Verbier & Back – Day One.
A 3.30am alarm call means it’s time for another Alpine Adventure to commence – this time a 7 day expedition to Martigny in Switzerland. The flight to Geneva to us over Lac de Leman with huge views across to Mont Blanc which dominated the horizon. Having landed on time, we were ready to pick up the Ford Mondeo estate from Thrifty at 11am local time. Unfortunately, our car wasn’t ready & wouldn’t be for at least another hour – initial disappointment was quickly turned to happiness however, as the Reps friend at Hertz was able to rustle up a BMW 216 Estate instead. I hope our luck holds for the rest of the trip too!
We reached our hotel by 1.30pm, so we were able to check in immediately, having the bikes re-assembled & ready to ride by 2.30. Martigny is a major town in the Rhone Valley, so there are mountains everywhere – as a result, I had planned more rides than we had days available & this seemed like the perfect opportunity to use one of them! I’d read about the climb from Martigny up to Verbier, as it regularly features in the Tour de Suisse & is also where Alberto Contador blew the 2009 Tour de France wide open. This was the perfect opportunity to go & try it for myself!
The early couple of miles took us out of town & past several temperature gauges, which confirmed we were in for a warm afternoon – 31 degrees centigrade & blue sky everywhere. The road from Martigny to Sembracher is the start of the Grand St Bernard Pass (the main route into Italy from the Valais valley), so is relatively busy. However, once we got off the main road, the fun really started – while the serious part of the climb is only 5 miles long, it regularly ramped up to 9 & 10% as it twisted & turned up the sheer face of the valley. The heat & severity of the gradient meant it was a real challenge, even if it wasn’t particularly long – just under 2 hours to ride 18 miles & climb 3,750 feet from the base to summit.
The views from Verbier were stunning – views across the valley to snow covered peaks were made even more spectacular by paragliders, as they flew the thermals.
Like many ‘out of season’ ski resorts, most of the cafes & bars were shut & those that were open didn’t have any cake! We stopped long enough to grab a quick espresso & a few photos, before what should have been a fast & lazy descent back to Martigny.
The wind had other ideas, as Ed Wind blew so hard, we had to pedal on some of the downhill stretches, otherwise we would have ground to a stop! An unexpected bonus was that we got to see all the scenery, as we were travelling so slowly!
What a great first day, fingers crossed the rest of the week follows the same pattern!