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Motoeuro 2008 - Col du la Bonnett


Carlsberg don't do motorcycling holidays...

On top of the world, Motoeuro conquer the Alps and manage a day on the beach.

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Leaving Seez, this is what this trip was all about; the Alps. We've planned to take in some of the most famous and unusual passes in France and Italy but a chance encounter with a German biker, takes us above and beyond what we ever imagined....

We’ve started a habit of early to bed, early to rise and it’s kind of working well. We have a limit of 2-3 beers per man each night so we’re not hung-over, so no surprise we’re up, had brekky and away by 8.30am. Today is a big day - Val d’Isere and the ‘big Alps’. Mans Alps. Leaving Seez the D902  is stunning, the high snow-covered mountains are breathtaking and the roads are dry, warm and have perfect surfaces, we’ve loving this. Entry to Val d’Isere is marked by a crappy road sign, but you know you're here when you see the dam at Le Chevril - that's a real damn, breathtaking.

We continue along the D902 stopping to take pictures every minute, we are so lucky to be here, unbelievably, we’ve timed this to perfection. All the tourists have gone as the ski season is about to start in a month. The town is perfectly quiet, unspoilt. The only noise is from local carpenters  readying for the winter ski-brats. We meet a German guy on his BMW sports bike, enjoy coffee together and chat about routes, he’s keen that we go to Col du La Bonette, it’s not on our route, but he insists we go. He’s come from there this morning as it was closed due to snow the day before - he describes this as ‘magnificent’, “must go”, but warns us Menton is a long way on these roads. I can see Stevie’s mind clicking and whirring as he takes this in.
 
We leave our German friend and ride the D902 to Saint Charles, from here we can see the mountains we are going to climb to the summit of Col d'Iseran. Epic. The higher we get  the more spectacular the view and the more snow we find, near the top there’s no grass or rocks to be seen - it’s  all snow, but oddly the roads are dry and clear and the sun is out. The D902 continues with stunning effect to the village of Bessans, we stop for photos and try to take this in.  The ride to Mont Cenis is perfect where we pick up the D1006 - massively entertaining road that takes us to the surreal and quite bizarre Col du Mont Cenis (Lac du Mont Cenis - the lake at the pass).
 
The  aqua green coloured water and pyramid shape church are something not of this earth. We take lunch in the only café that looks over the lake and mountains, chat to other UK bikers who are doing this route the opposite way. They too warn us Menton is a real hike from here - but our ever optimistic attitude wins each time. I buy two stickers to say we’ve  been here at an altitude of 6,827 feet, we  congratulate each other on a perfect route and  ‘jog on'. Leaving France again we’re in Italy on the SS25 towards Susa, the SS24 to Briançon back in France then the N94 in the direction of Col de Le Bonette. The other side of the D902 takes us to Gleizolles through Col de Vars, and is fast becoming our favourite road with spectacular scenery and the kind of corners that you dream of as a kid, I spend  most of my time looking over my right shoulder - is this another 60 degree corner? No, it’s another 270 degree monster.....     

The Herculean D64 is the beast that leads to the highest road in Europe - Col de La Bonette. We ride with caution enjoying this dry very, very twisty  road to the summit. We see the stone monolith and plaque at the top that means we’re here, words fail us as we gaze in silence at the view, looking down on the Alps. Only God  could make this breathtaking place, only the  French could tarmac it so well - this, ladies and gentlemen, is truly moving, our photos don’t do this any justice.

We shake hands in acknowledgment of our major  achievement, chat to another biker and prepare to descend to Saint-Etienne-de-Tinée on the D2205. We’re 9,192 feet in the air, on top of the world. It is, the highest asphalted road in France and is the highest through road in the whole of Europe.
 
Somewhere near Saint-Martin-Vesubie we stop for coffee and call the bloke who owns the self-catering cottage near Menton we’re staying at, no answer. We’re running late and the sun is starting to go. We run the D70 on the  valley floor, still well above sea-level, for an hour this fast road is another epic ride  but as the sun vanishes we’ve got a choice to make; ride the quicker roads, but at over  90 miles it’s a long way or ride the 30+  miles through the base of the Alps - of  course, we chose the Alps. We climb and descend with alarming regularity, it’s soon pitch black and we’re not making good time.

