening and it would have now meant going back on ourselves, making an even tougher and longer day. As a result we effectively blew our chances of successfully claiming an official medal for completing the Alpine Raid. However, life is not all about medals and after all we were on holiday!
Comfortable night at the Hotel Chalet Casa, Cesana
We awoke to crystal clear blue skies - it was evident it was going to be another scorcher. The Col de Montgenevre links Briancon in the upper Durance Valley in France with the Susa valley in Italy. It's featured on the tour ten times since 1949. It starts off quite steep at 8% and 9% for the first couple of kilometres and then eases off going through a long tunnel of several kilometres into Claviere- which was an official training site for 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. There was a strong military presence at the border- a sign of the state of high alert France is currently on.

Phil uncharacteristically faffed this morning and left his water bottles behind at the Hotel and had to go back for them so was a bit behind Chris and I when we stopped at the town of Montgenevre for coffee. He made up the time well and was first away for the descent.

Entrance to the Olympic training centre of Claviere

Ski Jump Sculpture by the roadside in Clavier

Chris near the top of the Col de Montgenevre- marked by the Oblesisk in the background  erected in 1804 celebrating Napoleon Bonaparte
The descent to the fortified Roman city of Briancon (the highest in France) is along a very busy road but the views across to the Ecrins range of mountains were stunning. Briancon is a very picturesque town and I recall exploring the town as a family when we camped up the road at Serre Chevalier in 1999.This time we skirted around its edges as we sought the road to Cervieres.

The Col d'Izoard (2360 metres) is a Tour de France icon and has been crossed on the Tour some 34 times since it's first appearance in 1922. This year, for the first time it featured as a summit finish. As soon as you leave Brinacon the road is quieter and starts to climb gradually at 4%, through forest up the lovely Cerveyrette valley to the village of Cervieres with the road at times almost touching the raging river. The next section gets serious as the road suddenly ramps up to 8% and 9% with vicious ramps of 20%. Out of the trees the landscape is barren and surreal. The summit has a lunar feel that defies comprehension. It is perforated with the sepia-coloured spires of Cargneule rock ( a yellowish-brown heavily deformed Dolomitic limestone). We stopped for a drink at the busy cafe frequented mainly by motor cyclists and cyclists and had our cards stamped (somewhat academic now).

The monument at the Col d'Izoard
The very steep descent on the south side is through the extraordinary Casse Desert, a barren mountain side with spiky rock pinnacles amid rocky scree. The Col d'Izoard was host to many great duels in the 1950s between the legendary Italian Fausto Coppi and the French great Louison Bobet and there is an easy to miss Coppi-Bobet monument a Km or so below the summit.

The Casse desert
Phil sussed out a lunch stop for us near Chalp and I had a burger which was nice at the time but then proceeded to reverberate around my stomach all the way up the Col de Vars.
Burger for lunch with Cheddar Cheese!
The next 20 Kilometres were all downhill with the road hugging the spectacular Guil gorge all the way down to Guillestre. And then bang, we were climbing again up to the Col de Vars (2108 metres). The temperature was well into the late 30s and my tyres were sticking to the tarmac. There was little shade and with my mouth dry and hands welded to the lever hoods with a mixture of sweat and energy gel, I had to keep reminding myself that I was on holiday and was supposed to be enjoying myself. I caught up with some Welsh lads also touring but with one of their wives driving a support vehicle with all their overnight kit (message to self noted!), They reported that Phil was only just ahead and they had witnessed him almost immersed in a stream cascading onto the roadside. A viewpoint provided a resting point with spectacular views back to the Barre d' Ecrins (4,102 metres) - the first ever 4,000 metre peak that I climbed back in 1999.
Bottom part of the Col de Vars looking back to the Barre d'Ecrins
How I ever got up the Col de Vars I'll never know - I must have received help from on high (I know Sue was praying for me each day) - for it was one of the low points of the tour and indeed my endurance sport history. Chris, the white knight/angel was waiting for me at a cafe in Ste Marie. The stop, Oranginas (the soft drink of choice on this tour)  and ice cold water in my Bidons seemed to spur me on and the last section through the Ski resort of the Station de Vars and the upper Change valley passed quite quickly and I finally made it to the summit (6523 out of 6599 cyclists on the Strava segment Col de Vars Guillestre - almost the lantern rouge!).

