The 1st Alpine Trial
6th – 8th June, 2014
The 1st Alpine Trial - Route Preview
Keith Baud our route designer and Deputy Clerk of the Course would like to introduce you to The Alpine Trial……
Welcome to the Kingdom of Savoy
With the exception of a couple of hours on Day 3, the whole of the 1st Alpine Trial takes place in the ancient Kingdom of Savoy. This former Kingdom has only been French for the last 150 years after the locals voted 130,533 for, and only 235 against, joining France in April 1860. Patriotic Savoyards still reckon the vote was rigged…
Savoie was founded by the Burgunds not, as you might think, a load of Frenchmen from Burgundy, but a tribe of barbarians from the shores of the Baltic who swept into the region in the 443AD. Their Kingdom took up much of the French Alps as well as overlapping into modern day Switzerland and Northern Italy. Indeed, the observant amongst you will note that the flag of Savoie bears an uncanny resemblance to the Swiss one! The last King of Savoie - King Umberto II of Italy - is buried at the Abbey de Hautecombe on the shores of Lac de Bourget.
In order that you may enjoy the hospitality of the lovely lakeside town of Annecy, your base for the duration of the event will be the Imperial Palace Hotel, a beautiful building situated right on the shore, and restored from dereliction in the 1960’s by Annecy Town Council. This hotel was used by the Alpine Trial in the 1930 and Philip Young is researching which bedroom was used by Donald Healey…. It is only a short level stroll from the hotel along the lakeside to the old town, where you can enjoy a drink in one of the many cafes set alongside the attractive river that flows through Annecy. Just like Venice but with running water!
The event itself is divided into three distinct daily “loops”, each one designed to give you the full flavour of this beautiful and spectacular region of the French Alps. Where possible we have tried to include enough time in the schedule to allow at least one short halt morning and afternoon, plus lunch. All of these are in small traditional village establishments which we feel helps add to the period character of the event, as well as giving welcome trade to many of these remote mountain communities.
Day 1: Friday 6th June - Chablais – 275km
This loop heads north east from Annecy into the Chablais region which is centred on the well-known ski resort of Morzine. None of the cols are giants by Alpine standards, but at 1600+ mtrs they will be plenty high enough for your cars. As it is the first day we start off relatively gently with a short regularity overlooking Lake Geneva before heading across country into a forested region known as the Vallee Verte. Mont Blanc will be your constant companion on the horizon ahead before you reach the lunch halt on the shores of a mountain lake close to the Swiss border.
The Rallye Mont Blanc takes place around Morzine every September and you will be using some of their demanding stage roads on your way back south. A final run over a couple of the Tour de France cycle race classic climbs, and a special test on a kart circuit will finish off the first day nicely before returning to Annecy
Day 2: Saturday 7th June - Alpes of Savoie – 340km
Today you head south on little used mountain roads through the Massif de Bauges and into the valley of the Isere. A quick coffee halt precedes an Alpine Section through the maze of lanes in the forested hills overlooking this broad valley.
There should also be time for a second coffee at the next control – a small village auberge run by an affable chap called Lulu! In fact you should all get a very warm welcome as le patron is also a Classic Car enthusiast and is very much looking forward to your visit.
With the exception of Annecy, the town of Albertville is the only place of any size that we pass through on the whole event, but it will give you a chance to fill your tanks before heading east into the higher mountains of the Beaufortain before lunch in a mountain chalet high on a remote col overlooking a deep blue lake…
Turning back towards Annecy your route is again dominated by the vast bulk of Mont Blanc ever present on your right shoulder. Many of the roads around here have been used as stages on famous rallies – including the Tour de France. A “sting in the tail” over the Chaine de Aravis should sort out the leaderboard before the final descent to the shores of Lac d’Annecy.
Day 3: Sunday 8th June – Cotes de Rhone - 290km
Today we head west, away from the big mountains and into the pre-Alps either side of the Rhone valley. However, just because the peaks are not so high, please don’t be deceived into thinking the roads are any less demanding.
Forested ridges rise steeply from the western shore of the Lac de Bourget, the deepest in France, whilst further north the open tops of the Grand Colombier offer some of the most extensive views to be had anywhere, stretching from the Jura and Lake Geneva to the north to the high Alpes in the south – with Mont Blanc still piercing the horizon.
However, the western slopes of these hills are a real surprise. Sleepy villages tucked amongst a bucolic landscape of orchards and vineyards producing some of finest white wines of the area.
And finally, the climb to the top of the penultimate stage of last year’s Tour de France and a celebratory drink overlooking a magnificent mountain vista before descending to the shores of Lac d’Annecy and the Gala Prizegiving on the very edge of its blue waters.
Fuel for Thought...
There was a time, not many years ago, when every village and town in France boasted at least one small garage. You remember the sort of place, scruffy dog snoozing in the afternoon sun, old Peugeots and Citroens slowly rusting in the weeds, garagiste with Gaulois permanently stuck to lower lip serving fuel from a wheezing pump.
Unfortunately like everywhere else in Europe, the combined effects of cut price hypermarket fuel and a younger generation understandably reluctant to work for the meagre returns that their fathers did, has meant the closure of almost all these small establishments.
All of which means that most fuel stations can now only be found in towns and alongside major roads and autoroutes, both of which Rally organisers like ourselves do our best to avoid for good reason.
However, we will indicate the location of fuel stations we know in your daily route books. Most are on route, a few can be found a short distance “off-route”. Of course, although we have no reason to think otherwise, we cannot guarantee they will be open (particularly between 12:00 and 14:00), or will have fuel. Many of those that are shown will be of the 24/7 or Supermarket unmanned variety accepting credit/debit cards via a machine. Although those of you who live on mainland Europe are used to such things, those of us from the UK have always treated them with some suspicion! However, please be assured that they no longer eat your card and refuse to serve you, they are much more reliable these days. I have found that Mastercard/VISA works fine, but I wouldn’t chance American Express.
Although you probably know the fuel consumption of your car, please be aware that the twisty, mountainous nature of the roads could seriously increase that consumption over normal motoring. You need to be able to drive at least 200km on a full tank, preferably more. Therefore, you should ensure that you start each day with a FULL tank, filling up every night if possible rather than waiting until the start in the next morning. Furthermore, you should try to fill up at every opportunity during the day, don’t let your tank get below half. And don’t necessarily wait until the fuel stations we show in the route book as everyone else could be thinking the same and there will be queues and you could lose time.
If you see fuel, then get it!
Finally, as a last resort, it might be worth strapping a five gallon jerry can to the running board, although there is probably an EU law forbidding that these days…
Keith Baud – Route Designer/Deputy Clerk of the Course