Annual Alps Trip 2013 - Reports

Jul 25, 2013
Posted by: stu
Category: General
Five hardy souls made the trip to France for the annual trip. It was another great year...

The world according to Charlie:

Had a brilliant week and wanted to thank the 2 Tony's for bringing their cars - I think Tony D was putting on a years worth of mileage in one week. All the lads for driving, I was the only person not to be a designated driver though ended doing some on the way back as Paul was out of action. Chris for his excellent cooking (were fed like kings!!) and Tony D again for sorting out mechanical issues. Some great rides, great weather and great craic. 

Arrived in Courcheval on the Sunday at a reasonable time and therefore was able to go out for a short spin - 1 1/2 hours part way up the ski resort of Meribel, 16 Miles and over 2000ft in climbing - as already mentioned Paul got a puncture after 1 1/2 miles - this was the sign of things to come!!!
Monday - Moutier to Comet de Roseland and back to Moutier via Albertville 

We done this route last year and was one of our favourites. The climb is around 12 mile long as I remember- on the lower slopes got stuck behind a herd of cows which were sh****g and p*****g all over the road - we cautiously made our way through the herd and eventually got clear. As we got further up the climb the views become more spectacular. Eventually the group started to split and I was riding with Chris. Once we hit the 1800m mark the altitude became a factor. One second riding very comfortably and the next blowing out me a***e. Luckily only about 2km to the top. We regrouped at the top, had a quick can of coke and a group photo and then made the short descent to the cafe next to the lake. After our break we climbed the Col de Pre which we missed out last year. A very steep and short climb in Alp terms and then a very steep, twisty technical descent to Beaufort. We regrouped at Beaufort, Chris fixed his slow puncture and then done a nice controlled pace line to Albertville and then a more leisurely ride on to Moutier where the temperatures were hitting over 40 degrees. 73 Miles and just under 7000ft of climbing. A great first days riding!
Tuesday - Moutier to Courcheval Le Praz to Moutier 

Due to problems with Tony's car had to take it to Moutier to get fixed therefore decided to start another route from Moutier. Basically it was the same ride we did last year on the first day but started from Moutier rather than the apartment. Only 55 Miles but with over 8000ft of climbing. This was made particularly hard due to the heat, even at the top of the climbs it was around 36 degrees. Half way through the route we had climbed up to Le Praz next to the apartment and ended up having a 4 course meal!! The last climb was brutal and I think everyone found this tough, I can't remember it being so steep and long, obviously the heat was a big factor. Everyone was sweating buckets at this stage. The route also had some brilliant descents with fast flowing corners. I remember on the last descent Tony D nearly getting wiped out by a car trying to pass. 
After this ride and knowing we were looking to do the Col de Madeleine and The Galibier later in the week some of the lads wanted to do an easier ride and also not to be too far from the apartment as we were a car down. I made up a route on the night and it went from Albertville to Annecy via the Col du Tamie and back to Albertville via the Valley.
Wednesday - Albertville to Annecy to Albertville

Another nice day but a little cooler than the previous 2 so was a welcome relief. As we were down to 1 car Tony D and Chris descended down from Le Praz as Paul and myself were getting a lift to Albertville. Then had to wait for Tony to pick up Tony D and Chris from Moutier. This route only had the Col du Tamie to climb which was shorter and less steep than we had done previously - around 12km at 4.5% average gradient. This was a particular nice climb as it was not very steep. I set a nice tempo up the climb and we arrived together as a group. Had the obligatory photo at the top. Then descended to the main road to Annecy. This is where I got dropped on the flat! Tony G was riding past me at the side and this instigated I thought a bit of a sprint with Tony D so I did not react quick enough to the increase in pace as I thought it was going to fizzle out and they would slow down, but the whole group just kept going. Despite giving Paul a shout they did not wait, this despite me slowing the pace on the Col Du Tamie when asked!! I then just thought I am not wasting energy chasing and just enjoy the ride along the lakeside. I was a little annoyed at the time it happened as the lads had asked for an easy ride but then do a team time trial at full pelt. I can laugh now but still plotting revenge against Tony G!! Ha!! Ha!! We arrived at Annecy along the designated paved cycle path which we came across and had a pizza next to the Lake. The furniture at the café was particular good. On the way back Chris had a mechanical where his rear mech hanger snapped. Chris was carrying a spare and after the team mechanic sorted out the problem we were on our way again. Large part of the route back was on a designated cycle path back to Albertville. Another great days riding and covered around 65 miles.
Thursday- Moutier to Col de Madeleine to Albertville

