The start from downtown Clermont-Ferrand to Plateau de Gergovie went well, with a single technical issue for the KU Leuven Team. With the help of the organizers, Bram and Jonathan could quickly fix their torque arm and get back on the road again until le Puy-en-Velay.
Already from the first day, participants showed solidarity. Small groups formed around different courses as they tried to find their way and help each other. We’d like to salute the action of Béatrice, Yannick and Zab who came back on their steps on the Croix des Gardes pass in order to help disabled suntripper Jean-Louis Machado with his first puncture on the trip.
At the front of the group, Stéphane Bertrand managed to reach first the magnificent pilgrimage town of Puy-en-Velay, knowing that this year, speed isn’t rewarded by any challenge. Its Michel Bertet and Louis Parienté who earned the badge for the Super Suntripper challenge. This new challenge aims at encouraging a wide diversity of itineraries and landscapes in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region. The team was the only one to head West when leaving Clermont-Ferrand, riding a total of 171 km on this leg.
On Sunday evening, the battery levels were low and the people tired, since participants were slowed down by the thunderstorm and violent showers. 17 teams managed to reach the arrival before 5 PM, the cut-off time for optional challenges.
In the evening, two participants (Ryan Gillespie and Christian Noiret) were picked up by the assistance truck since they were not able to pursue on the stage. Team Smile and Indian participant Sushil Reddy joined the rest of the group at 8:52 PM without electricity and exhausted, but now under a thunderstorm of claps from their peers.
The Sun Trip Tour 2017’s second stage started with the guest appearance of the mayor of Puy en Velay but also with the president of AURA Region, Laurent Wauquiez. The latter strongly supported the idea of the Sun Trip, underlining its values of “innovation, technology and environment”. Laurent Wauquiez also spoke about the AURA Region’s goal to be a European reference when it comes to cyclotourism, “with the creation of more than 400 km greenways in the years to come”.
In the early moments of this stage, it was also decided to put two bikes inside the following truck : that of US participant Ryan Gillespie and that of Louis Rannou from the SMILE Team, leaving his teammate David behind. Those solar bikes were sadly not in sufficiently good state to function reliably. In order to give them a chance to pursue the adventure with all the others, we transferred them to Lans-en-Vercors so that they have plenty of time and support to fix their vehicles properly. Louis found help to repair his bike, while Ryan got offered a “brand new”solar bike as a collaboration between the Sun Trip Team and the Vécolo association. This bike was assembled in a few hours from an ebike, the trailer lent by Velocité in Clermont-Ferrand and old skis as solar panels support !
En route, participants climbed on a plateau linking the Haute-Loire with Ardèche where they discovered rural landscapes and pittoresque villages. However, the rain, the storm, and even the hail made it much harder for participants to enjoy. Peter and An had to seek refuge under a school bus stop shed.
A few dozen kilometer further,the descent into the Rhone River Valley put an end to the last days’ bad weather, although there were still a few showers the morning after. The Sun Trip Tour 2017 definitely had rainy beginnings.
In the morning, the bad weather ended up drowning Daniele Gonano‘s poor battery. Thankfully, our Technical Director Guillaume Devot managed to lend him another one and our Italian participant hopped back on the saddle, although he won’t have a chance on the 100 % Solar Energy challenges.
The Massif du Vercors was mainly climbed through th Bourne River Valley, but a group of five courageous cyclists aimed further South on the Col de Rousset, climbing 20 km in gorgeous laces ove the town of Die ! Still riding 100% with solar energy, Michel and Louis’ batteries were almost empty and decided to ride 40 km without assistance in order to spare enough energy to climb. But this detour and the tricky weather made them arrive in Lans past the cut-off time for the Super Suntripper Challenge. Despite riding 236 km, they were penalized on this stage. Béatrice, Yannick et Isabelino were no longer 100 % in solar energy, but they went that way for the pleasure of riding. Two years after taking part in the Milan-Antalya-Milan Edition in Turkey, Béatrice and Yannick are now cycling with two friends sharing a third bike designed by Yannick “MacGyver” Aspe.
Towards the end of the stage, all the cyclists reached the Gorges de la Bourne, a spectacular road literally carved in stone! For many participants, this Vercors road was a novelty. Here again, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region offered a fabulous landscape.
Actually, Jean-Louis Machado, or Jean-Louis Abrasracourcix as he nicknames himself since he has a disability, rode on that road with delight. Originally from Southern France, he tells journalist Jean-Christophe Solari about the pleasure he had there in this video produced by France 3 Alpes in the context of our media partnership.
At the finish line in Lans-en-Vercors where the sun was finally back, participants seemed relaxed. Some used all their electricity in order to get there, others still had power left for the alpine mountains ahead. In total, twelve teams managed to make it to Lans before the challenges cut-off time charging only with the solar energy. Despite the rain on the first three days, they are riding with the sun!
Leaving Lans-en-Vercors, the sun finally showed through the clouds once and for all. American participant Ryan Gillespie was thrilled to get back on the road along his peers, riding on his new solar bike made in Grenoble. One group chose the direction of the Combe de Savoie towards Albertville and the Beaufort Massif.
Others chose to climb the Croix de Fer Pass until the Maurienne Valley, followed by the Col de L’Iseran, highest paved pass of Europe with 2770 meters.
The Briton duo Michel and Louis rode 271 km on this leg, going first through the Iseran on the evening July 13. In order not to rest too much, they decided to get at least to te-Foy en Tarentaise the following morning, accumulating over 6000 meters elevation on this stage.
Most of the other participants rested one night in Bessans or Termignon and kept their forces and their Watts for the next day. For many, it was a first experience in high mountain ranges but they all managed to cross the pass without any issues, although some did push their machine when their technical choices were not perfectly adapted to slope, and others had to take several breaks to rest both the engine and the rider.
