2017 Tour de Travoy to feature the Camino, the Pyrenees and Route des Grandes Alpes

The main aim of the 2017 Tour de Travoy is to complete the Camino from Dublin to Santiago de Compostela. In the Middle Ages, pilgrims would set off from James St. in Dublin and sail by boat to A Coruna in north western Spain before hiking about 60 km from there to Santiago. There are no boats sailing from Dublin to A Coruna nowadays so instead I plan to cycle from Dublin to Rosslare, get the boat to Roscoff in Brittany before cycling the rest of the way to Santiago. My route roughly follows that of 4 Irishmen who in the summer of 2014, 2015 and 2016 rowed in a currach (traditional small Irish boat) from Dublin to A Coruna.

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Camino na Saile or Camino by Sea. It took the 4 men roughly 6 months in all to row about 2,500 km from Dublin to A Coruna. The trip was filmed for TV and shown in Ireland on TG4 in a 3 part documentary called Camino na Saile. One of the Irish rowers in 2016 was musician Glen Hansard who was once lead singer in the Frames. 2 of the other rowers were also musicians and there was a lot of singing and music played on the Camino na Saile. While I am no musician and certainly won’t be taking any musical instruments with me on my trip, I too am hoping to visit A Coruna before then going onto Santiago. a route I have dubbed the Camino del Travoy.

2017_Map_1

2017 Tour de Travoy (Part 1) Dublin – Roscoff – Santiago de Compostela. Just like Camino na Saile, Camino del Travoy will follow the coast of France and Spain for most of the way to Santiago. In recent times, the Camino has been completed by an average of 200,000 people a year. Most pilgrims hike from the French border and the most popular route to Santiago is called the Camino Frances through Burgos and Leon. But in the Middle Ages, parts of this route were occupied by Muslim troops and many pilgrims instead made their way along the northern coast of Spain. This route was called the Camino del Norte and is actually hillier and longer than the more popular Camino Frances route.

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Camino routes from all over Europe converge on Santiago de Compostela. The route I plan to use is similar to that used by pilgrims from Brittany. They crossed the Loire at Nantes and the Garonne at Royan before crossing into Spain at Irun. Some pilgrims would then make their way inland to Burgos but most made their way along the coast. In all, the distance from Roscoff to Santiago is about 2,000 km and as the route is quite hilly in Spain, it will involve about 30,000 m of climbing. Anyone who hiked this route in the past all the way from Brittany would have took at least 3 months but I am hoping to cycle it in about a month.

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2017 Tour de Travoy (Part 2) Santiago de Compostela – Avignon – Nice. The second part of the 2017 Tour de Travoy involves crossing the Pyrenees before then making my way to Nice. I am hoping to travel along the traditional Camino Frances route as far as Jaca before then going to Laruns. From Laruns, I plan to follow the route of the Raid Pyrenean as far as Bagneres de Luchon. The Raid Pyrenean is about 700 km in length from Hendaye on the Atlantic Ocean to Cerbere on the Mediterranean across 28 mountain climbs in the Pyrenees. It is one of the toughest challenges in cycling but I will not have time on this tour to complete the whole thing. Instead, I plan to tackle the central section which is the toughest section. This section includes the Aubisque, Tourmalet and the Peyresourde which are the 3 most famous climbs in the Pyrenees. From Bagneres de Luchon, I then plan to make my way to Avignon before tackling Mont Ventoux. From Mont Ventoux, I plan to then go to Nice via the Gorges de Verdon.

2017_Map_3

2017 Tour de Travoy (Part 3) Nice – Geneva – Dublin. The main aim of the third part of the 2017 Tour de Travoy is to complete the Route de Grande Alpes from Menton to Thonen les Bains. The Route des Grandes Alpes is roughly 700 km from start to finish and there is probably no other 700 km stretch of road anywhere in the world as tough to cycle.

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Route de Grandes Alpes. If Carlsberg were doing cycle challenges, then they almost certainly would pick the Route des Grandes Alpes. Distance wise it is only slightly further than Mizen to Malin head in Ireland but climbing wise, the 2 routes are leagues apart. Mizen to Malin head varies depending on the route you choose but involves about 5000m of climbing. The Route des Grandes Alpes is at least 15,000m of climbing or roughly twice the height of Everest. Five of the summits are over 2,000m in altitude and 2 are over 2,500m. At that height, there is 25% less oxygen in the air than at sea level meaning even breathing in and out will be very difficult. There are no higher climbs in northern Europe than the Iseran and the Col de la Bonette and they are both on the Route des Grandes Alpes.

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Stage 18 Tour de France. The stand out stage from this year’s Tour de France is Stage 18 which finishes at the summit of the Col d’Izoard. The stage is due to take place on Thursday July the 20th and is also the same stage as this year’s Etape du Tour on Sunday July the 16th. This is the last major mountain stage of this year’s race and with only a hilly stage to Salon de Provence and a short time trial in Marseille, anyone who wants to win the Tour will have to attack on this stage. I am hoping to make it to Guillestre in time to see this stage and watch the Tour on the Izoard. If I am a few days behind schedule, I will try and make it to Barcelonnette and watch the Tour go past there. I estimate it will take about 6 weeks from leaving Santiago de Compostela to make it this far. That means I have to make it to Santiago the middle of June. Dublin to Santiago will take about a month so I will have to leave Dublin around the middle of May to complete the Camino and get to the Alps in time to see the finale of the Tour de France.