We climbed the very long climb of the Col de Madeleine which is 26km (16Miles long). Really enjoyed this climb and set off at a steady pace. Today was a little cooler and there was a few spots of rain on the way up but not enough to put on waterproofs. The rain was actually a welcome relief after the previous few days. The group eventually split up further up the climb. The last few kms were quite tough with the altitude and the length of climb. Once we regrouped we had a quick drink of coffee at the top (but no blueberry pie like last year). We descend the climb towards La Chambre and we all know what happened next!! Tony D was at the front and would not have know what happened to Paul, so Chris went ahead to catch him up and Tony and I descended the rest of the way with Paul. I have got to put my hat to Paul as he descended half the col de Madeleine with a broken collar bone and never whinged!! When we got to the bottom we arrived at a café and the owner called a ambulance and we had a bite to eat and a drink whilst we waited for the ambulance. The owner kindly put Pauls bike away in the garage and said we could pick it up later. Once Paul was taken away we still had to finish off our ride to get to the cars and headed along to Albertville which was still 41km away. We rode at a decent pace, taking it in turns at the front and when we arrived at Albertville decided a have quick drink and bite to eat at a McDonalds as we still had another 1 1/2 hours of riding to Moutier. As we were waiting for food the heavens opened and it really lashed down with rain. This ended up forcing us to make a decision as we still had to get to the cars and then pick up Paul which would have added a good few hours on to the day, so we ended up sending the 2 Tony's in a Taxis to get the cars, come back to pick Chris and I at McDonalds and then to get Paul from the hospital. Whilst waiting to get picked up I went to the counter to see if I could buy a couple of beers but they refused as we had to buy a sandwich with the drink. I did advised we had already eaten. Chris then went up to the counter to see if he would have any luck and ended up loosing his rag, luckily we did not get kicked out as it was still lashing down with rain. Once we were picked up Tony G and Chris went to get Paul from St Jean de Maurienne and Tony D and myself went back to La Chambre to pick up Pau'sl bike. 65 miles today but would have been around 82 miles if we had completed the full route. A very good ride until Paul had his disaster.
Friday - Col du Galibier 

Another fine day weather wise and the 4 of us set off from St Jean de Maurienne to the bottom of the Col du Telegraph. This climb was really nice as it is pretty constant in its gradient so allows you to get in a very nice rhythm. The climb is 12km long at an average of 7.3%. We arrived together at the top. After we had topped up our water bottles and a quick rest headed onto Valloire and then onto the bottom of the Galibier which is 19km long. The climb starts off pretty steep out of Valloire and then flattens a little bit along the valley. At the head of the valley the road turns right and onto the steep section of the Galibier which is around 8km from the top. I really enjoyed this climb and it did not seem to be as big a slog as last year though still tough. I passed loads of other riders on the way up and was climbing really well which always makes you feel better. The last km which we could not complete last year was really hard and I think ramped up to 14%. Arrived at the top which was over 2600 metres. It was really cold at the top and had to put my waterproof on to keep warm. Originally we had intended to do the 100 mile loup but decided against this as we really need to do this earlier in the week not after 5 days of cycling so decided to head down the way we came up. The descent down was freezing, could easily have worn full winter gear.The straight fast section was quite frightening as the wind had really picked up and was getting blown all over the place and I think we all had thoughts of what had happened to Paul in our minds as well. At the bottom, my wrist and finger I broke last year were really hurting as had to grip tight onto the handle bars. We had lunch at Valloire and then descend down the Telegraph and then headed back against the wind to the St Jean de Maurienne. Really enjoyed this ride and another 60 miles covered with over 8300ft of climbing.

This was my take on each ride and covered most things that happened on the ride but I am sure the lads will have other stories to tell. Fantastic week of riding and managed over 320 miles of riding with 34000ft of climbing.

The tales of Chris:

An earlier arrival on Sunday afternoon meant we squeezed in a quick ride up to the ski resort above Meribel town itself, riding until the road ended. No doubt there were lifts to take skiers further but we went as far as we could by bike and I think all agreed it was a really good idea as we all found the acclimatisation to the heat as well as the altitude quite a challenge and this excursion allbeit for only 16 miles, was a useful eye opener prior to the real effort required in the coming days, which we subsequently found easier as a result. The jaunt also helped us iron out badly adjusted cleats, tyre pressures and slipping gears to prevent holf ups the next day.

