Tour de Suisse Summits – Mattmarksee & Zermatt – July 2016

A trip to The Matterhorn – Day Six

Up until today, every ride has started right outside the hotel’s front door. However, today we had a 50 mile drive to Visp (which is located 50 miles further up the Rhone valley). The plan today was to explore two valleys that share the same access from the valley floor. The first 5 miles to Stalden was on a very busy main road, but as soon as we crossed the River Vispa (the gateway to Zermatt) we had the tarmac pretty much to ourselves with the occasional interruption from a bus or construction lorry. As we followed the course of the Saaservispa river, we steadily gained height & found ourselves looking back down towards Visp, way off in the background.

The first 15 miles were among the easiest we’ve ridden all week – a very welcome rest for the weary legs, as well as providing plenty of ‘action’ photo opportunities. We stopped for a quick coffee at Saas-Balen, before continuing on our way in high spirits.

We were so busy chatting, we missed our turn – not only did we miss the turn, we didn’t even realise until we’d reached the top of an unexpected climb into Saas-Fee. It’s a lovely pedestrianised town that I would have enjoyed exploring if only it was where we planned to visit!! We re-traced our steps having taken the correct turning, spent the next 6 miles heading up an ever steepening road, until the final ½ mile straight stretch hit 14% – a real leg stinger after 5 days of hard riding!!

We’d reached Mattmarksee – a climb of just over 5,000 feet (including our detour!) in 25 miles.

After another lunch of Spag Bol we set off back towards Stalden – remember that steep last ½ mile I mentioned above? By the time I took that first corner I’d already hit 51.3 mph & braked to safely negotiate the corner…a stunningly fast piece of road! It took about 35 minutes to descend the 15 miles back to Stalden – this completed part one of our adventure.

For part two, we headed up the Vispa valley towards Tasch (& ultimately Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn). It was 3.30pm when we started this section, so didn’t have any great expectations of exploring very far, however, we followed the course of the river, meaning the gradients were always very friendly to us. The Gotthard / Matterhorn Railway also runs through the valley – I recognised the trains from a previous trip to Andermatt. The track hugs the river, with towering cliffs on either side.

At one point, there wasn’t space for river, train track & modern width road, so a new 2.4km road tunnel had been built. The good news for pedestrians & cyclists is that the narrow, old road is reserved exclusively for their use – it would have been a bit of a slog cycling uphill in the tunnel, especially with vans & lorries whizzing through too.

Due to the friendly nature of the route, we managed to get all the way out to Tasch, where we stopped for a quick ice cream (size XXL) & coffee, while watching Roger Federer lose the 4th set in his match against Milos Raonic.

By now it was about 5.30pm, so time to do an about face & head back to Visp. The journey back to the car took a little over 40 minutes – it’s been another thoroughly enjoyable & fun day in the saddle, under glorious blue skies. I think I may even have a small bit of sunburn on my bald patch!! It’s now time to get some rest before the final day of Alpine Adventures tomorrow.

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