Home

Off to Saint Jean de Maurienne on Sunday for 5 days cycling up the Galibier and the like.  Looking at the long range forecast (I know, almost certainly useless anywhere 5 days in advance, especially a mountain) just to get a picture of what to pack.  However using a couple of different websites I am getting totally different answers depending on the website, even just looking at tomorrow's forecast. Anyone got a go-to site?

 

Also recommendations of kit gladly received. Was kind of planning to go up in a short sleeve jersey with a packable rain jacket and maybe some long finger gloves for the descent but starting to think this may be underkill. Maybe have room for a ls baselayer to shove on to battle windchill on the way down but limited to jersey pockets and those will need to have a couple of thousand callories of food in.

Thanks.

18 comments

Avatar
jaysa [153 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

www.meteo.fr works for me ?

And the ski station forecasts nearest the cols are useful too e.g.
http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/la-grave-la-meije/0...
http://www.meteofrance.com/previsions-meteo-montagne/valloire/73450

Office de Tourisme in most places in the French Alps has a detailed forecast updated around 7am.
If your French isn't there, point an Android phone with Google Translate at the forecast and you'll see it in English.

Always good to take what you need for showers and wind though. Was on the Izoard this summer and the wind was biting.

I take a windproof jacket and a windproof hat with polartec.  Otherwise long fast descents with wet hair overcool my head, and my judgement and balance go.  And keep some food/drink for the descent for the same reason. I don't bother with long gloves, L/S tops or leggings in the Summer.

2,000 Cals is a lot - even for the Marmotte circuit? In August you can pick up meals on the way ...

Have a great time!

Avatar
Moist von Lipwig [156 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Was in St Jean 1st week of July.  You'll have a blast.

Was using accu weather - was there or there abouts. Looking at it now looks almost the same - sun and storms.  The storms generally appear in the evening despite what the hourly breakdown says.

Was 29 deg + for us, was the upper limit of being bearable.  Everyone came back in at the end of the day coated in salt.  I was out in climbers jersey and mesh base layer (sun protection as much as anything else) or just the jersey if not 'meshy'.  Put the light jacket on for the descent of the Galibier on day 1, stopped at the 1st town and took it off. Sometimes just put arm warmers on or didn't bother at all.

At 24 deg (current forecast) I would be bothering with ls base layers or gloves. Light jacket should do it - could just take options and see what suits after day 1. 

Theres water fountains all over - one of the guys had an app with their locations but I don't know what it was.  Stock up if its available.  Theres a cafe at the top of nearly every mountain (get the carbonara at the top of the madeleine) and we made a lot of coffee stops on route. Did Telegraphe/Galibier/Croix de Fer in one day, snack in Valloire, late lunch in Bourg D'Oissans and only ate everything I had on me as the cafe had shut by the time we got to the top of the Croix de Fer.

And if you get back to St Jean late, Cafe Sol will do a pizza at 10pm if you ask nicely and look desperate.

Avatar
gmac101 [239 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

 

Windy.com gives access to a number of weather models.

Meteoblue is a model developed by a Swiss Company that focuses on the alps.  I haven't had the chance to assess its accuracy myself but its always good to check a couple of forecasts

https://www.windy.com/47.872/8.108?51.276,13.755,5,i:pressure

Avatar
Liam Cahill [188 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

The essential is a packable rain jacket. A cotton cap is also very useful. You can be all chic at the cafe and it's great for avoiding brain freeze when your sweaty head starts the 30min descent!

Oh - lights. Overkill for most of the day, but the extra weight is worth it if you have a mechanical that means you're getting back late. And some of the thunderstorms over there make it amazingly dark...

 

Avatar
PRSboy [549 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

+1 on the lights... there are a few tunnels that you may have to negotiate.  Not all are lit inside.  One long one I recall on a main road had a lighting failure and would have been the end of the ride without lights.

Otherwise, prepare for all weathers as Alpine weather is very changeable even if you've seen a forecast.  Keep a gilet with you for the descents, and a rain jacket.

Enjoy... my week in the Alps was the best time I've had on a bike, ever.  Make sure you look up from the stem at the amazing views!

Avatar
Shades [491 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Even in July I've been sweating buckets in the valley and then sitting in a cafe at the summit; jacket and hat on with a mug of hot coffee. 

Avatar
gonedownhill [219 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Thanks for the replies, most useful. Windy.com is a great resource.

Will take a bunch of rain kit to France with me but looks like packable rain jacket, cap, maybe a buff should cover a typical day especially if storms are mostly late afternoon by which time we should have completed most of the rides we have planned.

Google translate downloaded.

Can't find the water point app but this website is pretty good https://www.eau-cyclisme.com/eau-departement-savoie-d73.htm

Was going to take lights anyway but good tip.

Avatar
jaysa [153 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Good point on the lights - sorry forgot that.

Also take and use a rear flashy light. People drive through tunnels with sunglasses on and may not see you without one. Keep well away from the wall in tunnels - there can be a deep gutter and rocks rather close to head level.

You can often watch storms brewing - more and darker clouds. Just set off early to avoid and get a cool(er) ascent.

Avatar
LastBoyScout [626 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I've never bothered taking a rain jacket cycling in the summer - you just end up soaked from sweat, anyway.

I'd wear a mesh base layer and jersey and take a windproof gilet and a set of arm warmers. As Shades said, it can be significantly cooler at the top, especially if you're soaked in sweat.

Agree with the lights idea due to the tunnels.

