2015-07-27 Grenoble – Les Marche

Today’s photo shows the Dent des Crolles, which means the Tooth of Crolles. The name is derived from the small town of Crolles, which is located halfway between Grenoble and Chambery. It was the most spectacular mountain I saw in France and believe me I saw a lot of mountains. At 2,062m it is less than half the height of Mont Blanc but is much more impressive and really dominates the landscape in this part of France.

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Lots of stuff to pack before checking out of the hotel. Had to get up early again this morning as I still had a lot of stuff to sort out. Gave Noel all the souvenirs I had bought in Lourdes apart from the holy water in case it was confiscated at the airport. Also gave him all my tourist laeflets and brochures I had accumulated over the last 2 weeks cycling all the way from Paris. Also gave him my Garmin Virb camera as I couldn’t get it to charge. I had been hoping to get a photo every minute of my tour using the Virb camera but no matter what I tried, I could not get the battery to charge. I tried removing the battery, re-setting the camera, charging via the mains only but it made no difference.  I could understand if I had dropped the camera or if it got soaked but at no time was any damage done to the camera. Garmin need to sort their reliability issues out pronto or the company is going to end up like Kodak. Whether it is their heart rate monitors, cadence meters or Vector power meters, the internet is full of people complaining about their product reliability. While their bicycle computers by and large perform well, they are being overtaken by smartphones which offer twice their features but are half the price. Their recent decision not to incorporate Android Wear into their Vivoactive smartwatches will go down in corporate history as a monumental blunder.

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Garmin Virb action camera attached to handlebars of my bike. Every other tech item I took on the Tour de Travoy worked perfectly; the Virb camera was the only gadget that let me down. The camera weighs half a kilo and that is just too much weight when it wouldn’t work properly, so I gave it to Noel to take back to Donegal. It was after 11 when we got everything gathered up and went to check out of the hotel. Normally, you check out in a minute or two but we had to pay for the car park and a breakfast so it took 5 minutes or so. Then the receptionist says “Do you want a receipt” so we said fine. Only there was a problem with the printer and it would not print. It was now 11.30 and with a bus to catch at 12, we didn’t know to stay and wait or make a dash for the bus. Eventually, the printer sputtered into life and we rushed out the door. We only made it to the bus station with about 10 mins to spare.

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Grenoble bus station. It was sad to see Noel go but at the the same time it was great that everything had more or less gone to plan. We had spent 2, 3 months organizing the holiday and 101 things could have gone wrong but they didn’t. The hotel was great, the car-hire was great and the weather was great. The Alps are a brilliant location for a holiday any time of year but especially so when the Tour de France is in town. In 1992, we were privileged to witness one of the greatest solo attacks ever when Claudio Chiapucci won in Sestriere and this year, we got to see an incredible battle between Quintana and Froome for the Yellow Jersey.

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The weekend’s racing is already part of Tour de France folklore. Matt Rendall, the journalist and who now works for ITV  has been covering cycling for 20, 30 years and is someone who has been to more races than I’ve had hot dinners and he tweeted that the weekend’s action was the most exciting he had ever experienced. Noel, who hasn’t been to a bike race since 1992, couldn’t have picked a better weekend’s racing in the last 20 years.

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Source: Twitter.com

Phil Deignan. Noel had been disappointed that Phil Deignan had not been picked by Team Sky as he would have been the first cyclist from Donegal to ride the Tour de France. Phil had been in the Sky team for the Criterium Dauphine, which Froome had won a month before the Tour and had done well but when the team for the Tour was announced he was overlooked in favour off Ian Stannard and Peter Kennaugh. Had he been in almost any other team, Phil would have got picked for the Tour but getting into the Sky Tour team is a bit like getting into the Dublin GAA team. Competition is fierce and even Bradley Wiggins couldn’t get into their Tour team in 2014 despite winning the Tour of California a month beforehand. Phil’s contract with Sky is up this year but hopefully, he will get signed by some other World Tour team and get to do the Tour de France next year.

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Noel’s journey today – 1,800 km. Total for him this week – 4,000 km. Noel’s bus left at 12 o’clock exactly and arrived at Lyon airport just after 1. However, his flight was delayed half an hour and it was after 4 before it took off. It landed in Dublin at around 5.30 local time and he then had a 4 hour drive to Donegal. But, even with the delay, it still took Noel roughly the same time to travel 1,500 km to Dublin as it took me to travel just 50 km to Les Marches , near Chambery. Incidentally, Rome 2 Rio estimate it takes 9 hours 45 mins to travel from Grenoble to Donegal which is more or less the same time it took Noel to get back home.

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My route today –  50 km. Total so far – 1650 km. A late start today as I waited until Noel’s bus had set off before I got underway. The advantage of the mid-day start meant that traffic was light and it didn’t take long to get through Grenoble. I went the same way we had gone on Friday on the way to St Jean de Maurienne and just followed the signs for Chambery. The suburbs of Grenoble are quite flat but the climbs start again once you hit the countryside.

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Funiculaire de Saint Hilaire du Touvet. Near the village of Lumbin, I came across a funicular railway which goes up to the mountain village of Saint Hilaire du Touvet. The railway climbs a total of 600m in less than a kilometer and a half and the gradient is 83% in places. It was built in the 20’s to transport tuberculosis patients up to a number of sanatoria in Saint Hilaire, where they could breathe in the mountain air. The sanitoria have long since closed but the trams are still used by tourists and paragliders.

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Golden Delicious apples being grown near La Bussiere. Because I just had a short trip today, I was able to stop and take a load of photos and came across an apple orchard near the town of La Buissiere. The French like their apples and the average French person eats 50 apples a year, that is over 2 billion in a year. Nearly half the apples grown in France are Golden Delicious but most apples are actually grown in Normandy and Brittany. Apple orchards are actually quite rare in this wine growing part of France.

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Departement de la Savoie. Just after Pontcharra, I crossed the border between the Isere departement and the Savoy. Up until 1860, Savoy had been an Italian state but after the Treaty of Turin, it was annexed by France.

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Lyon – Turin high speed railway protest sign. Near Les Marches, I spotted this protest sign objecting to the construction of a new high speed train line and tunnel between Lyon and Turin. The sign says “Yes to using existing lines. No to useless and forced projects”. The Lyon – Turin high speed railway is a €25 bn railway project to reduce travel times between Lyon and Turin from 3 hours to under 2 hours. All together, 140 km of new railway will be constructed including a 57 km tunnel between St Jean de Maurienne and Susa.

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A new section of railway is also due to be built between the outskirts of Lyon and St Jean de Maurienne which will go through Les Marches. The project has attracted considerable opposition from locals in both France and Italy (#NO-TAV), which has delayed construction of the tunnel for the last 20 years. Critics point out that construction will cost €200,000 for every metre of track and that it will be a white elephant.

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Source: TunnelTalk

57 km base tunnel between St. Jean de Maurienne in France and Susa in Italy. The 57 km Mont d’Ambin base tunnel will be one of the longest in the world when it opens in 2028. It will be more or less the same length as the Saint Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland which is due to open in June 2016.

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Camping la Ferme du Lac in Les Marches. Around about 6, I made it to my campsite for the night. The early finish gave me a chance to plan my route for the next few days and to track Noel’s flight as it landed in Dublin airport.

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