Fourteen miles of little pedalling in the shade of the Forest down to Jausiers saw another day ticked off and by the time the third beer had been consumed that evening the day didn't seem half as bad and the nightmare of an afternoon frying on the Cod de Vars was already a distant memory.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Day 3: Val d'Isere to Cesna Torinese (Italy) 79.7 miles, 11,388 ft of ascent

The Hotel Les Seracs did us proud - not only did they wash and dry our kit, they got out hair dryers to dry our shoes, let Phil use their computer and provided us with an excellent dinner and breakfast. We left at 8.28 with renewed spirits to tackle the rest of the Col de L'Iseran which was only due to open on this day but had in fact opened a week early.

Val d'Isere is lined with modern apartments for skiers and more were being built and rammed in. The road through the town was at least wide and relatively flat. Once out of the town and after a couple of kilometres of straight road a sharp hairpin is reached and the climb begins in earnest. This was a great climb and by now the beauty was apparent. Verdant pastures bloomed with wild flowers and six months of snow was melting with water cascading off the rocks.The scenery is huge and expansive with long range views and the geological and glacial formations made it reminiscent of a geography field trip. The only disappointment were the large number of motorbikes and a few sports cars roaring up to the top.Towards the top there were banks of snow on one side of the road and the altitude began to be felt. At 2,770 metres it is the highest paved mountain pass in Europe and the summit felt more Himalayan than Alpine. For the first time on the trip it felt cold and I was glad of my gillet and jacket.

The summit cafe was shut so we veered off the main road to a skiing cafe called La Cascade where there were a large number of people skiing and snowboarding on the slopes above it. In order to get to the cafe we had to cross a small snow field in our cleats and carry our bikes which must have seemed somewhat incongruous to the onlookers. We got our cards stamped and chatted with another cyclist from the UK, even older than me, who had ridden up the other side this morning.

Col de L'Iseran: Plenty of snow still around at the highest paved col in Europe

The route over the col has existed for hundreds of years as a mule pass and became an official road following a presidential decree in the 1920s with 600 workers toiling to make the road which was opened in 1937. But cyclists were scaling this before the road was completed. The local bishop decided to accompany the roadworks with the construction of a chapel – France’s highest – which was baptised Notre Dame de Toute Prudence, a useful tip for descending the other side.

The descent down to Bonneval-sur-Arc needed care with the huge number of motor bikes ascending the other way. The next village up the valley, Oratoire de la St Trinite, was reminiscent of a Hobbit village from afar but the road turned south westwards along the bottom of the L'Arc Valley so we didn't get a chance to see it close up. Twelve miles of easy valley riding took us to the ski resort of Lanslevillard where we stopped for an early lunch.

Waterfall on the descent of the Col de L'Iseran

L'Arc Valley

The road up the Col du Mont-Cenis was built by Napoleon between 1803 and 1810 and you can tell its a military road with five hairpin bends equally distributed along the route from base to summit and an even gradient of 8%. Prior to that the pass was well used by pilgrims in the middle ages on their way to Rome. It marks the border between France and Italy and has been used both in the Tour and the Giro d'Italia. For once I led up the the first few hairpins and was passed by Chris but Phil didn't pass me until near the summit - maybe an early sign that something wasn't quite right?

Col du Mont-Cenis

We stopped at the top at a cafe for drinks in the shade and to get our control cards stamped and any thoughts of adding the the infamous and optional Colle delle Finestre later that afternoon were squashed.. The road then traversed the picturesque Lac de Mont -Cenis with several ascents and descents before the long and enjoyable descent on a smooth tarmac surface to Susa in Italy.

