Alps 2013 Part 2 The Stella Rally

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Postby Tonibe63 » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:07 am

Part 1 here if you've missed it viewtopic.php?f=44&t=8431

Thursday

After a relaxed start we head South and destination Bardonecchia, the home of The Stella Rally since around 1963. The route was not going to be the quickest but most importantly it avoided the Frejus Tunnel which is about 27 Euros to go through.

Heading towards the Col d’Iseren
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2 weeks ago the pass was still closed due to snow
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At the top
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Up to this point we had ridden many of the roads before but from here onwards it’s all new for us.

We still had full luggage and camping gear on board so our first gravel road was thankfully an easy one around Lake Mont Cenis
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Mont Cenis in the background
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And the fantastic helter skelter tarmac road after the Dam
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From here it was in to Susa and then take the road that snakes it’s way alongside and underneath the peage along the gorge. At a set of temporary road works I leapfrogged to the front of the que only to be joined by 6 Swiss riders out for a blast. The next 10 miles or so was a blurr as I clung on to the tail end of the runaway train running between the cliff wall on the right and Armco barriers on the left, a real buzz ride that was acknowledged with a wave when they peeled off and we carried straight on.

Arriving at Bardonecchia I was on reserve so found an automatic petrol station but it rejected 4 credit cards and 2 debit cards so ended up feeding it cash. In to the town and the first sight was 2 Police writing a local a speeding ticket, not good for him but convenient for me to get directions for Bokki Campsite.
About 5 miles out of town we found it but it looked nothing like the internet pictures on their website and although we had made enquiries we didn’t like the atmosphere of the place. They had expanded the caravan area and pushed the tents into an overflow field with no facilities of it’s own which meant walking through an opened fence to get access plus lots of big dogs around the caravans-I’m not paying 30 euros a night to get bitten whilst going for a midnight dump.

Whilst considering our options an English guy came up for a chat on a BMW outfit (sidecar) and said he always stops at the Refuge which is part way up the Col du Sommeillier but it is basically wild camping with no facilities. Shortly after an English rider in his early 20’s pulled up on an old Honda XL500, he was on a 2 week solo tour around the Alps, RESPECT. Finally another solo English guy on a Varadero 1000 pulled up for a chat looking for Bokki Camping. After the introductions it became clear that we all knew of each other from ABR forum and also that we expected more of the campsite. They decided to go for the refuge option whilst we went off looking for a better site.
Eventually we found a site down towards Briancon which had toilets, showers and a small bar & pizza cabin all for 14 euros a night plus it was more central for what I had planned over the 3 days riding. There was also a bonus in that the roads in all directions were absolutely awesome.
After setting up camp we decided to go in to Italy for an evening meal but by the time we had eaten a massive thunderstorm had blown in and we were wearing jeans/trainers, we got absolutely soaked riding back.

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Last edited by Tonibe63 on Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby bmk » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:27 am

Keep it coming Tony, much appreciated. :greetings-clappingyellow:
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Postby dave ellis » Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:40 am

top ride report tony :text-goodpost:
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Postby Side stand » Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:09 pm

Great read Tony, really enjoying the journey keep it coming :handgestures-thumbup:
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Postby Tonibe63 » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:02 pm

Thanks gents :handgestures-thumbup:
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Postby Tonibe63 » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:05 pm

Friday

Another good nights sleep and a fine morning to make use of the all new BMW clothes drier
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Today we are to do some warm up trails so head into Italy and come across a hill climb being set up on the main road up the hill from Cesana to Sestriere
Cars in the paddock
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A video of part of the climb (turn the sound down)
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Paddock at the hotel car park where they are staying
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Time for petrol and our first coffee of the day in Sestriere
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Before heading on to the Col de Assietta
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And above the clouds-awesome
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Memorial to fallen soldiers
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Getting busy at the top
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In and out of low cloud
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Into the fog where we caught up a couple of German bikes
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On to the Col de Finestre
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The Wolf that came running out of the forest turned out to be a friendly cattle dog
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The gravel eventually stopped and we headed in to Susa on the most fantastic tarmac road ever. I was scraping my boots and I still had sports bikes and supermotos in my mirrors, F’KIN AWESOME.
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From there it was back in to Bardonecchia for supplies and dinner at a pub. Noel's mate big Gregg in the middle of the picture.
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2 English MZ’s and a Jawa from fackin Landon
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Finally back at the campsite about 9pm and a celebratory beer after a crackin days riding
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Postby bmk » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:22 pm

Fook me, some stonking cars in there. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Group 4 Martini looks awesome. 8-) I watched them at Le Mans the last year they were eligible to race in '83.

