Day 4: Mon 30th June 2009
Ride: Col Agnel & Col du Galibier – 136 miles
There was a full complement today despite another heavy night on the beer. We decided to head south-east from Briancon and ride over the Col d’Izoard and the Col Agnel and have lunch in Italy before returning via Col de la Maddalena.
The monument at the top the Col d’Izoard
The Izoard was superb and generally well surfaced with a really fast lower section followed by hairpin after hairpin after hairpin.
A view looking back towards Briancon (R) and one from the first hairpin on downward side heading north (L)
At the bottom of the Izoard we turned left towards Chateau Queyras and then right towards the Agnel. The sign said the pass was “ouvert” on the French side but “ferme” on the Italian side but we paid no attention to this as John Hermann’s book Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps and Beyond (in the fourth edition) told us that this was frequently the case and to ignore it. There were some road works going up but once we got past these the run up the valley was sensational – highly recomended. The road surface looked brand new and it was another mix of sweepers, twisties and finally knee down hairpins all the way up to the French-Italian border at the top.
The border marker at the top of the Agnel (L) and the view from the top looking north back down the valley into France (R)
Unfortunately when we crossed into Italy this is what we faced.
It seems that “ferme” does indeed mean “closed”, or in Italian “chiusa”
However, looking south into Italy the road looked fine and Gaz volunteered to squeeze his Blackbird past the barrier and ride down the valley to see if the road really was closed or not.
It was a tight squeeze but with Phil’s help Gaz bypassed the barrier
Our intrepid volunteer headed off down the valley and managed to get about 5 miles into Italy before he encountered an excitable group of road workers – presumably Italian. They seemed to be quite agitated waving their arms about a lot and gesturing. Not speaking Italian Gaz decided discretion was the better part of valour and made a retreat back to France.
Gaz making his retreat from Italy back up the valley to France
And arriving back at the barrier
It later transpired that the road was closed for resurfacing because on 20th July stage 15 of the Tour de France would be coming up and over the Agnel for the first time in the history of the race.
At this point we had a chinwag and decided that the only thing to do was head back down the way we’d come. Before we did that though we took a few more photos.
Cat’s Tuono and Kyle’s SV (L) and Phil and Cat (R)
And some photos looking south into Italy that include Chris P (L) and Gaz, Pete, Chris P and Chris B (R)
We rode down the valley back to Briancon and then out towards Grenoble on the D1091 heading for the Col du Lautaret and the Col du Galibier. We stopped for lunch at Le Monetier les Bains where we found a cafe run by a very pleasent British couple who were very helpful. It was very hot again today and after lunch Chris B and Pete decided they wanted to head back down to Briancon and find somewhere to have a swim while everyone else headed up the Lauteret.
Lunch stop at Le Monetier les Bains
The road up the Lauteret is very wide and fast – you wouldn’t really categorise it as a Col – and at the top you turn right onto the D902 towards Valloire and immediately you are on the Galibier. The road up is good but many of the bends are blind and campervans seem oblivious to road markings so you can almost guarantee they will be on your side of the road.
Nevertheless the views from the top of the Galibier were probably the best of the entire trip as the series of photos below show.
Top of the Galibier looking north towards Valloire (L) and looking south-east – the valley to the left takes you to Briancon and is followed by the Lauteret (R)
And looking due south
Phil’s K1200, Chris P’s Fireblade and Kyle’s SV (L) and Phil, Chris P and Kyle (R)
However not everyone made it to the top. Kyle, Phil and Chris P passed Gaz and Cat parked up on the side of the road some way below the summit. If you look carefully at the photo below you can just about make out the two little dots (circled in white) about 500ft down.
Unfortunately Gaz and Cat (circled in white) didn’t make it to the top
Gaz and Cat had swapped bikes at the bottom of the Galibier and on the way up Cat’s Tuono had developed a bad rattle – probably a broken cam chain tensioner. That pretty much brought an end to our day, and certainly an end to Cat’s tour. He managed to limp back to Briancon rolling all but the last 5 miles but that was a far as his Tuono would make it on this tour.