Cyclocalendar heroes the Tour de France. In a series of articles we focus on the stage cities and the gran fondo's and sportives of thee region. Today: stage 18, which starts from Méribel.
Méribel is located in the middle valley of the largest ski area in the world: Les 3 Vallées. It's mainly known for its world famous party destination Val Thorens, which is located in the westernmost valley. In recent years, Méribel has become one of the most expensive and exclusive winter sports resorts in the world. It's in the same league as Lech, Mégève, St. Moritz, Zermatt and Courchevel. The latter village is also located in Les 3 Valleés, in the easternmost valley.
Only 2000 people live permanently in Méribel, but the village can fill up to 30,000 beds in the winter. It was founded shortly before WW2 by a British real estate developer. Traditionally, cycling in this region was not recommended, because making round trips was not really obvious. This changed with the opening of the Col de la Loze, which connects Méribel with Courchevel.
This col is just the first step of a larger project called Via 3 Vallées. The plan is that within one or two years there will also be a connection with the valley of Val Thorens. As a base, it's better to stay in Moutiers, in the valley. From here you can tick off all the big names in the region. The Col de la Madeleine is around the corner as well as La Plagne where Michael Boogerd won a stage in the 2002 Tour. Furthermore, there are numerous cols easily accessible such as the Cormet de Roselend, Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard, Col de l'Iseran and Col des Saisies.
Only a few days ago history was written in this region. The first gran fondo ever took place that included the Col de la Loze. We are talking about the Col de la Loze by Brides-les-Bains. This is an event that has the potential to become as big as La Marmotte. But then the Via 3 Vallées project will first have to be completed. However, the current course it already quite a challenge: in 100 km you will collect no less than 3800 meters of elevation.
If we look into the future, envision a route in which all three valleys are ticked off. It's not reality yet, but it seems to happen. The region has the means to get gran fondo hotshots and (ex)pros to the start and there are plenty of beds. We'll keep you posted.
In the next edition: Bourg-en-Bresse.