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C Type Jag, largely overshadowed by the D Type, but still stunning in it's own right. :D

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Would probably give a left bollock for the Lancia 037 on the left, super rare now, and as for the Stratos .........

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Nice one Tony. :handgestures-thumbup:
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Postby Tonibe63 » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:32 pm

The hill climb was on the following day and we saw a blue Porsche coming back in to town presumably after his run up the hill, he was still flat out and the escorting police car behind with blue lights ablaze was being left standing :lol: :lol:
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Postby Tonibe63 » Tue Jul 30, 2013 10:43 am

Saturday

On the way back from the shower block I stopped to talk to a couple of German bikers on KTM640 adventures about all things bikes. They had a great hard backed book detailing all the gravel pistes of the Alps and today were planning on doing the LGKS, widely acknowledged as the most extreme trail and one I was not going to do this trip. They had done the Stella route a couple of days ago and said it was blocked by snow at around 2200 metres with no chance of getting to the top. I asked about the Col du Papillion to the South and got the reply I didn’t want to hear, last week the tunnel was blocked by ice which meant they had to drag the bikes through (more of that in a few days time).
Yesterday I’d spoken to more than a few riders who were considering riding the Col de Sommelier on the Saturday to avoid qeueing on hairpin bends and the possibility of bad weather on the Sunday. Riding out of the campsite we spotted a couple of bikes with GB plates so stopped for a chat. Lizzie and Sam are a couple of 20 year old students spending their uni grants wisely, yes on petrol to do the Stella Rally. Lizzie had been up on the back of her Dads bike many times, last year was the first time on her own bike a 250 superdream (dropped it twice) and this year she was on a GS500. This was Sams first time but was confident he would be ok. These kids had their priorities right and had me asking myself why I was here for the first time having just turned 50, RESPECT to them.

We decided to ride in to town and get an idea of what the feeling was down at the Station coffee shop.
It was already busy down their and the Police were in attendance just keeping an eye on things
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Talk of bad weather made my decision, I’d had a couple of close shaves yesterday riding through muddy puddles and certainly had enough of getting wet so let’s go up today.

Riding on the narrow and twisty tarmac road at the start turned out to be very busy with cars stopping/blocking the bends and the whole route was in a cloud of dust, it was like the rush hour commute.
We turned off in to the tiny Hamlet of Rochemolles to escape the chaos. Maybe 30 houses dotted around the Chapel which was built around 1640.
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Once things had calmed down we continued
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Arriving at the Refuge where many people wild camp and the point where normal cars stop, there was even a Honda Goldwing up there and Joe on his BMW outfit

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From here it got a bit bumpier and bit tighter but 4x4’s were still going up
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The Stella Rally was originally started around 1967 by a group of Italians and British riders meeting up once a year to ride to the top of the Col de Sommellier (the highest driveable road in Europe) on normal bikes.
This photo of a bemused Italian guy opitimises the true spirit of the event
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Travelling up
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By now the few hardy 4x4’s had been stopped by snow drifts and it was just bikes and quads.
After picking up a fallen rider on a KTM640 we arrived at this tight turn. 3 blokes on 800GS’s had parked up saying “this is as far as we’re going”, sure it was tight and muddy but with a straight run it was no problem even on road tyres
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More snow but there was a gully through
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Climbing ever higher the scenery became more barren and the prospect of disappearing over the edge and down the valley had my arse twitching. The bends were just too tight to ride the behemoth round without feathering the clutch and fallen riders or traffic just added to the challenge.
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The snow banks meant there was only narrow strips of clear gravel, forcing me to stop to wait for a gap before riding on. One rider panicked whilst coming down and thankfully rode straight in to the snow rather than over the edge-funny to watch but I’m sure he was cacking his pants
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Eventually we arrived at the snow line with the unreachable trail winding it’s way up the mountain in the background. I was pleased and relieved to get as far as anybody else could but frustrated not to have reached the lake at the very top.
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The ‘crazy english’ amongst the solo riders
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After half an hour of taking in the views and joining in the fantastic atmosphere it was time to come down. ABS switched off and instructions to Louise to fall away from the edge completed the safety procedures.
Infact it all passed without incident for us and even the tight muddy corner with the 800GS riders still looking on was ridden 2 up
The German couple from yesterday going up the mountain on their 350 Euro BMW650
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A celebratory drink at the refuge
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Wood gathering for the camp fires made us giggle
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I’d planned to do the Mount Jafferau trail in the afternoon but by now it was 4pm and the storm clouds were gathering. Full of confidence I set out in search for the start of the trail but couldn’t find it. We stopped to ask some locals on enduro bikes for directions who said it isn’t marked and with the weather closing in it would be dangerous. They did point me in the right general direction with the parting words “you English are bloody crazy”. Doubts were creeping in to my own mind as I looked at the distant clouds and then my watch before riding up a track where we met 2 Dutch riders coming down from Jafferau
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They too said we would struggle going up from this end due to the muddy puddles and would be better going to Susa and coming back to Bardonecchia. They also said the trail was not marked but to head for the village of Frenee and follow the natural trail from there.
Susa was at least an hour from here and then the trail would take another 2 hours minimum so we decided to head in to Bardonecchia for dinner. We met up with Noels mate Greg and a few others before they went back to camp at the Refuge and we headed off towards Briancon.
Today was another fantastic days riding
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Here's a short youtube vid nicked off another site
Last edited by Tonibe63 on Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Tonibe63 » Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:53 pm