Above and Below: Lac de Mont-Cenis

By the time the Roman town of Susa was reached the temperature had increased by at least 10 degrees Centigrade to the mid 30s and it was like entering into an oven. I didn't spot Chris and Phil who had stopped in the town's square and I continued out on the road to Oulx. Chris caught me up on one of the long drags out of the town and informed me that Phil had had enough and was going to try and get a train to Oulx - clearly emulating several riders in the 1904 Tour.

I was pretty shattered in the heat but still had some mental strength and somehow was able to get onto Chris back wheel and we made steady but slow progress along the Ripatio valley and the final climb to our evening's destination at Cesana Torinese (some 20 miles from Susa). We stopped in Oulx for a drink and Phil texted us to say that he had decided to get a taxi from Oulx to Cesana Torinese where we met him at our hotel (nearly 11 hours since setting out that morning).
Day 3 Route

Italian starter

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Day 2: Megeve to Val d'Isere 62.6 Miles, 10,321ft of ascent

We decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and find something en-route as we wanted an early start and couldn't hang around until they served it at 8.00am. We were away by 7.40 am and the air was noticeably clearer with some rain overnight. It felt like being another warm day.

Early morning in Megeve

Looking across to the Skiing Pistes of Megeve
We found a cafe serving breakfast at the village of Praz-sur-Arly four miles down the road from Megeve. With our quota of Caffeine we were ready to face the day.

The first climb was soon upon us- the Col des Saises (1650metres) which started at the turn off on the main road between Flumet and Megeve. It is an attractive climb alternating between Forest and Alpine pastures with great views across the Valley. The gradient alternated between  some sections at 8% and 9% and others at 4% to 5% with a 1.5 Kilometre descent after the pretty village of Arcaniere

Love the Savoie Kilometre markers up the Col des Saises -1km to go -always a welcome sign!
The summit was something of a disappointment, just a flattening out of the road as it goes through a semi-deserted ski resort with a hive of new construction activity. Chris waited for me at the top whilst Phil continued on the descent to sus-out a coffee stop.

The uninspiring Col des Saises
But much more inspiring views to the South
He hailed Chris and I down at the junction of the descent and the main road to Albertville at the Hotel la Cascade where we enjoyed our Cappuccinos sitting outside in the sun. We then had a short flat section to the ski resort of  Beaufort, famous for its lovely cheese. As I approached the town I realised I had visited it before back in 2012 when as a family we had stayed in the area on my failed first attempt at completing the Etape du Tour.

It was now getting warm and we stopped at the small supermarket near the attractive church to buy fruit.

The picturesque Saint-Maxime Church in Beaufort
The Raid doesn't take the classic route up the Cormet-de-Roseland (1967 metres)  via the Col du Meraillet but instead takes a quieter but much harder route via the village of Areches (another control point for a stamp this time from the Tourist office) and the Col du Pre (1703 metres). The Beaufort Tourist office describes it as Mythic.I'm not sure about the name but it is certainly steep with the second last kilometre averaging 10.7%. It was very hard work in the heat of the day with lots of hairpins. Chris powered his way to the top and was a good 15 minutes ahead of Phil and almost 20 minutes ahead of myself.

Col du Pres
Phil near the Col du Pres
The route then descends for a couple of kilometres and given it was now lunch time we stopped for an hour at the La Pierra Menta restaurant which judging by it's website does a roaring trade throughout the year. The views of the lake and the surrounding mountains were stunning.

The road then descends to the Lake (Lac de Roseland) and crosses the dam before the final climb of 6 Kilometres and 374 metres of climb kicks in to the Cormet-de-Roseland. The last few kilometres were a little easier as the road climbed to the giant natural amphitheatre surrounded by towering rock faces and snowy peaks.

