Tour des Alpes 2023

Tour des Alpes 2023

Mattia Bertani

Like every year in July we head towards the roads that cross the highest Alpine passes, where for most of the year it is impossible to reach due to snow. This year the choice was France and we did it with a 2-day tour for which we gave participants the opportunity to choose whether to do the entire weekend or opt for one of the 2 days. On Saturday the Tour was in the afternoon, with departure after lunch from Sestriere (TO) and arrival in Demonte, in Valle Stura, province of Cuneo. On Sunday we then returned north to reach Bardonecchia.


The meeting point for participants is at midday in Piazzale Kandahar in Sestriere. Here, thanks to the Pro Loco of Sestriere, we had the opportunity to park our cars in the pedestrian area, right in front of the QB, the place that hosted us for a small lunch before leaving for this tour.

At around 2.30pm we start the engines and set off for this first part of the Tour!
We immediately face the descent from Sestriere to Cesana. A very well asphalted and winding road which just the previous weekend was the scene of the historic Cesana-Sestriere uphill race. Heading towards France along the busy SS24 of the Montgenevre pass which then takes us down to Briancon.

The first road where we can drive finally begins. The D902 is excellently asphalted, the few cars we find can be easily overtaken thanks to the fairly wide roadway which climbs from the valley up to the Col de l'Izoard at 2361 metres. It is one of the most spectacular roads you can travel, always praised by Special Stages also for the suggestive panorama that surrounds the pass, with its atypical mountains and almost absent vegetation. A short stop to regroup the group and we set off again.

The southern side, particularly at the initial point, sees a narrower roadway until it meets the first vegetation. The still low traffic allows us to quickly reach the first towns and then continue on the fast stretch of the D902 at the bottom of the valley, between deep canyons and a wide road up to Guillestre.

We therefore remain on the D902, the acronym that identifies the Route Des Grandes Alpes, to climb towards the next pass, the Col de Vars. This is a somewhat particular step. It is not famous for a particular altitude, it is in fact only 2108 metres, it does not have any particular views that stand out from other places, but the road, the road is phenomenal!

Wide enough to allow you to drive in complete safety, fast and winding, with an impeccable surface, which climbs up to the tourist resort of Vars and then continues towards the pass and again in identical conditions for the entire descent on the opposite side. If you happen to travel along it on a day with little traffic it will remain in your memory.
Once we reach the valley floor we travel a short transfer stretch along the D900 up to Jausiers where we turn for the next pass, the Col de La Bonette. It is now 6pm and the roads are clear. There is almost no one left and this allows us to enjoy this climb to the fullest, once again from the road surface in excellent condition, towards the highest road in Europe.

The Col de La Bonette is in fact located at 2715 metres, which already makes it one of the highest passes in Europe, but another road starts from here which makes a ring around the top of the mountain reaching 2802 metres. It's true, if you search on the internet you will find that it is not by far the road that reaches the highest altitude, but it is the only asphalt road open to traffic that is not dead-end.
Here you cannot miss a stop to catch your breath, with difficulty given the lack of oxygen, but above all to admire the fantastic, almost lunar panorama that can be admired from this place.

We continue our journey south. Here the roadway is narrower and it becomes more complicated to overtake the few cars we find on the route. Going down towards the valley the surface becomes even more irregular, which forces us to keep a calm pace until the first towns, where the road finally widens.

At Isola we leave the main road to begin the climb towards the last pass of the day, the Colle della Lombarda, which will take us back to Italy. By now the traffic is totally absent, the sun is setting, and we launch into this last climb. Wide road, characterized by fast stretches and hairpin bends up to Isola 2000, an important ski resort. We continue up to the pass where we stop for a final rest before descending onto the Italian side. A road surrounded by nature, narrow, with a slightly ruined surface in some places, takes us to the valley floor where we travel the last kilometers on the SS21 up to Demonte to reach the Wolf Village for dinner with all the participants.


The meeting place is always in Wolf Village, where we had dinner the previous evening. A breakfast with all the participants and we are ready to leave, again in the direction of France. Today we pass the border through the Colle della Maddalena, an important communication route between Italy and France which however, strangely enough, is not particularly busy this morning.

Ironically, we quickly approach Argentera where the last stretch, full of curves, is only ruined by a group of motorcyclists.

In France we go down the D900 which is still not very busy. Few cars, a few campers along this transfer stretch which is nevertheless a beautiful road. We pass Barcelonnette until we find the junction for the D954. This road, first traveled by Special Stages in 2018, may seem like a tourist road on the surface, but for us driving enthusiasts it is a fantastic road.


Even less traffic than we had encountered so far, a wide, well-paved road, a rough asphalt that gives good grip, and a stupendous view of the Serre Poncon lake accompany us to Le Sauze-du-Lac, where we stop for a stop in a panoramic car park overlooking the lake.
The D954 then continues, offering a truly exciting road up to Savines-le-Lac where we join the N94 for a warm and peaceful transfer northwards until we turn towards Guillestre. Here begins a stretch that we have already traveled on the previous day, but now obviously we follow it in the opposite direction. In fact, we begin to go up the D902 to reach the Col de l'Izoard, ironically with less traffic than the previous day.

A brief stop on the pass and then continue descending on the opposite side. We are back in Briancon but we do not return to Italy immediately. Today, in fact, we leave the N94 before the Montgenèvre Pass to travel through the Clarée Valley. Totally absent traffic here too along this fast road that runs along the bottom of a small, almost uncontaminated valley up to the junction for Colle della Scala. The D1T is a short road, which takes us to the pass, immersed in the greenery of the Alpine woods, and then descends towards Bardonecchia.
Once in the village we reach Harald's Sky bar for the final aperitif! Note of mention for this place which served us a plentiful and excellent quality aperitif, an excellent way to end this weekend of driving, incredible views and the wonderful company of the event participants.



For the next event you will have to wait until the month of September for the Coast To Coast, two days to cross Italy, starting from the beaches of Abruzzo, crossing the Gran Sasso, traveling along the roads between the hills of Etruria and arriving in Maremma for an aperitif on the beach at sunset.


Click HERE to see all the photos from the event!
Click HERE to see photos from past events.

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