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Dynamite Trails: les Trois Communes
Posted: 30 June 2007 05:06 PM  
Total Posts:  2234
Joined  2003-10-24

On Monday we Mountain Biked from Breil sur Roya above the Italian town of Ventimiglia - famous for knock-off Vouis-Luitton bags - to the fortresses of l’Authion.

The Redoute de l’Authion is an impressive structure. Reinforced concrete on three sides facing Italy it was built in the 1870s as part of the French Maginot Line but didn’t see action until the closing days of the Second World War when French Navy Marines took the fortress from the Germans in a gruesome battle using flame throwers and phosphorous incendeary bombs. The French suffered 400 dead and another 1000 injured. It must have been hell on earth.


The area is now part of the peaceful Mercantour national park and in 1947 the borders were redrawn to give France the upper part of the Roya valley and 5000 new citizens. Strange to think I drove from Nice to Breil crossing the the frontier at Menton and then again at Ventimigila without being troubled for my passport. How times have changed.


There are two older forts, Mille Fourches and la Forca. These are largely underground barracks, presumably they had heavy guns on the roofs. Machine gun posts were added later as a testiment to modern warfare.


The draw bridges to the forts have been removed and access is difficult (and against local bye-laws).


In total 1900 meters of climb and descent on well made military roads with gradients never more than 1 in 12.