1000 du Sud 2015 – Route Description
The originality of the 1000 du Sud 2015 becomes obvious when you look at the profile. While the profile of the previous editions showed a succession of difficulties scattered throughout the course (from which emerged a pass slightly higher than the others - the Lautaret until 2011, then the Cayolle), the profile of the 2015 edition clearly shows a giant, around which the rest of the climbs seems peanuts (which, however, is not the case). This giant is the Col Agnel, between Italy and France, at 2744 meters (9,003 ft).
This is where you return to France. You will have passed the border some 365 km earlier, not far from the sea, between Menton and Ventimiglia, by the historic frontier post of St. Louis Bridge (the one from "The Sucker"), on the old "Route N7". You will have crossed the Maritime Alps, the Ligurian Alps, the Ligurian Apennines and the wine hills of Piedmont. Your bike computer will show 600 km, and adventure will not be over! You will still visit the Upper Durance valley, the mountains of Champsaur and Dévoluy (including the traditional stop at Col du Festre), the eastern Drôme and the Ventoux area, prior to heading to Carcès. The total elevation gain of 15,000 m (50,000 ft) remains in the average of the two previous editions.
Warning: The kilometrage stated in this description is approximate and may undergo some changes. The final kilometrage will be given in the detailed cue sheet, still under construction.
Unlike in previous years, the riders will leave eastwards and therefore towards the mountain. A small warm-up ride of about 15 km to Salernes, and this will be the beginning of a long climb through Haut-Var which will lead to the Col de Clavel (1069 m), the highest road pass available in the Var department (Col de la Glacière is at the same altitude but denied access because located in the Canjuers military camp).
They then will enter the Alpes-Maritimes department and see the stunning landscape of the "Préalpes d'Azur" (the hinterland of the French Riviera): clue (gorge) de Saint-Auban, clue du Riolan, beautiful villages of Briançonnet, Collongues, Sigale, Roquesteron and Gilette. From there, they will cycle down to the Var valley and cross the Var at Charles Albert Bridge (the Var is the only French river that never flows in the department of the same name).
August 2, 2015 - Col de Turini (1604 m) initially planned, was replaced by two lower passes, Col de Châteauneuf (627 m) and Col de la Madone (927 m). This route, although mountainous, is closer to the coast and will allow riders to save time and strength in anticipation of the following difficulties.
So randonneurs will arrive on the seashores of Menton, after a spectacular downhill (Col de la Madone).
The profile of this first part is very mountainous. Do not rush in the ride with too much ardor and do not be obsessed with your speed average. Pace yourself, the success of your adventure highly depends on the way you tackle the first day. Anyway, there is no need to arrive too early on the coast where traffic is important.
From Menton (km 230) to Pietra Ligure (km 330), riders will travel a hundred almost flat kilometers along the coast. Never seen on the 1000 du Sud! Our original plan was to go up into the hinterland in this western part of the Ligurian Alps called "Alpi del Marguareis"; but it was abandoned because of too much extra elevation for a brevet which already includes 15,000 meters; and anyway, the roads would have been traveled at night. In the Alpes Maritimes, French as Italian, the mountains and the sea are really next to each other...
So this highly urbanized section (Ventimiglia, Sanremo, Imperia, Albenga and many other small coastal towns) is intended to be ridden overnight. This should ensure relative calm and an almost uninterrupted public lighting. At the same time, you can take advantage of the flat roads to save time. Do not hang around, traffic increases at the crack of dawn.
There is a beautiful bike path connecting Ospedaletti to San Lorenzo al Mare (23 km), built on a old railway (piste ciclabile Riviera dei Fiori).Take it. It will not make you lose time - on the contrary. You will be away from traffic and admire the beautiful tunnel Capo Nero, which traces the history of the Milano-Sanremo race (see picture).