Lac de Roseland
The Cormet has often been used by the Tour but I'm glad I hadn't seen the You Tube video of  Johan Bruyneel's descent in 1996 until I returned to the UK. He came off the road, disappeared and almost fell down a cliff. Miraculously his fall was broken by a tree and he was able to climb back up, get on a replacement bike and finish the stage

At 15.10 that would have made a nice end to the day but ahead of us still lay another 25 miles of riding and the climb up to Val d'Isere. Not even knowing about the video I still descended cautiously around the many tight hairpins to Bourg St Maurice. The clouds were thickening and the air was getting very heavy and you knew we would be in for a spectacular Alpine thunderstorm later in the day. We made our fourth stop of the day for afternoon Oranginas and a refill of our water bottles.

The climb of the giant Col de L'Iseran starts in Bourg St Maurice. The first bit is a major arterial road with heavy traffic rather than the usual Alpine road. Fortunately the road soon splits with the turning for the Col du Petit St Bernard which leads to Italy and this siphons away some of the traffic. At the junction the first spots of rain were felt.The road starts to rise at the village of Viclaire and then gets serious with some wide hairpins on the way to the ski village of Sainte Foy. The rain became heavier and Phil passed me on one of the hairpins. Suddenly the storm also got serious- sheet lightning all around and the rain forming a torrent on either side of the camber and we were almost enveloped in darkness despite it being late afternoon/early evening. I decided to take cover in a bus stop in a very large lay-by and refused a lift offered by a driver parked at its entrance. For nearly half an hour I waited for it to clear with water rising up around the platform I was standing on and the rain of biblical proportions. I felt it was dangerous to ride in the lightning which was so close given the small gaps to the claps of thunder although Chris and Phil ploughed on through it.

Eventually another French driver spotted me and slowed and gestured to ask whether I wanted a lift. This time I didn't refuse. A keen cyclist himself we chucked my bike into the back of his van and I jumped into the passenger seat, water forming a puddle in his mat well. A couple of miles up the road I spotted Phil slogging away up another hairpin. I wound down the window and asked whether he wanted a lift. I will not repeat what he said to me but suffice to say he too readily took up the offer. We took some time to work out how to get both bikes and Phil into the back of the van but by taking off our front wheels we eventually solved the puzzle. 

The road up to La Reculaz, our night's stop, went through a couple of tunnels, one of which was unlit but it wasn't until we reached the Hotel Les Seracs that we caught up with Chris. He had heroically ridden through the storm and used his mobile phone as a torch through the unlit tunnel. 

The proprietor welcomed us in, gave us a basket for all our wet clothes and we were soon showered, exhausted but sipping beer and enjoying a great evening meal.

Day 2 Route

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Day 1: Thonon-les-Bains to Megeve 67.6 miles 10,313 ft of climb (as recorded by Strava).

Once again, our first hotel, this time an Ibiz, was ideal for our purposes with plenty of space to spread ourselves out and assemble our bikes and faff with our kit much to the amusement of the other residents. Phil's bike was still in one piece despite the hammering his bike box had taken the previous day from the baggage handlers. Breakfast was taken on the terrace and it was already clear that a hot day was in store.

After the customary "start of tour" posed photos overlooking Lake Geneva we started our various GPS devices at just after 9.30 am and battled with Thonon's one way system as we searched for the right road out of the town.
Posed start of Tour Photo in Thonon -Les -Bains overlooking Lake Geneva
Despite all of Phil's Vitriol of Chris's Garmin in the Pyrenees last year he had gone out and bought a top of the range device for this year's tour. And his Garmin almost caused us to be late for our flight from Bristol as at the last minute we helped Phil transfer my ride GPS routes from his Apple laptop onto his device before setting out for the airport. Mind you at least it meant that for the first year Phil knew where he was going and he didn't have to rely on my list of villages, towns and road numbers each morning.

