Col de Meraillet, Cormet de Roselend & Col du Pre

Annecy Alpine Adventure – Day Three, Talloires.

Today we jumped in the car & took a one hour drive to the small town of Beaufort, home of the famous cheese. The Beaufortain region is surrounded by the high mountains on all sides & is on my list of places to visit as a base for a week of riding (I picked up a route guide from the Tourist Office, so that’s now one step closer to happening!).

The aim today was to cycle part of Stage 11 in this year’s Tour de France, namely the Cormet de Roselend from Beaufort. If you’ve followed my previous trips, you’ll already know this is where I had the accident which smashed up my left collar bone & wrote-off the bike I had at the time. At 13 miles & with 4,000 feet of climbing to reach the summit, this would be my biggest challenge so far of this year’s trip.

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It’s a wooded, green & pretty ascent to Col de Meraillet, with views back down the valley & the gradient is a constant 7% to 8% for these first 8 miles. As soon as we passed this intermediate col, we had our first views of one of my favourite alpine lakes, the glorious Lac de Roselend. The next mile or so followed the shore of the lake & I took the opportunity to gather my mental & physical resources by suggesting a quick coffee & raspberry tart stop.

After a 10 minute stop, it was time to push onward & upwards, as the scenery changed completely & the trees of the lower slopes were replaced with alpine meadows & numerous rivers plunging down the mountain to supply the lake below. The gradient was between 7% & 8% all the way to the summit, which at least allowed me to establish a rhythm & cadence, that while slower than normal, was within my current capabilities.

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After 2 hours 15 minutes of climbing, we’d reached the summit & I’m grateful to Sean for happily cycling at my reduced pace & making small talk all the way up – it made the ride even more fun. We managed to persuade a fellow Brit to take a photo of us both, although the language barrier was a bit of a challenge, he was a Yorkie!!!!

Much as I wanted to ride both sides of this mythical climb, today wasn’t the day, as I don’t have the training in the legs this year, however, I’ll be back again to fulfil that dream. Instead, we headed back down to Col de Meraillet & then took a detour across the Barrage de Roselend & then did a short, sharp bonus climb up to Col du Pre. This is a climb that reminded me of a classic Spinal Tap quote where the volume was turned up to 11 – in this case it was the gradient that was louder than 10!!! The real reason for this side ride was the absolutely breath taking view across the Barrage & Lake to the huge snow encrusted mountains in the bacckground. All Alpine lakes are beautiful, but some are more so than others – the mountain to the left of the photo with its head in the clouds is Mont Blanc.

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We retraced our wheels back to the Route de Roselend & then took another planned side road to check out the Lac de la Gittaz, which had been recommended by someone who had visited the region previously. Yes, it was pretty, but after all of today’s remarkable scenery, it didn’t stand out as much as it would on any other ride. However, I’m pleased we stopped to see it.

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All that remained was to follow the road back towards Beaufort & remain vigilant of the ‘gravillons’ (dodgy as you like ‘chippings’ to you & me!) which have been laid ahead of the Tour de France circus coming to town. I’m usually a confident & competent descender, but this was no fun at all as for 2 miles all I could think of was ‘don’t tense your arms’, which of course made me tense my arms!! I got down the descent safely, so it was time to celebrate an amazing day in the saddle with an artisan ice cream (coconut & rum raisin, as it happens & it was delicious!).

We spent a few minutes strolling round town admiring all the Tour de France paraphernalia that has already been put on display – whole bikes hanging from balconies, bunting in the colours of all the competition jerseys etc. The final treat of today was to stop off at Forclaz de Montmin on the way home, a brutally steep (I wouldn’t be able to climb it at my fittest) 5 mile climb. From the summit we had huge views along the length of Lake Annecy & could even make out our hotel on the valley floor, some 2,400 feet below. What a great way to round off a brilliant day of cycling!

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Col de Vorger & Colette de Tamie

Annecy Alpine Adventure – Day Two, Talloires.

After yesterday’s epic day in the saddle, I was unsure how the arm would feel today & with thunderstorms forecast for this afternoon, it made sense to plan something shorter & give my body a chance to adjust to consecutive days cycling in the mountains. We were greeted to a blue, cloudless sky & the temperature was already 75 degrees at 9.15am, so we were in for another scorching ride so long as we could beat the weather!

Today’s route started off mirroring yesterday for the first 7 miles, as we hugged the shore of Lake Annecy for 4 miles, before connecting with the Annecy to Albertville cycle track. Once again, we had the path pretty much to ourselves as we skirted the edges of small villages, passed golden fields of freshly harvested wheat & cut between small lakes where ducks were being fed by the locals.

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The first 17 miles were covered in just over 70 minutes, with next to no feet climbed – effectively the majority of the day’s climbing was crammed into the next 11 miles (which also included a short descent). We exited the cycle path just outside Albertville & the road started climbing immediately, as sweeping switchbacks kept us pointing skywards. Although the climb of Col du Vorger was ‘only’ just over 2 ½ miles in length, the gradient didn’t drop below 9% (Sean was laughing as he pointed out the 13% stretch!), so we’d climbed 1,100 feet by the time we hit the Col. The oddity was that although we were at the summit, we were still surrounded on all sides by towering mountains of volcanic rock.