Sunday

The German riders tent, car and trailer are still here but no sign of the bikes or riders, it is a fair way South to the LGKS so must have had an overnight stop.
Another nice start to the day so after the usual camp site routine we set off for Cessana to check out some dotted lines on the map. Riding through Claviere en route we called in for a coffee where half a dozen locals on sports bikes and SMT’s were getting a caffeine hit before heading out on a Sunday morning blast.
At Cesanna the hill climb road was closed but we managed to find the trails complete with map
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An old Chapel up by the Lake
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On the hillside behind the Chapel there was a trail made up of rock hard mud and as we bounced around the hairpins a group 20 enduro bikes came down off the top many doing a double take at us.

At the top there was a viewpoint
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2 French riders on GSA’s were parked up looking at their map and were only too happy to share route information. I asked about Mount Jafferau which they confirmed to approach from the Susa end and to look for the turning for Frenee as the trail is not marked. I also asked about the Papallion Tunnel and was told 2 weeks ago it was blocked by ice-not what I wanted to hear but I’ll worry about that in a couple of days.

Heading towards Susa and somehow we took a wrong turn and ended up going the wrong way for about 10 miles, I realised fairly soon but it was on our favourite road from a couple of days ago and of course eventually we had to turn round and ride it all over again-absolute heaven.
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Once on the right road we found the tiny turn for Frenee and after a couple of miles the tarmac ran out
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Then a couple of short tunnels, rockslides and some stunning scenery
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Before arriving at the half a kilometre long Jafferau Tunnel that curves around so you can’t see the light at the end
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The gravel and concrete floor was very slippy from lots of water coming through the tunnel walls that are slowly collapsing
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On the second day in France my dipped beam bulb had blown and I didn’t have a spare so left it for another day which of course didn’t arrive. Part way through here I switched my headlight off and you could not see the tunnel walls next to you-if the high beam bulb blows I’ll be in a mess
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The scenery was stunning and not at all like the harsh rock of Switzerland
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Eventually we got to the old wartime fort which slowly crumbling away
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And then found our way back to Bardonecchia
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By now it was 4ish and it had been a red hot day so we called in at the pub for a drink where many bikes had gathered. Lizzie and Sam were talking to friends and invited us over for a chat.
This guy is one of the few remaining original riders of the Stella and has only missed 3 or 4 events since 1967 on his cool BMW
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One guy told us how his mates had let him down last minute so he just put his tent on his old F650gs and got on the ferry from Jersey. It was his first Stella but it wouldn’t be his last as he clearly was blown away by it and like myself wanted to know why it had taken him 50 years to get here. There is no doubt about it the event is infectious and I know it won’t be our last trip either.

The storm clouds were gathering and that first drink had gone down nicely but with 20 miles riding to the tent we said our goodbyes. We were leaving tomorrow and didn’t want to get wet.

Back at the camp site the local villagers were having a bowls competition and we sat watching whilst woofing down pizza and chips along with a pint.
What a day, what a place ...................... living the dream.
Open your eyes and you see what is in front of you, open your mind and you see a whole new World.
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Postby IAN T-B » Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:29 pm

8-)
D2D 2012 - "In it to win it" - scratch that - Ertzberg 2013 "in it hoping to be able to come home afterwards from it"

http://www.mce-online.co.uk

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Postby skunkyd » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:00 pm

:handgestures-thumbup: lost for words!
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Postby Tonibe63 » Mon Jan 04, 2016 10:33 am

Another New Year and time think about holidays again ........................... and a shameless review of previous years :oops: :auto-biker:

For anybody thinking of maybe 'travelling' further afield for some gravel mountain road adventure here is a vid from Passo Dordona in Italy which could be done between the Stella Rally and the Stelvio Pass

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UWqxUG5bnM#t=1511
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