Gravel Culture: Travel Gravel - Mont Thabor gravel adventure
Gravel Union On
25 November 2020
There is no doubt that the arrival of gravel in the cycling community will rejuvenate the cycling practice itself, which has long since become far too conventional. Associated with the mountain culture, gravel holds the promise of bringing out both exploration and projects to connect valleys. In essence, it brings newness in many cycling tours and adventures.
Thanks to recent evolutions in cycling equipment, gravel bikes offer more comfort, handling and versatility. The gravel discipline is an excellent starting point to tame more complex natural spaces and feel more away from roads that have become far too busy.
My job as a mountain guide and biking coach has allowed me to explore a wide variety of Alpine mountain landscapes to the point of knowing them at an "expert" level. For the past two years, I have been riding my bike or guiding on Alpine itineraries that I selected for their beauty and uniqueness. Gravel has naturally seduced me as a cyclist and has become my main practice.
When gravel-riding, I feel almost zoned out – it’s as if my spirit escapes near the peaks, somewhere below the summits, finding patience there, enjoying the taste of things, enduring more easily the difficulties. The whole experience becomes a real-life dream in the heart of the landscape. This authenticity is making me feel alive, breathing at will...
This summer, with my friends Yann and Luc from Chilkoot “la Compagnie des Pionniers”, I rode around Mount Thabor, an original cross-border trail that connects the Maurienne valley in Savoie to the Briançonnais, with a passage through Italian Piedmont to go up the upper Susa valley.
This resolutely Alpine tour revolves around Mount Thabor, a symbolic peak that culminates at 3178m and shelters an eponymous chapel a few meters below its summit.
Mount Thabor towers above all the passage from the Northern to the Southern Alps. The landscape is radically changing with opened-up valleys. The morphology of the terrain becomes really favourable to ride in a choice setting. This tour has a unique and very off-beat character with one of the major parts taking place from Valloire.
By following on a few kilometers the road of the famous Galibier pass up to the famous "Plan Lachat", we then leave the tarmac for the gravel while riding through the Cerces massif to reach Névache and the Clarée valley.
A structured and dusty military road allows to easily reach successively the Paré (2427m) and Rochilles (2491m) passes under the powerful and mineral look of the west face of the Grand Galibier (3228m).
From then on, the light intensifies and the path opens almost notched at the feet of the powerful walls.
The feeling of isolation is perfect and the terrain is ideal to push your bike into its last corners.
The descent, steeper and more relative at the end, winds along the bubbling waters of the Clarée to reach the Refuge des Drayères and continues on a wide dirt and stone path to the Laval hut.
Access to the preserved village of Névache is a real pleasure for a quality stop as it marks the transition with the continuation of the tour and the passage to Italy. The Tour of Mount Thabor is a two-day trip. The first stage will take you from Modane (Savoie) to Névache (Hautes-Alpes).
Plan for a one night-stay in Névache. Numerous campsites or comfortable lodgings are available over there. The second stage will take you from Italy and Bardonecchia to Valfréjus (Savoie) up the Col de la Rho (2541m) in the Cottian Alps. If you are interested in this tour, be aware this adds up to 102 km on roads and mountain trails with 4500m + of climbing and five alpine passes to cross.
If you would like to try this route for yourself, you can find the route here
You will soon be able to book Jérôme as a guide to show you around the area too – his website is going to be here imminently.