The Raid of the 'other' 100 Passes 2008
September, 6-14th 2008,
a MEB organisation.
One week, 100 passes, 7 days, 2500 kms !!
Pixes from PY Legal, Sheffield and Pierre Chavannes
In 2006 we had performed the first edition of the 100 passes raid, taking us from the Alsace to the Massif Central through the Vosges, the Jura, the Alps and the Cevennes. We decided that this new version would start in the Auvergne, and finish there after crossing the Massif Central, the Black Mountain and a larger number of the mythic Pyrenean passes. Some 15 bikes at the start, same upon arrival, but … silence about the condition of their tyres !!
Saturday September the 6th
Parking lot of Hotel Pariou, Issoire. The participants show some kind of apprehension. Each one has carefully studied the weekly weather forecast, and it has become evident to them this trip would be a cat and mouse game with the bad weather. A short briefing about the road and the next day, technical check of the bikes, welcome drink… Everyone going to bed, willing to master the journey as prepared by the organisers… Hearty, said Hervé. The majority who knows him understand what he means !!
Sunday September the 7th
Issoire – Millau : 345 km – 23 passes
How can one climb 23 passes in such a short distance … It is easy: find on the map as much as possible tortuous roads with slopes and bends along hills and valleys … If these spots are mentioned in the yearbook of French passes, you will reach that figure !!
This first journey starts along the small roads of Auvergne, curling between oak and beech forests. As we climb the wind gains in force but the temperature remains clement. Along the villages and their stone houses we marry (fast) tourism and utter pleasure notwithstanding this is Sunday and flocks of cars remind us we have to share the tarmac. Countryside roads often implicate variable surfaces and hence our arms suffer the torments of our efforts. I must admit the handlebars of my Adventure make me rather favoured !! A few fortified villages further and after a marvellous strengthening meal, we arrive under the viaduct of Millau, masterpiece of technology and source of polemics forgotten since this piece of art attracts that many tourists to the region.
Late afternoon we halt at the Château de Creissel at Millau, where we admire the superb evening light shining on the bridge, and the flight of parapenters like birds greeting our today's efforts.
First journey completed, the team members have got a small idea of what is going to happen along the week !!
Pixes Stage 1 : Issoire / Millau
Monday September the 8th
Millau – Nages: 420 km – 19 passes
Early morning start for one of the marathon-journeys of this trip: over 400 km of bends along the Massif Central and through the Cevennes, hunting grounds I know very well!!
We leave Millau by the road up to the causse Noir, and we admire the sun coming up behind the viaduct. After a short stop, required to wonder the rocky entanglement of Montpellier le Vieux, we cross the pine forests and desert stretches that take us to the canyon that slopes towards Nant. Alas the valley is completely filled with fog. Short coffee stop at Nant with our pal the bartender. Temperature is a 6°C low. After this repairing stop we pursue our ballad through the deep Cevennes. Alzon and its tunnel, the meanders of route 199, then the goat track towards Aumessas, Arrigas and finally Mars, all village names that sound like shutters of houses banging in the winds. We proceed to the Luzette pass and the broom fields to Mont Aigoual. Time elapses that morning, and we have to shorten somehow our route, being expected for lunch at St.Hippolyte du Fort. After the coffee we hit the road again to the Cirque de Navacelles, a magic discovery for some of us. Next we go down to Lodève and check the remaining mileage … 90 km are left, on magnificent roads. On arrival at Nages some tyres are pretty hot. Sunset over Laouzas Lake, in the middle of the Lacaune mounts, another moment of sheer happiness.
Pixes Stage 2 : Millau / Nages
Tuesday September 9th
Nages – Luz St Sauveur: 410 km – 17 passes
Leave Nages under sunshine to wander on the Jura-like Black Mountain over deserted local roads is a marvel, but encounter a goat unscared by our machines is a great moment of the raid – common bikers may be poets somewhere! Along lakes and 'causses' we reach the Pyreneans. The surprise of that day is the crossing of the Mas d'Azil cave, perforated here and there by the road. Some of us cross several times, that much they are impressed. The first huge Pyrenean pass is the Portet d'Aspet followed by the pass of Mendé. From there we enter a first time Spain, returning to France through the pass du Portillon and its famous hairpin bends, where I can try the angling capabilities of the Advernture, to the great astonishment of my close followers.
Short visit in the Pyreneans to the village of Aspin and at last an elevation when we cross the Tourmalet, over 2000 m. Some of us have the bad luck to pass in the mist; some others get a full sunshine and a landscape to be winded. Arriving at St Luz le Sauveur the sun has well set but the remembrances of the day feed number of conversations that evening with a few cups of Izarra. We have to prepare for the Bask journey next day !!
Pixes Stage 3 : Nages / Luz St Sauveur
Wednesday September 10th
Luz St Sauveur – Mauléon: 285 km – 15 passes
The shortest journey of the raid would not be the easiest. We enter the Bask country, and we have to expect some anthology. Over bucolic landscapes, prairies and amid herds in total freedom, we head for to the pass named Marie Blanque, overruling signs indicating a closed road. And indeed, once at the top all passage is impossible as the road is under repair. A good opportunity to slope down on a perfect tarmac without any risk of a reckless encounter. After another improvisation and crossing the valley of Aspe, we are back to our road book and return into Spain through the pass of la Pierre St.Martin. This pass also is under repair but we snap our fingers at it, and lunch waving at us we pass. To tank fuel at reduced price is a must … happy Spaniards!! I will spare you the details such as perfect roads, vultures awaiting a prey on security barriers, hairpin bends with no end, and here we are in France again to perform the last part of the journey. One more surprise is this pass with a name impossible to pronounce and an access of less than 2 m width, and which down slope is an immense toboggan in the middle of a narrow valley. We do some wandering and as the night closes in we make use of our GPS to join the capital of rope-soled sandals and Bask berets. Last arrivals come in around 21.00 hrs. Short journey according to Hervé !!
