Posts Tagged ‘annecy’

Annecy.

December 19, 2010

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Photographs from Haute-Savoie.

September 9, 2010

See more photographs of my recent trip to the sun at my Flickrspot.

Notes from Haute-Savoie.

September 6, 2010

18 hours later and after 800 miles in a car with 4 other men we finally arrived at our destination, France’s beautiful region of Haute-Savoie, merely a stones throw away from Switzerland’s Western border.

We located our campsite on the edge of lake Annecy and quickly set up our living quarters, because despite our total lack of sleep for the past day or so we were all very eager to get out on our bikes. No time for rest.

Problem. Whilst reversing a fully laden car out of it’s parking space, Hardy touched a car to the rear which in-turn managed to pull Joe’s rear wheel out of true, quite badly. No problem. A trip to LocationVélo on the west side of Annecy lake meant we could get the wheel repaired ready for tomorrow.

We now have 5 bikes between but only 4 complete sets of wheels. So, rather graciously, Hardy, still extremely tired after our mammoth drive offered to lend Joe his wheels for day one’s riding agenda – A climb of Col de la Forclaz. This would also be myself, Kieran and Joe’s re-uniting of this, the very steep and very tough 12km long Col de la Forclaz, our most favourite local col.

No sleep for over 24 hours had taken it’s toll on me. I had to stop half way up a 14% section of the climb, riding in the hot midday sun I was utterly spent. Physically and mentally drained I lay down on a grass verge at the side of the road, jersey fully unzipped and helmet strewn to the side. I needed to cool down, I felt unwell. Water down my throat and energy gels in my system I finished this leafy climb with the others and at the top we were rewarded traditionally with Beers, Coke and an unforgettable view of the lake.

We Descend the Forclaz and head around the west side of the lake to pick up Joe’s wheel. We chat with the proprietor a while, he talks of “clipping into the wind” and the descent of the Semnoz. We finish up and head back to camp to rest and more importantly to eat. Tonight’s meal will be well deserved.

My mind is on Tomorrow. To ascend Montagne du Semnoz via the Col de Leschaux up to Crét de Chatillon. This route had me shook. Last year I remember I struggled, I had consumed all my food and emptied all the contents of my Bidons into my mouth. I was hungry and thirsty and my shoes were made of Lead. Not again.

Eggs scrambled, bread toasted and coffee brewed we sat down and ate breakfast ready for our day ahead.  Hardy and Army ( Adam ) had done a stellar job on the eggs. Cooked perfectly with parsley and bacon, these two boys have set us up and furthermore we now have a full team for today’s riding as Joe’s wheels are back, spinning straight and round. And then (as it was intended) there were five.

No bonkage this time but still not loving climbing this particular ascent, especially after Joe, Hardy and Army had dropped Kieran and I like banana skins on the road. They were gone and I was demoralised. Remind me, why do I do this? I ask myself as I solemnly climbed this baron, silent landscape. I could not answer but there was the Crét so I dug in and got up to be greeted by the happy, salty faces of four friends, a plate of Frites and a cold glass of Coke.

The best thing about the Crét de Chatillon is the descent, the climb is awful, I do not like the terrain but the descent, now that, I love. It starts open with beautiful vistas of Mont Blanc and the ranges out to the East and soon after you go over the highest point of the mountain pass, you immediately find yourself travelling at speeds of up to 60kmh through dense forest. The scenery changes quickly like a natural kaleidoscope of colours green, shadows hurtle past on the tarmac beneath as if one were stationary, my nose exhales breath of excitement and euphoria and in exchange inhales the smell of pine and cool mountain air, a perfect trade. Corners are banked, cars are sparse and apart from the odd mountain cow we are left to trickle down the side of La Semnoz, alone and for what seemed like an eternity. Wheels in motion, man and machine in perfect harmony with these alien surroundings. This place to me is like Heaven.

Fig rolls don’t go down, energy gels taste like shit and that night, Hardy’s Pasta Carbonara with Lemon was to my palette like what a gold medal is to a champion.

The sun rises behind us from over the mountains. It get’s warmer. Map unfolded, we plot a route East heading to the Col de la Croix Fry and Col des Aravis. We seem anxious, these mountains we have never seen and the lines on the map indicate some suffering at 2pm.

We leave Veyrier-du-lac and head up over the bump of a Col du Bluffy. Instantly to your right the precious view of Lac D’Annecy becomes obscured by the sight of La Tournette and Dent du Cruet. Covered in trees growing slanted on their sides these two brother hills have chalky peaks piercing their green coats like shark fins through water. We continue forward, pushing on pedals up the D909 to Thonês and Manigod and begin our long ascent up the Col de la Croix-Fry.