In Pietra Ligure, randonneurs will leave the sea and tackle a middle mountain section in the Ligurian Alps, where they will pass close to Colle Melogno (1027 m). After the town of Altare (km 370), they will enter the Ligurian Apennines where they will easily cross Colle del Giovo (516 m).
The pass above Altare (Bocchetta di Altare, also called Colle di Cadibona, 459 m), located one km from the town on the road SS29, marks the exact point of separation between the Alps and Apennines, but you will not pass it.
Then the randonneurs will ride down the valley of the Erro river, which flows north towards Acqui Terme. They will exit Liguria and enter Piedmont shortly after Sassello at Ponte Erro. They will leave this valley at Cartosio (km 420) and head to the west, across the Langhe wine region, which produces, among other wines, Dolcetto d'Alba and Asti Spumante.
They will cross a beautiful rugged scenery with hilltop villages surmounted by their old bell tower (Montechiaro d'Acqui, Denice, Roccaverano – at 800 m above sea level, it's the highest town in the province of Asti - Castino, Cerreto Langhe, Monforte d'Alba). At the top of each hill, you will discover a panoramic view over the Alpine range, with the Mont Viso in focus: yes, that’s where you are going! This high alpine summit (3841 m), easily recognizable, stands right in front of the Col Agnel.
After Monforte d'Alba, riders will reach the Piedmont plain, watered by several tributaries and sub-tributaries of the Po (which flows more to the north): the Tanaro, the Stura di Demonte - which rises near Col de Larche (Colle della Maddalena) – the Maira and the Varaita, after which is named the Varaita valley, which will lead you back to France. The crossing of the plain takes about 45 km, via the important city of Fossano.
Why not take Col de Larche, easier than Col Agnel? Simply because it is forbidden to bicycles on the French side ...
Costigliole Saluzzo (km 540), 400 m above sea level, is the gateway to the Varaita valley and the beginning of a long climb to the giant of the 1000 du Sud 2015, Col Agnel. Its 2744 meters make it the third highest road pass in the Alps behind the Iseran and the Stelvio. A climb of 60 km awaits you, at first gradual (the beginning of the pass is sometimes located in Casteldelfino, twenty kilometers before the summit). The last 8.5 km are very difficult. Arm yourself with patience and a small gear!
Once at the top of this monster, the riders will cross to the French side in Queyras and enjoy a long downhill (via Molines-en-Queyras, Château-Queyras, the Guil valley, Guillestre) to the Durance valley, reached at Mont-Dauphin (km 645).
Then they will cycle the Durance valley down to Embrun. To avoid the N94, they will take a scenic route over the lake of Serre-Ponçon.
After La Bâtie-Neuve (km 695 km), riders will pass the Col de Manse (1270 m) in the Champsaur. They will take the Route Napoléon (N85) for about ten kilometers and then turn into a nice little “new” road, which overhangs the Drac, the Souloise and the dam of Sautet (built at the confluence of these two rivers). This year, the participants will reach the traditional Col du Festre by riding around the mountain of Faraud, eastern edge of the Dévoluy mountain (so they won't have to climb the Col du Noyer).
At the Col du Festre (1441 m), riders will have traveled 757 km and will head south, taking secret roads through a bright region where the Hautes-Alpes adjoin the Drôme and the Drôme adjoins the Alpes de Haute-Provence, and where the landscape already has a Mediterranean flavor. The 1000 du Sud would not be complete without a visit to the area of the Ventoux. Riders will climb three passes before getting to the lavender fields of the Plateau d'Albion : Col de la Croix (838 m), Col Saint-Jean (1159 m) and Col du Négron (1242 m), all new on the 1000 du Sud.
Once at Revest-du-Bion (km 860), they will cycle gradually downhill towards the Durance valley, via Banon and Forcalquier, and cross the Durance at the bridge of La Brillanne. They will return to Carcès without major difficulties, riding through the wooded hills of the Alpes de Haute-Provence and Haut-Var. Enjoy the tranquility, but watch out for wild boars!