Col de Leschaux Loop

Annecy Alpine Adventure – Day Five, Talloires.

Today was all about trying to get my wheel bearings fixed, which meant that straight after breakfast I had an appointment with Mr Google to investigate my options – head to Annecy (nearer, but smaller) or Albertville (further to travel, but bigger). I made the decision to start locally, then travel further afield if necessary, so we were in the car & on our way to Annecy by 9.40am.

 

Town was crazy, as the Etape du Tour is on this Sunday & it goes from Annecy to Grand Bornard. There was an enormous trade exhibition on the lakeside & there were cyclist types everywhere! The first place was very sympathetic & while not able to fix the bearings, they were able to give me a couple of useful phrases for what was wrong & they sent me to one of their competitors, who he was hopeful could help me.

 

In the next bike shop they had little English & I had little French – how grateful I was for my phrases from my new friends at Roule et Poul. However, in spite of their best efforts, they couldn’t sort me out either. Again, they gave me the name of another competitor who would be my best chance of success in Annecy – I was so impressed by MTB’s attempts to help me too, even though on this occasion they couldn’t resolve the issue.

 

A 20 minute walk later & I arrived at Cran Cycles on Avenue de Cran. This place was a cycling geeks Nirvana with framed & signed cycling jerseys from Arnaud Demare & Jerome Coppel, French cycling heroes both. I felt my luck may be about to improve! After 30 minutes of looking through box after box of wheels parts, unlike Bono, he did find what he was looking for!!! My new best friend worked through his lunch break to put the bearings & wheel back together after handing over €46 my bike was back in business.

 

I left the bike shop at 12.45 & by 2pm we were on our bikes & heading out for what felt like a bonus cycle ride – as time was short, I drew up a 35 mile route to ensure we were back at a reasonable time. We set off around the lake towards the Annecy cycle path at Doussard. From there we followed the path towards Annecy for 10 miles until we reached Sevrier at the foot of the Col de Leschaux. This is a 7.5 mile climb that rises at a steady 4% the whole way, so gave me my first chance to ride full gas & see how my legs would react – even if I’d got the pacing wrong, I would still have been able to pootle up to the summit!

After a quick photo at the summit, we stopped for coffee, apple pie & ice cream – the perfect recovery food after my efforts up the mountain! The descent on the opposite side of the valley is steeper & technical with a couple of great overlooks to the lake below & in less than 15 minutes, we’d reached St Jorioz & were back among the cars again. Two separate cars pulled out of side turnings without even stopping to see if anything was coming – in both instances I had to take evasive action before stopping to teach the drivers a few ancient anglo-saxon phrases!

From St Jorioz, it was a case of finding our way back to the cycle path & retracing our route back to Talloires. Considering I didn’t have a bike that I could ride this morning, this has undoubtedly been a successful day on & off the bike!

Tomorrow I say goodbye to Hotel Les Grillons, it’s been the most amazing base in idyllic surroundings. & the food has been out of this world. Nothing was too much trouble for Aurelie & Sebastien, who welcomed us into their home. I will definitely be returning to this oasis on Lake Annecy. The adventure isn’t over, however, as we head on to St Jean de Maurienne – a permanent fixture on the Tour de France itinerary.

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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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