Despite the sun on the back of my neck my cap remains forward, visor directed towards the ground so I can’t see too far ahead. I see what looks like my cat Banton playing in the grass to my right , my concentration is broken and I feel the pain in my legs again, I ask myself the question. Finally I arrive at the top where I join my friends in eating our previously  made sandwiches containing  a fine slice of jambon and grated Comté fromage. I am getting cold, sitting here in sweat sodden layers, I remove my jersey and put it out to dry next to our table. Eating has made me feel better especially being as it wasn’t another fig roll. We check the map, refill our bidons at the restaurant and get moving towards the Col des Aravis.

After a short decent we meet the base of the Aravis. Stowaways go folded back into jersey pockets and it’s down to business, but business it was not as we had done all of the hard work on the previous climb. Just a few grassy hairpins with white peaks high to my left and to my right and we had bagged another.

I attempt to stretch my legs, cramp. We keep going, dissapearing off the horizon into the valley, one by one we traverse down the mountain into the gorge below. It flattens out a little and I pull over. There are walls of rock cascading up into the sky either side of us and down to my right in the ravine I see the clearest water flowing around massive diagonal shards of slate that look like they had been dropped there just seconds before. I don’t know where I am but right now I don’t care.

What followed was some of the most exhillirating riding I have ever encountered, the Gorges de L’Arondine, the D909 Southbound is otherworldly, like that of a computer game. Space invaders or Mario Kart. Cornering. I hear the sound of running water above and below. A waterfall, we are inside it, yet dry. Magnificent.  I have helium in my tyres. Beside me is Adam, behind is Joe, Kieran and Hardy and together we descent slightly, riding maximum to the mouth of the ravine towards Ugine, faverge, Doussard, Talloires and finally Menthon saint-Bernard and home to Veyrier-du-lac.

Tired and wired I go into the lake for the first time to soothe my legs. Tonight we pay for dinner and I’m having the Steak Haché. Kieran forgot his comb, he uses a fork and we realise our camp is a mess. Tomorrow we must clean up, before we drive South to the Giant.
To be continued.

Such an amazing time had by all, I can recommend this region to everyone interested in riding on the continent, it’s quite a journey but so, so worth it.

More photographs and my account of climbing the beastly Galibier up soon.

Impending Doom.

August 23, 2010

It’s coming. The suffering is around the corner and I cannot wait. The 2010 leg of the annual alpine adventure for the SFRT begins next week in Annecy, France.

This year I feel I am slightly better prepared, although more mentally than physically. We also have more members that now make up the 2010 Spinwell Factory Racing Team which obviously means more fun… Oh and more slaps for the person at the back of the bunch, now he won’t be 3rd, but 5th! Shit.

Cret de Chatillon – I am coming for you.

Le Lac D’Annecy Dans ses Montagnes.

September 12, 2009

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Up until last weekend never had the tyre of a wheel I owned touched the ground of Europe or more importantly the surrounding area of Lake Annecy, that is to say that never had I ridden my bicycle outside of these shores so my preparation for our trip was somewhat minimal. A few 40s, 50s and even a 75 miler was what I had under my belt before last week, however all of the aforementioned distances were lacking in something, something rather important for the person looking to conquer the cycling down south in France…And that something is hills.

Because of my background I believed I would really struggle on these Cols, that for whatever reason my body would not be up to the standard of what these types of roads demanded but I was surprised and this trip has taught me a very good lesson but more of that later.

Our first morning was spent cycling a Lap of Lake Annecy. It was a beautiful way to start the week and we couldn’t wait to get out. This lap of the Lake was used as part of a time trial in this years Tour and it was the constant reminders painted onto the road surface of names such as ‘Contador’ ‘Lance’ and ‘Schleck’ that woke me up into the excitement of what awaited us in the forthcoming week. So after our 16 hour car journey the day previous and a strange nights sleep in a sloping field of cows I sighed and thought gleefully to myself “Aaaaah that’s it, we are here”.

Later on that day after yet another espresso off the camp stove we decided to venture out and upwards. Upwards to the Col de La Forclaz which was approx eight miles away. At this point I would like to say I had never in my life climbed a large hill, a Col, a mountain or anything such like so the climbing of Col de la Forclaz would be interesting.

Now I go back to what I mentioned earlier about that important lesson I had learned… Our bodies are far more capable of difficult tasks than we think. I got up that Col I did, my first one actually. It was tough at times sure it was, but I was getting up regardless. After what seemed like 10 litres of shed sweat in the mid-day sun, enough air in and exhaled from my lungs to fill a hot air balloon and my thighs feeling like someone was holding a flame to them I reached the summit and Joe was there to congratulate me and Kieran’s congrats followed shortly after. Amazing.