Monday saw what became the usual early rise at 7, and a run down the hill in the car to Moutier to begin the day's grind up the main road to Bourg San Maurice. Despite the main road and traffic levels, and the incorporation of a cycle lane at the side, the traffic to Tony D's amazement gave us the widest berth possible, practically scrapping the central reservation with their nearside to ensure they were nowhere near us - think the Brits could learn a thing or two in their cars. After 15 miles on the front uphill, I was allowed a rest as the speed dropped and we hit the climb proper of the Cormet de Roseland from Bourg San Maurice only to encounter a herd of cattle with unacceptably large horns being ushered up the main climb as Charlie so candidly put it p~~~ing and s~~~ing all over the road - needless to say we all sighed at the prospect of having to clean the bikes before Charlie would let us take the into the apartment on our return. 

Once past the cows, which took some time and caused my heart rate to rise higher than the subsequent gradient, we made good progress, and enjoyed the route more. The trees, valleys, rock faces and waterfalls as last year made for beautiful scenery and we stuck together most of the way up, until Charlie and I got a gap as the road ramped up again. Never-the-less, we all reached the top within a couple of minutes and enjoyed a well deserved Coke (drink) to give us the energy for the first decsent to Myrtills cafe for some Horse Eggs! To the disspointment of all, however, no horse eggs presented themsleves on the menu this year so we all settled for Croque Monsier, which it was agreed hit the spot perfectly. After a respite in the sun or the shade for Tony and Tony, we decided to brave the Col du Pre, which meant a quick downhill, a ride across the dam at the end of the reservoir and a steeper than expected climb at 10-11%, particularly for cafe legs, up the Col. Fortunatley it was relatively short, but only Charlie managed to match Tony G's pace up here, the rest of us choosing to take our time. Quick pics at the top and a very technical and narrow descent resulted in our arrival at the bottom with sore fingers from braking. That and a deflating tyre on my behalf, which explained why it was stepping out under braking into each hairpin! Following the repair we continued down into Beaufort and on to Albertville down the valley working well in a paceline but not too fast as the temperature we later discovered was approaching 40 degrees. It hit 41 on the valley ride back to Moutier and I for one was suffering on the flat and couldn't work out why - a fortuitous stop at a water fountain, subsequent dousing of the head and consumption of another litre of water and we were on our way significantly refreshed and soon back in Moutier for a beer in the square. Day one complete, at least after the supermarket shop and a four course meal with desert, a cheese course and coffee. 

Day two and we did the same route as last year's day 1, only this time determined by the passes that were open and the need to deliver Tony's car to the Peugoet garage in Moutier before we set off. Cue frantic French practice with the assistance of Google translate to explain that the cooling pack was kaput. We managed and set off with little warm up, up the first of four climbs today and along the valley to Bozel before a loop further up the valley, a descent back to Bozel and and further toward Moutier before riding up to the apartment at Courcheval for lunch in the pub over the road. Plat de Jour looked appealing and turned into rther more courses than we expected, all delicious but not the food of a group of cyclists set for an immediate climb away from the cafe! Needless to say a local passed us on the climb as we tried to resist the painful effects of riding on full stomachs. It didn't take long though for them to settle down and we caught and passed him on the decsent. As Charlie mentioned, the last climb with the thermometer measuring 36 proved hardest, with all of us sweating buckets by the top, trying to remove salt from out eyes and searching for the nearest fountain for a top up. We descended to Moutier, proving one of the best decsents again with sweeping bends and popped in to the garage to see what the damage was. They agreed with Tony's assessment and were given the go-ahead to fix the car by the following afternoon. A quick beer in the square again and I ferried riders in two trips back to the apartment before sourcing the ingredients for tea again. We all found the interval nature of today's ride hard and with the prospect of doing the Madeline and the Galibier back to back at the end of the week, as they had not opened due to snow, we chose an easy route for Wednesday - we had to start from Moutier or close by with only one car for transport anyway.

