Monday, September 19, 2016

COL DU GLANDON, LANCETS DES MONTVERNIER, COL DU CHAUSSY, AND COL DE LA MADELEINE

As I'm writing this post, all I can hear is laughter from our group, a group that is getting along well and sharing in triumphs and suffering. 

Earlier today, we rode the Col du Glandon, a 20 km climb that averages 7% through a stunning valley before reaching the "top of the world". The scenery was breathtaking, the incline challenging, and the summit a much deserved reward! 





Col du Glandon finally gave us amazing views of Mont Blanc.
Rush hour on Col du Glandon.
Some had more energy then others at the top.

From there we climbed another 2.5 km to the Col de la Croix de Fer, had lunch and enjoyed a long descent. We then split in to different groups with one climbing up and down the Lancets des Montvernier, another continuing on to the Col de Chaussy, and another couple of masochistic riders summiting the Col de Madeleine. 


The Lancets des Montvernier gained popularity when it was featured in the 2015 Tour de France.  At only 3.8 km, it has 18 switchbacks and the view leading up to it looks like laces, hence the name.  The inside was all rock, the outside a big drop to the bottom, the road was narrow, and the experience was pretty cool.

 

The group that continued on to the Col du Chaussy experienced what might well have been one of the most beautiful descents of the week, after climbing another 10 km.  Not overly technical, it was winding and fun, with views that went on forever.  The word views has been used a lot in describing this trip, but it feels like every time we turn we are rewarded with another spectacular view.  Suppose it's one of the rewards of climbing up mountains.





Two brave souls tackled the Col de la Madeleine; digging in deep and using all of their resources.  Sharing a jar of pickle juice to refill their electrolyte losses, they mustered just enough strength to summit.












It was a pretty epic day with 6-8 hours on the saddle. After a quick dip and some cannonballs in the fountain, everyone shared stories of highlights and struggle while eating our pizza dinner.  The bond over a Col is a strong one.






SEMNOZ, SCENIC VIEWS, SUNSETS

We woke to cloudy skies once more, but the chance of rain was low and the temperatures where warm.

Setting out towards the Semnoz spirits where high and there was just a hint of nerves as this would be the first mountain climb for some of the riders in the group.  The Semnoz is a 16 km climb at an average of 7% and a gain of 1,142m, nothing like what we have at home in Oakville.

Many where excited to get the first big notch in their belt this week and the joy outweighed the suffering on the faces of the riders.


On a sunny day, the views from the top of the Semnoz are spectacular, with Mont Blanc taking centre stage; however we where surrounded by clouds and Mont Blanc eluded us.
Views from the Semnoz on a clear day.
Low hanging clouds met as at the top of the Semnoz.



There are a few couples riding on this trip, and they enjoyed summiting together today.  Mike went to join Judi and Doug went to ride with Lorna.

At the top, some riders made sandwiches with fresh baguettes.

Although we had no views from the top of the Semnoz, the 18 km climb was still worth the challenge. Half the group continued to ride while the other half venture in to the beautiful and historic town of Annecy to play tourist, getting in some shopping and taking the water taxi back to the hotel, giving them completely different views of the lake and valley as they meandered along the east side of the lake before crossing over to our side and disembarking.

The sun came out for the afternoon and blue skies once again illuminated the surrounding hillside.   The quiet roads, quaint towns, and ever changing terrain made for a fun afternoon ride as we went along the valley floor, past farms, and up and over the Col de Tamie.



One of our stops was the Chateau de Miolans.  Built in the mid-1500s, the castle served as a protective fort, placed up on the hillside to monitor for any enemy attacks.  Over the centuries, the castle has been renovated with different materials and styles to serve several different functions, including that of a family house.



The  afternoon involved massages by the water and finding the party room, to hang out before dinner.  Since we have almost all of the rooms in the hotel, it feels very much like our home and that we are with family.














Thursday, September 15, 2016

TOURNETTE, TOWERING VIEWS, AND TANTALIZING TASTES

It was a cloudy and wet day on the bike today, but we still had a great time! 


The route was up or down all day, with gentle inclines and rewarding descents, wide open pastures and tree lined roads, water views and towering mountains. 







Most of the rain landed earlier in the ride, so the temperatures crept up and jackets came off in the second half. Evian water is bottled all over this region and public fountains are one of the best places to fill up with cold water; though the support vans have water, chips, candy, nuts, fruit, sandwich stuffs, and all kinds of other treats to keep the rider's energy up!

We have a great crew on this trip with Tracey in the van ensuring everyone is well hydrated and fed. Nat and Scott are on the bikes offering encouragement, a helping hand, route guidance, and good banter. And our massage team of Sandra, Frederic, Naz, Emmanuelle, and Benedict have received glowing reviews so far. 

The last two nights we've had dinner in the 5 star hotel restaurant and the presentation, quality, tantalizing tastes, have brought satisfied smiles to everyones faces. We're off to a great start this week.


CORNERING, CALMING, AND CONVERSATION

Watching the stress melt off the athletes as they walked through the doors of Clos Marcel towards the water, taking a moment to rest under the shade of one of the trees, was joyful.  The setting of our home base for this week is magical, and just doesn’t seem real.  Surrounded by majestic mountains and calming, clean water of the lake, relaxation set in instantly.



The bikes where assembled by staff while the athletes enjoyed a cold beverage on the patio, dipped their feet in the water, and unpacked and organized their rooms.

Once settled, we set out for a cornering/bike check session to ensure the equipment was working and to help prepare the riders for the many long descents and switchbacks that they will face on the upcoming rides.


The evening was cool, but the company was warm and inviting with everyone excited about what the week would bring.  As the beautifully prepared meal was served, conversation lulled to enjoy the tantalizing flavours.