Stella alpina World highest motormeeting.
Since 1967, every second Sunday of July the Stella Alpina event is held in Bardonecchia, Italy. A gathering of motorcyclists from all countries with one great passion: the Alps. The highlight of the event is on Sunday morning climbing the highest mountain road in Europe, the "Col de Sommeiller".
On the way to the Stella Event some great passes are bringing me to the highest mountain in Europe, the Mont Blanc. Unfortunately there is no pass over this mountain, so it's a boring ride through the famous Mont Blanc tunnel. The beautiful Saint-Bernard pass lets me forget the tunnel and brings me to the highest paved mountain pass in Europe, the Col de l'Iseran. The 2700 mtr paved mountain pass is a perfect warming up for what there is to come this weekend.
A few hours later I put my tent on the campsite, 5 km in front of the mighty Col de Sommeiller. During the Stella Alpina it is also legal to do some wild camping on the Sommeiller, but I choose the luxury of a campsite with toilets and hot water.
Because I'm a day to early for the big unpaved climb, I decide to ride nine passes including three in the so-called outdoor category. The first is “our Dutch" mountain, the Alpe d'Huez. Off course known from the Tour de France, but just as important the setting for the Alpe d'HuZes. A cycling event where the Alpe d'Huez is climbed multiple times to raise money for the KWF, a Dutch cancer foundation.
I leave the Alpe d'Huez with a brilliant small road on the north side and drive through the Maupas to the Croix de Fer, named after the iron cross that stands on the top of the mountain. Together with some cyclists I eat an omelette and see the first rain splashes falling down. With good rain gear and large motorbike-tires no problem, but the cyclists without their jacket and with really small tires are already pretty nervous. Luckily the rain does not continue and a little later I am already on the third large pass, the Galibier.
Just before the summit there is a monument of Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour de France in 1903. Desgrange was a great supporter of only motorcyclists as guidance in the Tour, avoiding accidents like in 2011 with Johnny Hoogerland. The last piece to the top of the Galibier is a true paradise. My new tires stick like glue to the brand new asphalt, while the lack of markers and lack of fences gives a feeling of total freedom. Back at the campsite -after nine hours' driving-, there is only 320 km on the clock, but the number off beautiful curves is countless.
Sunday morning, the big climb of the Col de Sommeiller begins. The present road was built in 1962, but after closing the ski facilities in 1980 the road is no longer in use. The closure of the ski facilities is caused by the disappearance of the glacier at the top and problems with maintaining the road. Now the road is made accessible once a year by the Stella Alpina motorcycle club. A huge task, because each winter large rock avalanches and landslides occur and the narrow road is not suitable for heavy equipment.
With significantly reduced tire pressure I drive at 7:00 am to the base of the mountain. The first part to the town Rochemolles is a narrow paved road. After Rochemolles the road is a little rougher with unpaved gravel and many potholes. Just above the tree line I reach the so-called Basecamp. A beautiful valley where hundreds of tents and motorbikes camping around a lake. Completely surrounded by bare mountains, a waterfall in the background and a fast-flowing river, makes Basecamp a truly idyllic spot. Really all nationalities are mixed up, but Dutch number plates are nowhere to be found. Maybe next year.
At Base Camp I am directly invited by a Swiss group for a cup of coffee. During our conversation one of them is telling me that this is his 15th Stella and there is also someone walking with 30 years badges on his motor jacket. Their neighbour, a British motorcycle cop, has done the climb for the first time and will definitely come back next year. He has now driven an old R1000GS with his son as passenger, but if they can convince mom, next year they will be back with 2 bikes. Characteristic of everyone you see in Base Camp is the big smile. Everyone is full of adrenalineand ready to start the climb or are already returned with a even bigger smile. For me a good time to leave Base Camp and to continue the climb.
The last part starts with 18 short and steep hairpins. The trail of sand, gravel and occasional a rock is still reasonable to ride but does require fully concentration. It becomes really small and certainly in the hairpins there is little room for mistakes. That mistakes are easy to make shows already at the fourth hairpin, where the motorbike in front of meloses his balance and drops his bike. Luckily nothing serious and together we lift the bike and resuming the climb.
Each year more than 1000 riders are climbing to the top on Sunday morning. Standing on my bike, I think how difficult it must be to make this climb with a passenger: Respect! I also admire a little men with a Monkey 125cc minibike, that is making the same ascent. His smile, clearly visible under his helmet, says more then 1000 words.
After the first series of hairpins there is a relaxing moment with some fairly flat parts, but then the terrain is getting really rough. The path is now only rocks with occasional some gravel. Like a mountain goat I try to avoid all obstacles and let the motorbike find its own way as much as possible. Standing in the hairpins is not possible, since each hairpin is filled with rocks and snow. After 45 minutes I arrive sweaty, but extremely satisfied the summit. At 3009 meters everyone is enjoying the unique views and the indescribable feeling of "The top of the World". The smile on my face will be seen for days, a highlight for every rider.
Stella Alpina is the highest international motorbike meeting on the world and breathes the atmosphere of genuine solidarity and freedom. Every nationality, every brand and every age is welcome. Allroad- and naked-bike riders with some experience can drive to the mighty summit at their own pace. All other engines ranging from a Monkey bike to large tour bikes can always enjoy the great atmosphere in Base Camp. Movies of this trip are of course on our website: www.Lifeisjoy.nl.