Wednesday saw Tony G take Charlie and Paul to Albertville for the start, while Tony D and I rode down to Moutier to wait for a lift from the shuttle service. I took the opportunity of sampling an espresso from the bakery to provide extra fuel and before long Tony's taxi arrived whisking us off to Albertville. Although today contained less climbing we could sense the impending rain, as the humidity levels has risen a few notches making the relatively short climb up Col de Tamie quite challenging. We all crested the top together though and after a quick photo opp headed down the winding descent to the south end of Annecy Lake. Resisting the market, we set off along the shore, with Tony G taking up the fron at some speed, quickly followed by Tony D whose wheel I managed to cling to. Before long, it became evident that Charlie was not in sight, and though we did not think anything was mechanically wrong, we knew we wouldn't hear the end of it! We pulled over after about five miles and prepared for the onslaught, which naturally we directed in Tony's direction as the instigator... Differences settled...for now, we carried on and as Charlie said found a superb cycle path, which we used all the way into Annecy itself and up to the front door of the Pizza prodcuer on the edge of the Lake. Making the most of surpisingly well upholstered furniture for an outdoor restaurant, we tooked into delicious pizzas before embarking on the return journey. We didn't get far though before a noise and a complete lack of drive brought me and then everyone else to a halt. The team mechanic was on hand though with the fortunate addition of a spare mech hanger from my back pocket to reset the rear mech and the chain, providing me with better gear changes for the remainder of the week. My hamstring began hurting from here though, for some reason but after a few miles it loosened up and we made excellent progress pushing 25mph for much of the bike path home to Albertville. Tony and Tony went back to Albertville in the executive saloon while Paul and I (and Charlie of course, never too far away at the smell of beer) ventured to the bar while we waited. They both returned with a fixed Peugoet and we all retuend to Moutier and then the aprtment for tea feeling much less fatigued than at the end of days one and two - were we aclimatising finally, or was it just colder? We had another hearty tea ready for our assualt on the Madeline on Thursday which to our delight opened on Wednesday ready for us.

Thursday morning brought cloud and although reasonably warm, it felt cold after the temperatures we had exerienced thus far. Still, this was felt to be a blessing in diguise for a 26km ascent, the biggest so far. We parked at Moutier yet again, and began the valley ride, providing a good warm up for a few miles before the climb began. A phot at the bottom next to the sign was to be followed by another at the top showing fatigue and maybe exhaustion but to our surprise we all looked quite fresh at the top, which is more than I can say for the beginning of the ascent. Paul and Charlie took off at a speed quicker than I wanted so I and the two Tony's settled into a more liesurely pace until we warmed up. After four km or so we caught up and regrouped before Paul, Charlie and Tony D put a gap into Tony G and I again. The was exaggerated by the flat section and my toilet stop after about 8km. The other carried on and it took me two km's to catch Tony G and a further 3-4 to catch the others. When I did it ramped up to 9% again and I had dug fairly deep to catch them so only just managed to hang on, made worse by the fact that I felt I had to eat. Bananas are diffcult to consume at 9% after 5km of hard effort uphill! I got it down though and stayed on the wheel of Tony D and Charlie but when the gradient increased again, I had little left so let them go. It wasn't until the two km to go sign I found my spirits and maybe even a little competitive edge lifted so knuckled down into the 23 and sought to catch them. Tony D had clearly had the same idea and managed to stay clear until the top, with nearly all of us (Tony G was trying the same thing on Paul behind us) sprinting for the line and the sign to say we had made it to the top. We chose to make do with an espresso each rather than the blueberry pie that spoke to us as we walked indoors and quickly moved on to the descent into Le Chambre to have lunch there. Half way down though, following Tony D and Paul I found Paul's bike on a hirpin and a rather dazed looking Paul wandering around trying to find his water bottle, which looking at him was the least of his worries. He said his shoulder hurt but though it was just grazed. The way he was holding it though suggested otherwise, and when Charlie arrived he suggested the worst, having recently broken his collarbone. I rode ahead to inform Tony D and Charlie and Tony G provided support to Paul for the remainder of the descent. We called the ambulance from the Cafe at the bottom and Paul was duly whisked off to hospital in St. Jean de Maurienne, with confirmation that it was his collarbone he had broken. We snaffled a Sausage sandwich, which roved to be not nearly enough, for me at least, and followed the 41km back to Albertville, before the planned 30 more to Moutier to collect the car and retrieve Paul, if we could. Upon ur arrival in Albertville, however, I was shot and needed food, so we dived into Macdonald's for a quick meal, and not a moment too soon. The Sky opened and dumped several gallons of rain outside. Plans changed and the Tony's after the kind help of a Brit fluent in French, took a taxi back to Moutier for the cars to fetch Paul and his bike from the Maurienne valley, as he was to be released. Paul has been given no pain killers when we arrived and they hadn't strapped him up as we had to take the prescription to the chemist to purchase the stuff first. Tony and I pooled our pigeon French and managed to communictae what we needed and retrieved Paul back to the apartment in Courcheval for tea in the restaurant as the supermarket had shut. After a burger of raw mince, which was actually quite tasty in my opinion I retired to bed early ready for the Galibier and a 6.30am start on Friday.