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All the passes that Hannibal may have used to cross the Alps are near the Route des Grandes Alpes. On my way through the Alps, I am hoping to visit some of the passes that Hannibal and his army may have used in 218 BC. None of these passes are on the Route des Grandes Alpes but they are mostly located not too far away. The 5 most popular passes claimed by historians for where Hannibal crossed the Alps are shown in the above map.

No. 1 close to Guillestre is the Col de la Traversette, which was first proposed by Gavin de Beer in the 50’s and where Professor Mahoney carried out tests on soil samples in 2015.

No. 2 near to Briancon is the Col de Montgenevre which formed part of the Via Domitia from Turin to Spain. This was the route that Polybius travelled 60 years after Hannibal collecting stories from eye-witnesses and others as to Hannibals route from Spain to Italy.

No. 3 near to Modane is the Col du Clapier which is the route championed  by Professor Hunt. It was this route that John Hoyte and his team attempted to traverse with Jumbo the elephant in 1959.

No. 4 in the map, Mont Cenis was the route favoured by Napoleon and most French people still believe to this day that this was the route Hannibal took.

No. 5 in the above map is the Col du Petit Saint Bernard which is the route championed by Theodore Ayrault Dodge. In the 1880’s, Dodge traveled from America to France by steamship to visit the Alps. He went to both Mont Genevre and Mont Cenis before deciding that actually the Col du Petit Saint Bernard was the most likely location for Hannibal’s Crossing of the Alps. So a bit like Theodore Ayrault Dodge over 100 years ago, I too am hoping to visit some of the passes Hannibal may have used on the 2017 Tour de Travoy.

2017 Tour de Travoy. All in all, the 2017 Tour de Travoy will involve about 7,000 km of cycling and about 120,000 m of climbing. It will probably take me a total of 15 weeks to complete the Camino and the Route de Grandes Alpes and then cycle back to Ireland. So the plan is to set off in May, arrive in Santiago the start of June, see Stage 18 of the Tour de France on July the 20th before arriving back in Ireland at the end of August. More details about the planned route of the 2017 Tour are included on a separate page here. Details of my new bike and new tent and all the other equipment I will be taking with me are also included on another page here.

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Google Earth view of 2017 Tour. The 2017 Tour de Travoy is probably the toughest tour I will ever attempt. Distance wise, it is 3 times that of last year’s Tour. Climbing wise, it is 5 times that of the 2015 and 2016 Tours. Even compared to a typical Tour de France, it is twice the distance and treble the climbing. It is an incredible challenge and to be perfectly honest, I only rate my chances of completing the whole thing at 50/50. On previous tours, I have had to get trains and skip parts of the planned route. On this Tour, I have factored in extra rest days but it will still be quite a challenge to complete the whole route within the 15 week time period. For this Tour, I have only allowed for 15 rest days or about 1 every week. If the weather is fine, this is plenty but if the weather turns nasty, it won’t be enough. In particular, the weather in the Pyrenees and the Alps can be very variable and this might have a knock-on effect on my schedule. If it all goes pear-shaped, I have the option of seeing the Tour de France in the Pyrenees around July the 12th or the time trial in Marseille on July the 22nd before then tackling the Route des Grandes Alpes. But the key stage on this year’s Tour de France will be Stage 18 on July the 20th and while it will be extremely challenging to make it to Guillestre in time to see it, it is possible if I can avoid injury and the weather co-operates.

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Camino sign. For many of the pilgrims making there way to Santiago de Compostela, especially in recent times, the journey to Santiago is much tougher than the journey back home. Most pilgrims nowadays simply hop on a train or bus and maybe get a flight back home after completing the Camino and getting the compostela (certificate). But in my case, the journey home will much tougher than the journey to Santiago.  Not that the Camino del Norte all the way from Dublin will be easy as it is over 2,000 km and 30,000 m of climbing. But it is dwarfed by my planned route back to Ireland via the Pyrenees and the Alps. That will involve about 5,000 km of cycling and 90,000 m of climbing. Pilgrims have been making their way over many a mountain for thousands of years on their way to and back from Santiago. No doubt many of these pilgrims suffered extreme hardship on their journey but they were willing to put up with the suffering in the hope that they would be rewarded with a place in heaven in the afterlife. I have no idea where I will end up in the afterlife but one thing I am sure off is that the 2017 Tour de Travoy will be at times cycling heaven and at other times be cycling hell.

So, what’s the story with the 2017 Tour de Travoy. The Camino del Travoy will be my third major tour in the last 3 years. If my debut 2015 Tour was like the Stone Roses debut album and the 2016 Tour was like Oasis 2nd album, hopefully my third tour won’t end up like both those bands third album and instead, end up as good as U2’s third album. One thing though for sure, no doubt at times it will be War.

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