I met Kev in the arrrivals hall, and was later joined by Ham, BT and Greggles, whose flight had been delayed, and whose bikes were confirmed on a later flight. After starting with arrival beer and burgers, we navigated to the train station and found the luggage depot. Kev and I assembled velos, deposited the cases, then we all headed off to the local Hotel 33. Upon assembling the Colnago, it became apparent that the front chainring was looking decidedly bent. I normally load the bike upside down, but had been so flustered and pushed for time on that hectic departure morning that I just stuffed it in, and as it turned out, paid the price (mental note). Ham and I later had a go at flattening out the chainring with lumps of wood and concrete, but despite our best improvisational efforts, shifting to the large ring would simply throw the chain. It would have to be replaced. A second trip to the airport retrieved the other velos, all of which were assembled without incident. That evening we strolled into town proper by the lake (further than anticipated), locating a few bike shops en route. Dinner. The fact that Ham could barely walk upon leaving the restaurant (a day on a plane can do that to you) was of some concern, but fortunately he seemed right the next day.
The next morning we packed our wee backpacks - a new experience for some of the lads - and rolled direction Ferry. En route we stopped at the only bike shop which was open, and I managed to explain that I need a new grande plat. The FSA replacement looks super! We only just made the Ferry, which was to eventually take us across the lake to our start point (Yvoire), but would first collect Nige, who was staying with a mate of his in Nyon. The ferry trip turned out to be a grand way to start. Perfect day, clear sky, slow cruising past the Jet d'eau, on a magnificent old paddle steamer. The mechanics of the beast were laid bare for all to see and smell in the centre of the vessel. Huge pistons and crank arms pounded only meters below, with nothing but a modest rail preventing inattentive drunkards from falling into the thing and being instantly mashed. None of that APEC-style fencing in this country, which was refreshing. Whilst cruising along I took the opportunity to install the new chainring. With Nige joining us we were now a team of 6.
After the very pleasant cruise we alighted at Yvoire (~400 m), on the souther side of Lac Leman. Our plan was to spend two days rolling down to Albertville. The main obstacle for the day was the Col des Moises. As it turned out, we didn't quite tick it. Due to a navigational error on the part of yours truly (there were a few of these), this particular col didn't in fact correlate with the route we intended taking (a kind of map parallax error). We ended up on the brutal side of what turned out to be the Col de Cou, which despite only topping out at 1115 m, was tough in the heat of the day. After a lunch with a view we descended briefly before taking the Col du Terramont (1090 m), then making our way to Taninges where afternoon beers, ice creams and cokes were quaffed. Our destination for the day was a little further south, which we eventually arrived at, but only after riding past the hotel further up another climb (col de google), looking for a similarly named hotel which never eventuated (damn google directions). Whether it was a mix of living for a week at altitute or just being fresh, I managed to bag both the polka dot and green jerseys for the day, whilst Ham snaffled the stage. The first day with the backpacks I think caught a few by surprise with respects how hard it had been.
Day 1: 97 km, with ~1500 m climbing.
Day 1: 97 km, with ~1500 m climbing.
Day 2. The day started with a descent to Cluses before engaging the lower slopes of the Col de la Colombiere (1613 m). The bottom of the climb was of gradual grade and pleasantly shaded. We re-grouped before the final push to the summit, which we knew was going to be steeper, and steeper it was. I thought I had the thing sewn up till I started crampling badly ~350 m from the top. Nige and Kev cruised past. Kev in particular was in good shape this year. Another glorious day for refreshment and lunch at the summit. Great descent! Next on the menu was the Col de Aravis (1486 m), which turned out to be harder than I was expecting, and consequently grovelled up in damage control. I think Nige took the points. It was a hot, clear day, and the views across to Mt Blanc as the col was crested were awesome. More refreshment as we regrouped. The descent to Flumet is loaded with technical twists and was great fun, although BT was having trouble controlling a vibrating machine that sounded like a screeching parrot. What a time for the freewheel to start playing up again. From Flumet, the road to Albertville initially follows a gorge, where one can sit on 50 for about 10 km. A great stretch of road. On the final flat run into Albertville Ham was the man and took the stage, although he had paid a price for his efforts of the first two days by wearing a hole in his arse! That saddle would have to go. We checked into the Auberge de Costaroche, which would be our base for the next few days. Karel the madman from the Czech Republic joined us that evening as we sat in the garden and downed some cleansing ales. Day 2 stats: 87 km and ~1750 m gained.
On the road again