After a brief stop for a photo & to let the legs & lungs recover, we continued following the narrow single lane road & descended through meadows & farmland for 3 miles, before arriving at the start of the climb up to Collet de Tamie (not to be confused with Col de Tamie, which we’d descend to later!). The stats tell me it was a 5 mile climb with 1,600 feet of climbing, however it was much tougher than that, as the first mile only rose about 150 feet, meaning the remaining 4 miles was at a leg sapping (for me at least) 8%. The saving grace was we were protected from the relentless sun, the temperature again topping 100 degrees at its hottest.

We stopped for a quick photo opportunity at the summit of Collet de Tamie before taking an immediate left turn to visit Fort de Tamie (our coffee stop yesterday) where, today we stopped for lunch. We relaxed in the shade over a panini, lemonade & ice cream, before retracing the first 16 miles of yesterday’s ride, with a slight detour for a photo op at the Abbaye de Tamie. This was my favourite descent so far, as the gradient was relatively gentle as the smooth tarmac swept us towards Faverges, where we connected again with the cycle track towards Talloires.

We made a brief stop at Doussard, where we watched a group of parapenters who had launched themselves off the cliffs some 2,000 feet above us coming in to make the most delicate of landings in a field close by. We then followed Lake Annecy’s shoreline, admiring the stunning alpine blue of the  water against the dark blue of the sky above. The threatened thunderstorms didn’t ever arrive today (although they are forecast for later in the week), so we made the most of the early finish & the stunning weather, to spend an hour or so by the pool, working on the tan.

I feel I should apologise for one of the photos, as I look like a badly stuffed sausage, but this is what happens when you continue to eat like a cyclist, when not training like one!

Col de Tamie, Col du Frene & Col de Leschaux

Annecy Alpine Adventure – Day One, Talloires.

After 9 weeks of worrying whether I would be able to cycle or not, today was the day I would find out where my fitness is at & what I’m capable of doing (or not). The plan was to ride well within my comfort zone, but have a couple of testing climbs to see where I’m at – today’s ride absolutely tested my fitness!!!

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We rode straight out the hotel & followed a quiet main road by the side of Lake Annecy for 4 miles, before picking up the Annecy to Albertville cycle path (which follows the old railway line route). It was the perfect start, flat, quiet & cool for the next 5 miles. As we reached Faverges, we said goodbye to the flat & started up the Col de Tamie, the perfect climb to warm up the legs as it rises about 1,500 feet over 7 ½ miles – it’s never too steep as it climbs next to a babbling brook, before opening up onto low alpine meadows & heading past the medieval abbey. After a quick photo stop at the col, we continued climbing another 250 feet or so up to the Fort de Tamie for a refreshing lemonade.

We descended back to the col summit, then continued down the opposite side of Col de Tamie. This was my first proper downhill since my off in Mallorca – if I was being kind to myself, I was hesitant to say the least. However, I at least gained confidence from getting down safely.

Once we’d descended almost as far as Albertville, we bounced along the valley floor with huge alpine mountains on either side. Our next challenge was one of these & it wasn’t long before we were climbing the lower slopes of the Col du Frene, a steady 7.5 mile ascent  with a couple of 10%+ ramps in places. We were in switchback heaven with huge views to the valley below & the snow peaked mountain peaks opposite – we were both looking forward to getting a photo once the climb finished, as well as topping off our water bottles & grabbing a bite to eat. Sadly there wasn’t anywhere open, so we had to make do with a banana & energy bar.

The next 10 miles or so was a gentle descent onto the lowest part of the massif that towers over Lake Annecy. We had one final climb, which we’d ridden on a previous trip, the long drag up to Col de Leschaux – this was where I knew for sure I’d taken on 30 miles & 1 climb too many! The road rose at 4% to 6% for about 5 miles, but today in temperatures of 90 degrees & lacking my usual fitness, it was a bit of an effort to say the least.

By the time we completed the final climb of the day, we’d ascended just over 6,200 feet in total – by far my biggest climbing challenge of the year. We stopped for a quick picture at the top of the Leschaux, before dropping all the way back down to the side of Lake Annecy, however, we still had to circumnavigate ½ of the lake! I needed some sugar to get me home, so we made a much appreciated stop in a little café, so I could top up on a small ice cream & coke, before making the final 15 mile push for home. One more unexpected surprise was waiting for us, for the first time in about 5 trips, Sean suffered a puncture……then another one & then a 3rd in the space of 5 miles! Even now we don’t know what caused them, as there wasn’t anything obvious wrong with the tyre or the wheel.

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We returned home via the cycle path & then retraced our steps along the lake & back to the hotel. A truly epic & rewarding day in the saddle & a great marker for what I’ll be able to do on the remainder of the trip. We got back in time to spend an hour poolside relaxing & topping up our tans, the perfect end to our first day in Annecy!

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About Me

I started cycling in June 2006, when at the age of 42 I conceded that my competitive hockey days were behind me – it began with me hiring a bike for a half day of riding in Sardinia while on holiday with friends. Little did I know that from such humble beginnings I would end up exploring the UK, Europe & North America using pedal power!

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Along the way I’ve climbed some of the epic mountain passes from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia,  Criterium du Dauphine, Tour de Swiss & Tour of Britain, as well as visit World Heritage Sites with the most amazing scenery & panoramic views.

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Although I’m a latecomer to the joys of cycling, in many ways the late start has made me more passionate about my hobby. I hope that by sharing my experiences on my blog you too might be tempted to explore some of these places for yourself.

Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride. — Eddy Merckx20150619_161726