July 14th_15th 2017 – Menton to Isola – Rallying up the Col de Turini at the start of my challenge to cycle the Route des Grandes Alpes

The photo above shows one of about fifty hairpin bends on the road up to the Col de Turini pass from Sospel. The Col de Turini is famous from the Monte Carlo car rally which is held every year in January. Drivers in the Monte Carlo rally normally race from La Bolene-Vesubie  up to the Col de Turini and then down to Sospel. The total distance is about 31 km and the total amount of climbing about 1050m. The record time for the special stage of the Col de Turini is held by Sebastian Loeb who drove up and down the climb in an incredible 21 minutes 40 seconds in 2005. The climb has only appeared 3 times in the Tour de France but it features almost every year in the Monte Carlo rally and is sometimes run at night. It last appeared in the Tour de France in 1973 and is long overdue another appearance as it is such an incredible climb.

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The view of the Cote d’Azur from Camping Municipal in Menton. Not a bad view to wake up to.

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Total distance cycled Friday July 14th from Menton to Rocquebiliere – 75 km (includes 2,500 m of climbing). Total distance cycled so far on 2017 Tour de Travoy – 4,150 km. Today’s route included the Col de Castillon and the world famous Col de Turini, which often features in the Monte Carlo rally.

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Travoy at the Casino in Menton, the traditional starting point for the Route des Grandes Alpes. 

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Thumbs up at the start of the Route des Grandes Alpes. Today was Bastille Day in France when the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris and the start of the French Revolution in 1789. The day is a national holiday and the roads are quieter than normal, so I tweeted “Today being Bastille Day, there is no better day to start a spin or revolution in the Alps”.

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Incredible scenery on the climb out of Menton.

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Renault rally car. This rally car looks quite modern but it actually dates from the 90’s as it’s decals are from the 42nd Rallye de France. This rally took place in 1998 on the French island of Corsica. No doubt this car also competed in the Monte Carlo rally as well as it was parked up outside a cafe on the road to the Col de Castillon not far from the Col de Turini. Beside it was a jet black 5 liter Mustang and while I had seen some flashy motors the day before in Monaco, nowhere else, have I ever come across 2 flashier cars parked side by side.

Some decals on the Diac Renault Racing rally car. The car was driven by Marie-Helene Gus and the co-pilot was Segio Gus. Marie-Helen has O+ blood while Sergio’s blood is A-. I know this as one of the decals has the driver’s and co-pilots blood type displayed beside their name. I have no idea what my own blood type is but perhaps I should try and find out as touring with a bike is just as dangerous as driving a rally car.

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Looking down on the village of Castillon.

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Tunnel at the top of the Col de Castillon.

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Old bridge in the small town of Sospel.

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Start of the climb to the Col de Turini. The sign indicates 24 km to the summit. It actually was closer to 27 km from this sign to the summit.

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Looking back down the valley at the road I had just come up. The climb goes on for ever and ever.  There is a saying in Ireland when you start something tough that you are not playing junior hurling any more. I had already done many climbs with Travoy on this Tour but the climb of the Col de Turini was a different league altogether.. Now I was in the Alps, I was no longer playing junior hurling but senior hurling, Munster Final senior hurling.

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Some of the famous hairpins on the Col de Turini.

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Close up of a typical hairpin near the top of the Col de Turini. What is not clear from the photo is how much rubber there was on the road at this hairpin. Lots and lots of motorbikes and cars had obviously been burning rubber on the climb but I certainly wasn’t, the speed I was going.

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Travoy at the summit of the Col de Turini. I hadn’t studied the rout too closely and thought the summit was around 1,200 m. So I got a shock when I saw 1,607m on the sign. This was a new highest point for Travoy on this year’s Tour and 300m higher than the previous record on the Alto de Paio in Spain.

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Another sign for the Col de Turini showing scenes from the Monte Carlo car rally.

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The road down from the Col de Turini was a lot of fun.

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Town hall in Rocquebilliere where I stopped for the night.

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Total distance cycled Saturday July 15th from Rocquebilliere to Isola – 55 km (includes 1,900 m of climbing). Total distance cycled so far on 2017 Tour de Travoy – 4,205 km. Today was much tougher than the previous day as it was much hotter and the climbs were steeper. The Col Saint Martin was just brutal as it is very steep and there was no shade.

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View of the town of Roquebilliere and the Vesubie river from the Camping les Templiers.

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Sign for the Route des Grandes Alpes near Saint Martin Vesubie.

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Start of the climb of the Col Saint Martin.

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View of Saint Martin Vesubie from halfway up the climb to the Col Saint Martin.

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Sign for the Valdeblore ski region about 2 km from the summit.

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Ski resort of La Colmiane.

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Travoy at the sign for the Col Saint Martin.

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The road down from the Col Saint Martin was a lot of fun.

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The Tinee river near Saint Sauveur sur Tinee.

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The Bonette Restefond, Lombardia and Couillole passes were all open.

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Double arches on the road to Isola.

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Sign for the highest road in Europe in Isola. The Bonette de la Restefond goes up to 2802m but the Col de la Restefond pass is 87m lower at 2715m. The highest pass in Europe is actually the Col de l’Iseran in Savoy which is at  2764m. The Boneete is actually just a loop that has been added to the Col de la Restefond pass so it can claim to be the highest road in Europe.

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