I used to hate ascending, in my mind ascending had me beat but the more we climbed the more I got a buzz out of it. The absolute sense of achievement I felt on the summits was unparalleled. To know that I wanted to give up ( on several occasions ) and didn’t was a surprise. Not that I had no faith in myself, I did but I had never experienced hills like these and it hurt real bad. At every point where the road steepened on these climbs it would have been very easy for me to have simply stopped but this is something I now know I am capable of… overriding my brains urges to quit because of pain and to carry on, because I can and because my body is more than capable of it.

The riding throughout the rest of the week consisted of many more climbs, steeper climbs, longer climbs, legendary climbs and climbs that would reveal to you some of the sheer beauty of what this planet has to offer. Take the view of Mont Blanc from the Cret de Chatillion… It took all the food in my jersey pockets, all the electrolyte replacement in my bidon and all the willpower I had inside of me to get up there that day but for the view alone it was totally worth it.

With climbs come descents. Descents! This stuff is exhilaration bottled, twenty minute journeys downhill through forests at fifty miles per hour is what I had endured hours of ascending for, I had earned it and I was made for it. Hairpins, shallow corners, undulations, change in light conditions and road surface, the sound of my ears rushing by the still air surrounding, my stowaway jacket flapping ferociously behind me all added up to something quite magical and it has me addicted.

I learned about fuel and hydration because without those you really could not continue, about having the correct attire because not only is it important to look good but you must also feel good. I fully realise and know now what I look for and need in a bike and with mine it is currently a new set of tyres to help me around those ‘hairy’ hairpins quicker and safer because next time the road may not be so clear and there may be a car there waiting to meet me, perhaps bonnet first. I learned that a correct fitting bike is absolutely imperative as regularly after approx 2 hours in the saddle I experienced some serious fatigue in my lower back and across my shoulder blades and this is something I need to look into, so next time the agony will only be in my legs and not in my back.

The elusive 100 miles I longed to clock still defeats me, I have still not gained it but I tell you this. It now means nothing to me as some 50 mile journeys over and through some seriously beautiful natural landscapes are worth 500 miles of any A roads through bland grey cities. I just want to ride more and more and I am already thinking about next year, did somebody mention Spain?

Thanks go to Joe Hall for the instigation and the motivation throughout, to Kieran Young for his enthusiasm and sunny disposition and to the lady camp site proprietor for her good use of the English language. To Aussie Rik who looked like Jo mangle “dude that is not your tent and it will break like that”, to the bar next door for the chips when they were needed ( Yes Kieran! ) and to the expensive fish fillets that were truly earned after that epic day. To Fig rolls the superfood, the in-jokes and tales on the jetty, to the Rapha Merino base layer and to the Lake for making our mornings worth rising early for. To the Cafe and Boulangerie in Veyrier for making the best coffee and baguettes in the whole of Annecy, Veyrier and Menthon Saint Bernard and finally to Col de la Forclaz for truly opening my eyes to the mountains.

Day one.

Morning – lap of Lac D’Annecy / 20 miles
Afternoon – Climb of Col de la Forclaz ( 1157m ) Via Veyrier and back / 17 miles

Day two.

Climb of four Cols on the west side of Lac D’Annecy / 46 miles.
Col de Bluffy ( 613m )
Col de Leschaux ( 936m )
Montague Semnoz( 1704m )
Cret de Chatillion ( 1790m )

Day 3

Recovery ride up Col de la Forclaz ( for the second time ) / 17 miles roundtrip.

Day 4
Tour du Glieres and Tour du Bargy / 85 miles.
Annecy – Col de Bluffy – Thones – Le grand Bornand – Col de Columbieres – Col de Fleuris – Scionzon – La Roche sur Foron -Thoron Glieres – Annecy le Vieux – Annecy – Veyrier

Day 5
Recovery ride up Col de la Forclaz ( for the third time ) 17 miles roundtrip.

Day 6
Alpe D’Huez ( 1815m ) 15 miles roundtrip.


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Les Alps.

September 2, 2009

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So I have been lucky enough to be invited along with a couple of my pals on a trip to Lake Annecy in the French Alps for a week of pure cycling and check me, I can hardly contain my excitement!

I have my lists ready, spare tubes, maps, tent, stove, bbq, sleeping bag the lot and I am ready to go.

I leave this Friday and return the following so please expect no posts between then as I will no doubt be vomitting from over exertion somewhere off the side of a french mountain.

Wish us luck!


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