Road To Nowhere – sticking with the Talking Heads theme as we broadened our European horizons! Many of our trips from 2011 to 2016 really did take us on roads less travelled – taking that ride to nowhere, we’ll take that ride.
In May 2011 we stayed in Geneva for 4 days, cycling the big mountains either side of the Arve valley, including the brutal climb of Col de Joux Plane on the way up to Morzine. We also visited Goeschenen that September for another 4 day trip – the Susten, Grimsel & Furka Pass (made famous by Goldfinger) remains one of my 5 favourite days in the saddle!
2012 started with a week-long stay in Barcelonnette, including a day trip to Mont Ventoux for the first time – more about this mythical mountain later! The highlight of our 2012 stay in Annecy was going to see Stage 9 of Le Tour de France & seeing Wiggo riding to victory on the stage while wearing yellow – this was the year he won Le Tour! The lowlight was undoubtedly crashing on the descent of the Cormet de Roselend 3 days later, breaking my collarbone, ending my riding early & writing-off my Trek.
2013 started off (& finished) with surgery on my collarbone – it was unsuccessful both times & I’m left with a mushy collarbone that never really healed properly. By now, we’d been gripped by the European Alps & we embarked on a monster 2 week trip at the end of May – snow everywhere!! The first 7 days were spent riding the truly epic climbs of the Maurienne Valley – we stayed in the Hotel St Georges & made friends with the hostess Martine (we’ve visited twice more since).
For the 2nd week we moved to Le Belvedere on the Petit St Bernard Pass, overlooking Bourg St Maurice. We had the Cormet de Roselend, the Col d’Iseran, Petit St Bernard & Les Arcs on our doorstep. By the end of our 2 week adventure, we’d completed just over 100,000 feet of vertical climbing (about a 1/5th of that year’s total)!!
Somehow we also found time for a trip to Andermatt where we spent 7 days exploring the huge mountains, including the legendary cobbles on the Gotthardpass.
In 2014 we climbed all 3 sides of Mont Ventoux in a single day (14,452 feet of climbing in 85 miles) on our summer trip to Bedoin & St Jean de Maurienne (again) – we’re in a fairly small club of people foolish enough to complete the Cingles Challenge! This remains my biggest challenge to date. We also found time to visit Col d’Izoard & Col du Galibier.
We also visited Italy for the first time in 2014, with a week long adventure in Bormio. Our trip included an epic day climbing both sides of the Stelvio, with the Umbrail pass sandwiched in between. We also got off the beaten track with a bit of gravel riding around Lago di Cancano.
We made our maiden trip to Mallorca in 2015 (Puerto Pollenca was our regular base until Covid arrived in 2020). This quickly felt like a 2nd home & we used it as a Spring Training Camp between 2015 & 2019 – it really is cycling nirvana!
For the summer of 2015 we embarked on another split base trip, returning to Annecy for 4 days, then heading to Aosta, for 7 days cycling in Italy. Colle del Nivolet (the final photo below) remains one of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve visited on a bike – this photo (minus me) has pride of place in my living room.
You may recognise the Colle del Nivolet photo from the closing scene in The Italian Job – it was where the coach with the gold was hanging over the cliff. As far as roads to nowhere go, this is that road!
In Part Three I’ll bring the story up to date as our adventures from 2017 to 2021 prepare us for our expedition to The Big Country (yes, another Talking Heads song!).