Pixes Stage 4 : Luz St Sauveur / Mauléon Licharre
Tuesday September 11th
Mauléon – Auterive: 290 km – 8 passes
There has to be a transitional journey in this 100 passes raid, be it only to link the Pyreneans with the
Central Massive. Along country houses and cattle halls, in the midst of maize fields, on valley roads and small passes which have nothing in common with the previous ones, as the road takes us up and down in an immense panel of green, we join Auterive. The end of the journey compells us to slip on our rain clothing to withstand a sudden downpour. The Auterive's manufacture and its pure 18th century scenery welcome us. We have anticipated to dine outside and appreciate the delicious casserole dish prepared by our host. Due to the heavy rainfall we end in the large dining room of the castle, where emperor Napoleon III has been hosted with great pomp …
Pixes Stage 5 : Mauléon Licharre / Auterive
Friday September 12th
Auterive – Mur de Barrez: 340 km – 11 passes
This is a journey of fast tourism, of almost unknown passes, of rally reconnaissances, of roads covered with fallen leaves and mud, and other surprises … in short, a real pleasure!!
We take off under a leaded sky, which becomes brighter with the hour the way we headed. Finding Le Rouergue and its secret paths, some of us face a great time of loneliness, whereas to follow the road book without GPS this exercise is not a great pleasure. Moreover, someone must have had a surplus of gravel which we have to enjoy under our wheels, thanks God nobody hits the surface!! Lunch with obligingly innards at Sauveterre de Rouergue, followed by a visit to a cutlers shop, and again on the road to the Aveyron. After a short leap out of the road to visit Belcastel the well-named, we engage in a climb discovered earlier by chance and a pass that overlooks the valley towards Conques. We finally leave that goat path over a roman bridge… Sometimes we wonder how we found these roads!! At Conques we meet geishas … yes, it was no imagination !! As most of us ride European bikes, they didn't give any attention to us … except for making a picture and show it to their friends!! We are faster than the rain joining the super hostel of Barrez. To many of us this will have been the best welcome of the raid as to cuisine as well as comfort. To some of us this would, professional duties prevailing, is the last journey of the raid. For the others they had to meet the finish next day. Due to the weather forecast and the condition of some tyres, I admit having not well slept that night notwithstanding the excellence of the bed!!
Pixes Stage 6 : Auterive / Mur de Barrez
Saturday September 13th
Mur de Barrez – Issoire: 300 km – 17 passes
The journey starts strong: the weather is fine; sunrays break through the beeches as we climb the Peyrebale pass. Hiding hunters are much surprised seeing our furious horde invading their grounds. The road is more adequate for enduro-riding than for tourism bikes. After 25 more km of visual pleasure and of physic torture, we make a sudden stop to get into our rainwear. The horizon sends us a menacing view.
In any raid there is a wet day. Here it is the last day. Roads become more and more treacherous as we progress in the Auvergne, and I finally advise to choose a more direct way in order to limit the risks for all of us. Some do not mind and go ahead following the road book… needless to tell their condition on arrival. 8000 litres of water onwards, and after a visit to Clermont where Moto Plus 63 expects us for some end of raid check-ups and eventual replacements, we arrive at Issoire, hotel le Parisou.
I admit that once all the bikes were parked and after receipt of two SMS from the guys who left us in the morning telling they arrived well home, I could breathe again freely and enjoy a glass of white wine.
Pixes Stage 7 : Mur de Barrez / Issoire
The raid of the other 100 passes is over, no problems worth reporting, how lucky I am these riders were very fine pilots. In 2006 I said I would never do it again, 2008 was a real happiness so I decided to have a new edition in two years, nicer more twisted with difficult journeys but evenly marvellous.
Only to satisfy to the demand of the valorous participants to this 2008 edition, I can make appointments in September 2010 for the "Raid of the New 100 passes".
Thanks to Moto Plus 63 at Aubières (63) for their appreciated welcome and their readiness to help.
Thanks to all hotelkeepers who accepted to serve local gastronomy.
Thanks to all participants for their good moods and the conviviality they showed all along the raid.
Thanks to the site of Le Repaire for their confidence in this project and their advertising support.
Thanks to Tripy (http://tripy.be) who gave us the opportunity to make complete road-books, and who guided us through the route.
And a huge hurrah to the ladies-passengers who withstood without fail the follies of my road-book.
Hervé (Motards en balade)
You will notice that the count of these 100 passes is absolutely correct. Well this is a matter of hazard.
When we made the reconnaissances we counted 111 passes. Various modifications in the road-book and cuts of routes changed that number into an effective 100 over the week … a good sign for the next edition.
For those who would like to discover the French Passes we advise them to read Chauvot, a reference book, not a funny lecture but very precise: