The highest climbs of Europe #3 - Cime de la Bonette


Sunday 23 August 2020 by Herman Nekkers


The Cime de la Bonette in France is a climb with a story. There's also the Col de la Bonette, but that's almost 90 meters lower. From here there is a loop around the mountain peak with its highest point at 2802 meters. So the Cime is not a col, but it's the highest paved through road in Europe. A true adventure for every cyclist!

Cime de la Bonette

Picture 1 (Adobe Stock): Typical view from the north side on the loop around the 'cime. The red car is right on the col. 

Cime de la Bonette

Country: France
Height: 2802 meters


Location

The Bonette is located on the border of the French departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes and can be reached from two sides.

Alpes-de-Haute-Provence is a perfect location for a cycling trip or family holiday. In the north lies the famous Lac de Serre Ponçon with its many campsites. Places like Barcelonnette and Castellane are wonderful bases for cycling. And in the south lies the Grand Canyon du Verdon, the largest gorge in Europe. The bike tour around the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful tours I have ever made.

In Alpes-Maritimes you'll find both the beaches of the Côte d'Azur (Cannes, Antibes, Nice) and the beautiful countryside with fabulous cycling routes. The Gorges de Daluis, Col de Turini and the area around Valberg are highly recommended. In addition, here is the Col de la Madone, the favorite training climb of Lance Armstrong.

The name

Officially, the summit is called Col de la Bonette-Restefond, named after the nearby cols of the Bonette and the Restefond, which have existed for a long time. From the Col de la Bonette, a loop is constructed around the mountain top Cime de la Bonette. However, this name is misleading, because according to the definition this is not a col. It is not the lowest point between two mountain ridges. The other name used is Cime de la Bonette. This name is not correct either, because that's the name of the mountain top around which the road runs. For lack of better we use this name anyway. Whether it is a col or not, it is the highest through paved road in the Alps. There is no discussion about that.

The north side

The north side from Jausiers is the most beautiful one. In 23 kilometers it goes uphill without becoming extremely heavy. The landscape is a gem. The first kilometers are still beautiful green, but above 2000 meters the trees make way for grassland. And that later turns into a desolate lunar landscape. The ride to the top is a real experience and from quite a distance you can already see the striking point. The last kilometres are exhausting because of the height and length. Make sure you have something left, because the final kilometre is unpleasantly steep. With gradients that exceed 10% you make your way onto the striking stone that marks the highest point. A picture here is a mighty trophy for every cyclist.

The south side

From the south it all starts in Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée. With 25 kilometers the climb is a bit longer. The landscape on this side is quite gray and desolate. Along the way you pass several extinct villages, which makes you feel like you're driving in a complete no man's land. The petrified landscape reinforces this feeling. Like the other side, you'll see the top from a large distance. Because of its height and length it is heavier than the profile suggests. Yes, the south side of the Bonette is also a true hors category climb.

At the top you have a beautiful view over the Mercantour. But the most beautiful view can be found at the real summit. Via an easy path you hike about 60 meters up. From here you can even see the snowy peaks of the Ecrins mountains which are some 75 kilometers away.

Col de la Moutière (2452 m)

The Col de la Moutière is a secret tip for adventurers and climbers alike. It cuts off the Bonette and can be reached both north and south. From Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée you reach a fork in the direction of Saint-Dalmas-de-Salvage after a few kilometres. At first this road is still wide, but after the village of Saint-Dalmas it turns into an adventurous small path that is just wide enough for cycling. Through innumerable hairpin bends and a very steep part you finally reach the col. That's where the paved part ends. After a short descent you climb unpaved to the Route du Bonette. Michiel van Lonkhuizen (Cyclingcols) about the unpaved part: "It's bit like the Finestre. If you descend it, be especially careful in the corners". A gravel racer is of course the best option, they are made for this.

Cycling history

Despite its great fame, the Bonette has only been included in the Tour trail five times. In 2008 everyone held their breath the South African John-Lee Augustyn plunged into the ravine.


Gran fondos

Mercan'Tour Bonette

Profiles

Cime de la BonetteCime de la Bonette north

Cime de la BonetteCime de la Bonette south

Routes and loops

The Bonette can be done from the north and south as a single ride. A beautiful trip that you can have a lot of fun with. You can also combine it with the Col de la Moutière. We give here two possible routes where the first one is to climb the Bonette. Of course there is nothing against doing the Moutière first. Plenty of possibilities.

           

Click on the images to download the routes.

The highest climbs in Europe, the list

3 Cime de la Bonette
France
2802
4 Col de l'Iseran
France
2770
5 Passo dello Stelvio
Italy
2758
6 Kaunertal
Austria
2750
7 Colle dell'Agnello
Col Agnel
Italy
France
2744
8 Passo Gavia
Italy 2632
9 Col du Galibier
France 2632
10 Colle del Nivolet
Italy 2632
11 Grossglockner
Hochalpenstrasse
Austria 2571
12 Timmelsjoch /
Passo Rombo
Italy
Austria
2509
13 Pass Umbrail Switzerland
Italy
2503
14 Colle delle Fauniera /
Colle dei Morti 
Italy 2481
15 Nufenenpass /
Passo della Novena
Switzerland 2477
16 Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard /
Colle del Gran San Bernardo
Switzerland
Italy
2473
17 Furkapass Switzerland 2436
18 Roque de los Muchachos Spain 2426
19 Hochwurtenspeicher Austria 2421
20 Col du Granon France 2413

Pictures

Cime de la Bonette

Picture 2 (Ron Pronk): North side


Cime de la Bonette

Picture (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): North side


Cime de la Bonette

Picture (Ron Pronk): North side, near the Casernes de Restefond


Cime de la Bonette

Picture (Wikimedia Commons Ulflulfl): Casernes de Restefond


Cime de la Bonette

Picture (Herman Nekkers): Tour de France finish in Jausiers (2008), coming from the Bonette. The riders: A. Schleck, Kohl, Evans, F. Schleck, Cunego, Valverde, Tschopp, Sastre.


Cime de la Bonette

Picture (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): South side, Bousieyas


Cime de la Bonette

Picture (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): South side, still 6 kilometers to go


Cime de la Bonette

Picture (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): South side, view on the goal that is nearly reached now


Cime de la Bonette

Picture 10 (Frank Jansen): Our editor Frank on top with the striking stone


Cime de la Bonette

Picture 11 (Herman Nekkers): Fabulous view from the top of the mountain. You can see the col, and both roads from the north and the south.


Cime de la Bonette Col de la Moutiere

Picture 12 (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): Col de la Moutière north side, the dirt road


Cime de la Bonette Col de la Moutiere

Picture 13 (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): Col de la Moutière south side, steep







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