The area of flat hinterland around Lake Geneva is small and it wasn't long before we were sweating up though woodland to climb our first col, the Col de Moises (1121 metres) which with an average ascent of 6.6% and the steepest part at 8% just below the summit required plenty of work to start the tour. The descent down to the village of Harbere-Roche provided a welcome stop  for a coffee and to refill our water bottles as this was the first checkpoint  of the Raid at the local boulangerie.
Col de Moises
Next up were the minor cols of the Col de Terramont (1094 metre) and the Col de Jambaz (1027 metres) before a sweeping descent down to Megevette. Just after the turn off to the Col de la Ramaz I spotted a deer in a field and then I let out a whoop of delight as in front of me was a fabulous view across to Mont Blanc with it's snow covered whale-back summit clear of cloud -a mountain I had climbed nearly 11 years ago.

The first few kilometres of the Col de la Ramaz (1608 metres) through the chalets and farms  are at 8%, then the road eases of to 2% for over a km. After a further 3km of switchbacks through the forest, the serious stuff begins. The road is now cut into the plunging hill side above the Gorges du Foron, and the gradient alternates 9%, 7%, 9% and finally 10% at the steepest section through a tunnel. The ever-changing gradient means it is hard to settle into a rhythm.I was glad of the shade under the avalanche shelters and in the tunnel: the mountainside here is south-facing and we were in the full blast of the sun. The road finally levels out to a more reasonable 5% as it reaches and curves around the col de la Ramaz and the Sommand plateau for another 3 km.

Lunch stop near the top of the Col de la Ramaz
The Col de la Ramaz summit
The Col de la Ramaz (the highest point of our first day) has only been used 4 times so far by the Tour de France, in 1981, 2003, 2010 and 2016.In 2003, the Col de la Ramaz was the principle difficulty of the 7th stage, from Lyon to Morzine/Avoriaz. The French favourite Richard Virenque delighted the crowds with a 190km breakaway, winning both the stage and the yellow jersey. This was in spite of Armstrong’s US Postal in hot pursuit! Virenque paid for his efforts the next day, losing the yellow jersey and over 7 minutes to Armstrong on the climb to Alpe d’Huez.

By the time we reached the summit at 13.40 we were gasping for liquid and food. A superb spaghetti- bolognese hit the spot  and despite some cramping I felt energised to continue. At the ski station of Praz-de-Lyz there was only one shop open for our precious Alpine Raid stamp but the owner gave us each a free gift of a head scarf which was to prove invaluable as the week wore on. 

Views across to Mont Blanc (now shrouded in cloud)
There were warnings that the next section of road was closed due to road works but given that the alternative diversion was a considerable way round we continued on the descent. Eventually the barriers across the road prevented us going any further. We pleaded with the road workers in our broken French to allow us to walk through as there was no way we were going to retrace our steps. Eventually they saw sense and let us through and we enjoyed a traffic  free descent to the D902 which led us down to Taninges. Another ascent to St-Sigismond bypassed Cluses before we hit the l'Arve valley floor. I got on Chris's back wheel and surpisngly we opened a small gap over Phil. 

We should have stopped at Sallanches before the final ascent to Megeve but for some reason Chris kept going and I failed to reign him in (he is so strong). Shortly afterwards Phil texted us clearly somewhat exasperated to find that we hadn't stopped. 

The final slog up to Megeve was very hard work in the evening heat and I had to stop a couple of times to draw breath and drink the tepid fluid from my water bottle. I eventually arrived at Chalet d'Antoine in Megeve  at 18.45 some 15 minutes behind Chris and 20 minutes ahead of  Phil who had sensibly stopped at Sallanches for a cafe stop. The hotel seemed barely open, they weren't serving dinner and had no beer on tap but at least they were happy to wash out our sweaty kit for 7 euros. 

Megeve is a posh ski resort at one time favoured by the French aristocracy and nowadays it is still visited by affluent people as evidenced by the prices of apartments in the estate agents windows. We enjoyed an excellent meal at a local restaurant in the town centre and like most evenings to follow retired to bed early.
Day 1 Route