We drove to St.John de Maurienne and parked underground, before hurriedly searching for toilet prior to the ride. Four espresso's later and considerable use of the small cafe toilet and we were on our way to St. Michel de Maurienne, with me towing everyone all the way to the start of the climb as with day 1! The Telegraph was fine with two groups of two forming about 200 yards apart thanks to a toilet stop, soon regrouping after we saw Charlie facing the wrong way... We rode to the Telegraph at a reasonable pace, quickly photographed the scene and headed down to Valloire to begin the Galibier ascent, which as Chalie mentioned begins at a steeper gradient than you might expect in the town of Valloire. It does level out to about 6% however (it feels level in comparison) all the way to the top of the valley and the turn over the stream. Two Dutch cyclists passed us at the bottom and Charlie and I caught one and passed him as it ramped up to 10% - so pleased I took a 28 tooth cassette - I was able to maintain over 60rpm all the way up and often over 70, and my knees thanked me for it. At 2150 I stood out of the saddle and changed up for a rest but suddenly felt dizzy and had to back off again but it only happened once and I was able to push on after that - not sure if this was the altitude - it felt like it. Shortly after the turn Charlie began to dance away like a mountain goat, and unlike the other days, there was nothing I could do about it; once over 10% and over 2000 metres I struggled more but made the top not too far behind, all of us reaching the top within 5 minutes. Never caught the other Dutch cyclist though - doh! Though I was the only one to sprint the last 100 metres to the appluase of the those at the top - exhibitionst forever... We put rain capes on quickly though apart from Tony D who is clearly tougher than me, and shivered our way down the descent complete with snow, wind and a 5 series BMW that went past me at 60mph frighteneing me to death and nearly causing a dismount. I was pleased to arrive in Valloire in one piece with memories of Paul's accident fresh in my mind and we all tooked into a hearty dish of pasta, followed by yet more coffee - the coffee is so good over there! The sun was out after lunch, the altitude lower, and the rain capes came off for the descent of the Telegraph which was less frightening, followed by some through and off again back to St. Jean de Maurienne, completing 330 miles (Tony D and I did the 10 mile descent from the apartment on Wednesday) and 35k feet of climbing.

We arrived home for another but quicker tea on Friday to discover Paul in good spirits fortunately, and enjoyed a few ales before retiring ready for the 600 miles drive the following day.

Tony D's Summary:

Great write up by Charlie and Chris, they have covered just about everything. Would just like to thank everyone on this trip, it was quite simply awesome! Great riding, beautiful views, good craic, good company, good food, brilliant descents what more can I say. We gelled very well together and managed to cope with all the mishaps thrown at us human and machinery, even Charlie's OCD wasn't that bad although I did manage to loose his position when he was lubing his chain, ( Ahhhhh you've just lost my place! link 1 link 2 link 3 ) which we had a good laugh about. Shame about Paul with his accident, not only did he break his collar bone he managed to break his bike, glasses and all of his cycle kit, did he winge or moan not at all! At times you didn't think you were sitting next to a guy who's collar bone wasn't attached to his body! Big thumbs up from me, hope you heel quick Paul. Not looking forward to the bill though, we had a communal credit card which payed for everything we needed, great idea from TonyG, really made the holiday flow smoothly. Good cooking by Chris which again only enhanced the holiday, we all sat down together at the end of the day and devoured 4 courses. Charlie did a good job of not getting us lost although we did have laugh from time to time. ( the Garmin says no! ) 

All in all a excellent experience and will jump at the chance to do it all again. 
Thanks again guys brilliant!

Tony G's take:

Great write up chaps - very comprehensive. Thoroughly enjoyed the whole week. We did get on very well and seemed to surpass all of the challenges with ease. Charlie did a great job navigating and keeping us organised, as well as being a thoroughly good sport when we scoffed at his OCD or did a bit of pace lining. Paul was Mr.Positive; no moans or complaints even though he virtually ruined all his kit and his shoulder. Tony D was on hand to sort out the mechanicals and be just a top bloke. Chris was a fantastic cook, translator, ride leader and friend.

All I can say is that I'd jump at the chance of doing it again. It was the right mix of sport and social with no airs, graces or seriousness with regard to the riding. 

I think my guts are just about recovering from the gastronomic exploits of the week and all of those energy products!! 

Thanks chaps!

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