The Iseran mountain landscapes left a strong impression on their minds, to the extend that some of those arriving from the other side decided to climb the pass anyways, just for the kicks…
At the Salon du véhicule électrique et hybride in Val d’Isère, we had an opportunity to explain our philosophy and introduce our solar bike rally to a curious and enthusiastic crowd. The solar bikes paraded until their stand on the convention led by Arno Liégeon, former 2015 Milan-Antalya-Milan Sun Trip, riding a cargo bike blasting music. He was not the only Sun Trip Pioneer present : champion Bernard Cauquil and dean Adalberto Cravero surprised the participants by joining us. Many Sun Trip fans expressed a desire to take part in the 2018 Lyon-Canton Sun Trip Edition and were studying scrupulously the machines exhibited, questioning our crew on technical issues. It was the only resting day on this edition and we all took this opportunity to recharge our batteries !
As programmed with the Val d’Isère Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Show the Sun Trip Tour departed from the resort center simultaneously with the ebike climb of the Col de l’Iseran. It was an opportunity to say goodbye to our friends, fans and the former participants who had joined us on this stage.
The climb of the Little Saint-Bernard was fiercely undertaken by Mickaël Joguet who wanted to test the limits of his machine. Arrivals at the top of the pass followed one another at a constant pace on this historic site for the Sun Trip 2013 – France-Kazakhstan. The pioneer cohort had shard there one last meal before the actual departure for the Solar Challenge rewarding overall speed.
Unlike on the first Great Sun Trip, participants were now expected to have sufficient energy to climb the Great St. Bernard Pass between Italy and Switzerland on the same day. But our cyclists were already enjoying the mountains and enjoyed themselves even more in those grandiose alpine landscapes. All but two could reach the Casa Don Angelo near the top of the pass, an optional stopover for the night. And then, surprise! Adalberto, dean of the 2015 Edition, joined us again for an emotional accolade before returning home in Santhià, 40 kilometers further down in the Po river plain.
The last ones arrived at 8:55 PM, five minutes before the cut-off time. Sushil Reddy and David from the Smile Team were all smiles at their own feat. Slower and more cautious riders, Claude Lagriffoul and the Vecolo Team waited until the next day to go across the mountains.
In the foggy morning, the pack rode together the last few kilometers to the top of the pass. On the way down, the group dispersed over the 45 kilometer ride until the Lake Geneva plain despite a a strong head wind. The challenging parts of this Sun Trip regional Tour were then behind.
On the Place des fêtes in Lutry and in collaboration with the waterfront city, members of the Pro Vélo association joined us for the arrival parade on a diverse set of cycles – including cargo bikes, recumbent trikes and an astonishing rowing recumbent bike.
On the place de la Riponne in Lausanne, the pack was welcomed on an event coordinated by the Services industriels de Lausanne in the presence of Jean-Yves Pidoux, Director of the Services industriels de Lausanne, Laurent Balsiger, Director of Energy on Canton de Vaud and Florian Bailly, Directeur of the Sun Trip. Aso noteworty was the presence of the Tandem Lausanne shop and the SSES-RSO association. Thank you all to have made this event a great success!
After Lausanne, another great European city awaited the Sun Trip Tour. The final stage took participants through the Jura, the Ain, the Dombes and Trévoux before heading to Lyon.
There was no collective departure in Lausanne and each participant could leave whenever they wanted. We did share a collective breakfast were tiredness was palpable. Crossing the Alps wasn’t that easy after all!
True to their style, Michel and Louis were among the first to leave and chose the most astonishing route on this leg by quickly crossing the Swiss Jura and aiming for Dijon and Beaune! The following morning, they only needed to set sail due South through the vineyards. They rode over 400 km on this stage, earning the Super Suntripper badge.
Other participants split between two groups, some heading for the Jura and the Ain mountain ranges, and others circumventing any potential hardships and riding a few km on the Via Rhona.
They were all confronted to a strong headwind and at the same time, they foudn landscapes tailored for long distance cycling. With the great Alpine passes, they were discovering the plains.
In Trévoux on the shores of the Saone river, they gathered one last time together. The pack was warmly welcomed by the mayor, M. Marc Péchoux as a strong symbol for this city striving to develop its cycling paths and culture.
In the evening, the whole team was present at the campsite for one last briefing that doubled as a happy hour. Their smiles were even wider than usual on that closing evening together.
Friday July 21st at 8:30 AM, the pack of 33 cycles headed towards Lyon following the Saone river towpath. A few kilometers down the road, they paused at the Maison de l’éclusière (Locks Guardian House) where they met with elected officials and shared a typical French breakfast – café-croissant – in a congenial moment.
There were no more challenges, but they were free to choose their own way towards Lyon. Some opted for one last detour, heading to the Monts d’Or in order to enjoy a panoramic viewpoint over the area! The meeting point was the Masaryk pedestrian and cycling bridge. From there, the Lyon police escorted the pack all the way to the heart of the city, through the Croix Rousse cycling tunnel !
On the roadside, the riverbank quays welcomed the Sun Trip Tour 2017 arrival!
The official ceremony took place under a bright sun in the presence of elected officials from Lyon City, Lyon Greater Area and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region.
The winners of the various challenges were awarded trophies under the eyes of their peers. Belgium KU Leuven Team Bram and Jonathan earned the Photo Challenge, Charlotte Gille won the Eco Drive, Jean-Louis Machado was recognized the Super Combatif (a perseverance, Coup de Coeur prize), and Michel Bertet and Louis Parienté earned the Super Suntripper trophy.
The End – With France info :