 

Avatar
Griff500 [433 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Avoid the "tourist" type forecasts such as AccuWeather and meteo.fr as they don't accurately detail altitude, and their forecasts are usually extrapolated from somewhere else. Use mountain-forecast.com, select the nearest relevant mountain from their database (eg pointe des cerces for galibier) and you will get an hourly forecast with temperature versus altitude, plus freezing level.

In August the weather can be almost anything in the Alps so pack as such, and decide on the day what to take. Typically early mornings can be cold, but the sun is still quite high so it can be very hot by 11am, and very often thunderstorms late afternoon.

I did Galibier in early July, and you'll love it. The scenery is just so spectacular.

Avatar
Griff500 [433 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
jaysa wrote:

 

2,000 Cals is a lot - even for the Marmotte circuit?

Nonsense!

A "typical" figure for leisure cycling is 500-700 cals/hr, and that is before factoring in an 8% climb.

Another figure often quoted is that a "typical" 75kg cyclist at 18mph uses 900 cals/hr. Again, Galibier is not typical.

Livestrong give an example of an 80kg cyclist at 10mph on only a 3% incline burning 850cal per hour.

These figures, all from different sources, seem fairly consistent, but the burn rate increases dramatically with gradient. (even accounting for the fact that half of a col attempt is downhill). 

My cycling all takes place in mountainous terrain. Galibier from Valloire return took me 1500 calories (36km round trip with 1200m climb).  The Cinglés (138km, 4405m climb) was 5671 calories. According to my Wahoo, yesterday's little jaunt round the Vaucluse was 90km, 1287m climbing, 3h30 moving time, just short of 3000 calories.  Again, this all ties in pretty well with all the numbers I can find online.  And you think you can do the Marmotte (175km, 5000m climb) on 2000? Dream on. 

So I reckon if you are off for a few days cycling cols, 3000 per day should be the minimum you expect, and Marmotte, much more.

I strongly recommend the Galibier brewery in Valloire as a useful source of calories!

 

Avatar
PRSboy [549 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

But all that said about calories, I personally never find I get madly hungry even on some big days... aim to eat well rather than like a sumo wrestler.

The worst I felt on a climb was the Madeleine on a hot afternoon, after a freezing wet and windy morning on the Col Du Glandon after which I thought I deserved a big pizza for lunch 

Avatar
jaysa [153 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes

"And you think you can do the Marmotte (175km, 5000m climb) on 2000? Dream on"

Settle down smiley For sure the Marmotte burns more than 2000 Cal.

My point was 2000 Cal is a lot to take with you when every cafe/resto/bar is open.

Agree on the total energy burnt - though if you've trained your fat metabolism, a fair amount comes from fat reserves.

I'm based in the Hautes Alpes and on long days have burnt lots of Cals - I try not to carry umpteen energy bars though!

e.g. rode Allos, Cayolle and Bonette in the day, carrying max 4 bars + meals in the valleys, and restocking with more bars from the car before the Bonette.

Avatar
HLaB [267 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

When I did the Marmotte one of my mates suggested a light wind proof jacket for the highest point and descent from it which was a good call.  Took the jacket off in the feed stop down the bottom.  The rest of my gear was summer stuff.

Avatar
gonedownhill [219 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

Mountain forecast is the one, thanks.

Think I may have been underestimating how much opportunity there is to buy food up at altitude - the presence of a brewery is a monumental bonus! 

Cheers all for the helpful comments.

 

If anyone wants to chime in on their favourite climbs while they're here then go ahead. Current thinking is Telegraphe-Galibier one day, then also try and do north side of Glandon, Croix de Fer from the south side (approaching from Bourg D'Oisans), Alpe D'Huez, Lacets de Montvernier & Col du Chaussy over the course of the week. 

 

All very dependent on how we handle back to back Alps days as both me and my riding buddy are a bit less trained than we'd hoped having both had football injuries at the start of the summer. We have a car so have options to drive to reduce overall kms and time and get to near the start of the climbs.

 

Avatar
Griff500 [433 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
jaysa wrote:

"And you think you can do the Marmotte (175km, 5000m climb) on 2000? Dream on"

Settle down smiley For sure the Marmotte burns more than 2000 Cal.

My point was 2000 Cal is a lot to take with you when every cafe/resto/bar is open.

Sorry, I clearly picked up your post wrong!

Avatar
Moist von Lipwig [156 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
gonedownhill wrote:

If anyone wants to chime in on their favourite climbs while they're here then go ahead. Current thinking is Telegraphe-Galibier one day, then also try and do north side of Glandon, Croix de Fer from the south side (approaching from Bourg D'Oisans), Alpe D'Huez, Lacets de Montvernier & Col du Chaussy over the course of the week. 

Did telegraph/galibier and Croix De Fer in one go, that was the best and hardest day I've had on a bike. Croix was a slog on the limit by that point. Probably a much nicer couple of hours when you're not breathing through your arse.

Lacets is great, one of my favourite bits of the week, Chaussy isn't too demanding, if feeling okay in down the other side and you're part way up the Madeleine.

Glandon from St. Jean let's you then do La Trousierre or the Mollard.

Avatar
Miller [273 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes

Take care on the descents. Some in my club have got over-excited on encountering real mountain descents and have posted the results from their hospital bed. 

Back to back big mountain days are very draining so perhaps schedule some lower altitude riding.

By late afternoon you're going to want to be showered and installed in a bar.