Eventually, we arrive in Menton, very tired but manage another 15 miles over the border into Italy and Bordighera. We meet our host and I ask how far to go, “About 2 to 3  hours” I want to kill him. “Only  joking Dave, 5 minutes mate” I want to hug him. It’s 11pm. The remainder of the evening is spent negotiating dirt-track roads to the cottage in the hills we’ve booked via a mate, and then a thick layer of gravel to top it off.  As we’ve no food (self catering means you bring your own stuff, apparently), a kind friend nicks some meat, bread, tea and milk from a neighbour before we climb further to reach the cottage. Cold beers are in the fridge for us, we thank him and supp our coldies on the terrace enjoying this warm evening, overlooking the Italian village of Saso and in the distance, the lights of Monaco. I wish I could call our German friend from Val d’Isere and the UK bikers we saw in Lac du Mont Cenis to tell  them we’ve made it, mind you, they probably wouldn’t believe me - I almost don’t.      

We get up late today, all those immense roads are taking their toll on us. Taking our breakfast overlooking Saso in the morning sun, this little cottage is perfect. Our host arrives to guide us out the hills towards Bordighera, we thank him and head off through the absolutely manic traffic of Italy. Our bikes are over heating and we’re sweating in the intense heat.  Moving is the only way to stay cool but that’s impossible in this place. We cross the border again into France and ride the coast to Monaco. The traffic is just plain silly, but Stevie has got the driving mentality spot-on; ride  through every gap you see, dodge the traffic and pay no attention whatsoever to road signs - it works. We both get a kick out of lining our bikes up with the F1 starting grid in Monaco, but by now its 12 noon. We park up and head for food by the harbour. This  is the worst food we’ve had on the entire  trip, we’re in a tourist trap now and can't wait to get the hell out of Monaco.  The 2008 yacht show starts in a few days so  the place is filled with marquees and tents, it’s too busy for us. We ride the coastal  route towards Antibes, we’re tired after yesterday and agree not to do the Napoleon Route today as it would be too much, we’re gonna have a half day off the bikes and on the beach.
 
We’ve not booked a hotel today as we  didn’t know how we would feel or if  would make it this far. I try a hotel on the beach which is full, reception tells me everywhere is busy as it’s the end of the holidays and the yacht show starts soon. Dammit. I ask if she can recommend anywhere, she takes  pity on me and calls a friend, within minutes we’re parked up, 40 yards from the beach, in the sun drinking ice cold beer on the patio - Oh, happy days. Welcome to the Hotel  Miramar in Antibes, the owner shows me how the ‘honesty’ bar works - drink what you like, write it down, pay for  it when you leave. I love this place.
 
Stevie nicks the hotels towels and we head to the beach for a swim. We’ve got our sun loungers, cold beers and then we take a dip in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, we point out where we’ve been on the horizon “look, there’s Nice, Oh, and Monaco”, “see those big mountains, that’s the Alps!” This is amazing and we’ve deserved every minute of this, we’re having a ball in 30-degree sunshine while the UK basks in rain once more. Nearing 6pm we take advice to go to Juan Les Pins for food, watch the sun vanish, enjoy our  beers and food, grab a taxi and we’re crashed out early for the next day of riding the legendary N85.
 
Carlsberg don’t do motorcycling holidays, but if they did……


Motoeuro 2008 part 3 - The Napoleon Route!

Voted the best motorcycling road in Europe, Motoeuro give it a whirl.

< Back to home page | Motoeuro 2008 page 3 >

Motoeuro 2008 - Val d’Isere

Arrival at Val d'Isere.

Motoeuro 2008 - Our German friend

We get told about "highest road in Europe"...

Motoeuro 2008 - Top Mont Cenis

The summit of Col d'Iseran. Awesome!

Motoeuro 2008 - Mont Cenis

Riding down Col d'Iseran to Bessans.

Motoeuro 2008 - Col de Vars

Lac du Mont Cenis - The lake at the pass.

Motoeuro 2008 - Col du la Bonnett

The epic view from Col de La Bonette.

Motoeuro 2008 - Col du la Bonette

You're seriously high-up at the summit.

Motoeuro 2008 - Antibes !

Sun, sea and cold beer - well deserved!