Tour de France Cols

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Etape du Tour 2013 Preview

On a chilly morning last week in Annecy our group set off to reccie the 2013 Etape du Tour course. Here's my thoughts.

So the Etape 2013. We are in for a very fast start for the initial 10km along the spectacular lake Annecy and you'll need to be at the front of your group to avoid any issues through the village of Saint Jorioz and onto the first climb as the road narrows. Nothing too tough on this first climb with a maximum gradient around 7 or 8% and with a brief respite in the middle, the summit is reached approx 21km's from Annecy.  Look to your right and you can see the back side of the Semnoz where you finish the Etape.

Its then onto a rolling section, predominantly descending for the next 20 km's. With long sweeping bends, there's nothing too technical however its likely that some of the roads will be re-surfaced before next July.

Onto the Col de Pres and again its a fairly steady climb maxing out around 8% before descending down to 63km out from Annecy and a nasty little kick up before the village of St Jean D'Arvey where its a right turn and straight onto the lower slopes of the Col de plain palais and a gentle climb until the left turn up to the Winter ski area of La Feclaz. The next 6kms are deceptive on the route plan and this is a pretty tough section with the Garmin advising 10 and 11% in places before you reach the car parking area for the ski lifts. After this point it flattens out before a final nasty kick before the summit and the descent towards Aix Les Bains. After another long, sweeping descent and a rolling section towards Cusy, we had to leave the final climb of the Semnoz for another day with the light fading.

So in summary, this years Etape, whilst not featuring any 'monument climbs', its set in a spectacular area of the Alps with views across to Mont Blanc, the waters of Lake Annecy and glimpses of the lake by Aix Les Bains. With 3200M of climbing and a distance of 125KMS, for the majority of entrants its set to be a long day on the bike, however its nothing like last years Act 1 to Modaine which I thought was tougher than the Marmotte. Logistics are made very easy for next year with the summit finish being approx 14km's from the start line.

Entries open 28th November and if you are successful in getting a place and want to maximise your chance of a good day in July we have an Etape reconnaissance weekend in May. 

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

End of the Summer

We are recovering from our last Tour of the year and what a week!

The Tour du Mont Blanc is quickly becoming established as a 'must do' with rides such as Geneva - Nice. The ride can be done as a point to point Tour, or alternatively, as we prefer, we spend just one night away from our Chamonix base. We adopt this approach for several reasons. We know the quality of our accommodation, we know we provide great food, the Hot Tub will be on, and the little things such as wi-fi connection and satellite TV. All things that can be compromised when staying with 3rd party accommodation providers.

Day one we left the comfort of Chalet Annabelle for the gently climb over the Col des Montets and over the Swiss border before ascending the Col de la Forclaz. After this is the superb non-technical descent to the Roman town of Martigny before joining the final climb of the day to Champex du Lac. This last ascent is pretty tough over approx 10km's however you are rewarded at the summit with a late lunch by a gorgeous lake.

Day two we were greeted by torrential rain in the morning so we opted to dodge the storm, and ride the final section of the Grand St Bernard pass before dropping down into the Aosta Valley and taking on the epic Col San Carlo. This Col was used in the 2006 Giro D'Italia for a time trial stage. Its 10km's long and gains 1000M so even I can do the maths on that one! Each kilometer marker reminds you exactly how steep it is. Attached is a clip from the Col earlier in the year - fast forward to 1min 13 secs

Descending to La Thuile and down to Pre St Didier, its just a short transfer in the van back to Chalet Annabelle through the Mont Blanc tunnel.

Day 3 and we are in Annecy away from the Tour du Mont Blanc for a recovery day and a loop of the lake. Not without climbing the French Col de la Forclaz! This is a short challenging climb however the reward at the summit is a stunning view of Lake Annecy

Descending to the lake for lunch, Annecy is a stunning setting and if the rumours are correct we will be back here on the other side of the lake next July for the final Time Trial of the 100th Tour de France

Day 4 and its the big one! Sometimes when you mention a challenge to guests you live to regret it but not today! We're back through the Mont Blanc tunnel and straight onto the 26km Col de St Petit Bernard. Italian coffee at the 2640M summit, its a 30km descent back into France and down to Bourg St Maurice. After 150meters of flat road, we turn right onto the 19km Cormet de Roseland topping out at 1960M. Descending towards the azure waters of the Roseland dam and onto Beaufort its decision time! Normally we'd jump in the van at this point however onwards, and upwards we're onto the 15km climb of the Col des Saisies, a Tour de France regular. Thankfully the weather is cooling off as we reach the summit of this little known ski resort and descending down to the more popular ritzy resort of Megeve. We're on the last lap and continuing into the Sallanches valley before the gentle climb back into the Chamonix Valley over the cote du Vaudagne. One last climb up to the Chalet and we've completed 170km, 4300M of climbing in just over 8 hours of riding. A BreatheBike first!

Day 5 and the rain is back so we're pleased we made the most of yesterday. A quick ride over the Aravis and Croix Fry and then back to Chalet Annabelle

A fantastic week with great guests!Now its down to planning for next years Tour de France and our 2013 schedule, with one last cyclosportive (Gran Fondo) in Annecy this weekend. Plus some rest!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Etape du Tour and Tour de France hangover.....

So the Etape and the Tour de France are over!

An epic 3 weeks for British cycling culminating in Wiggo's win.

Looking at the Etape Act 1 from Albertville to Les Toussieres I have a confession to make. This was the toughest 8 hours on a bike I have ever experienced! It made last years Etape from Modane to Alp D'Huez look like an afternoon ride to the cafe and back and for anyone who has ridden the Marmotte, well, this Etape was equally as tough.

With a cool start to the day and some rain immediately before the flag dropped, this weather continued over the Col de la Madeleine with many punctures however Mavic seemed very organised this year and there seemed to be plenty of assistance. Once over the Col and down into the Maurienne Valley the temperature started to rocket and already on the Glandon and Croix de Fer riders were starting to suffer from cramp. The Mollard was the 'easy' climb of the day however with a super technical descent made a little easier with the closed roads. Plummeting down to St Jean de Maurienne the heat was really starting to have an effect and must have been up near 30 degrees. For me the last climb to Les Toussieres was a grind and eventually crossing the line in 8 hours 3 mins, 45 minutes later than I had targeted.

The one disappointing thing in this years Etape was the food at the end. In the Alps we are able to ride a cyclosportive every weekend, mainly organised by ski resorts 'club des sports' and each weekand the food after the event is of a high standard. NOT at the Etape! A packet of cakes, a strawberry flavoured water, an apple and a banana! Not good enough Monsieur ASO, must try harder.

So onto the Tour! Back in Chamonix we had a full Chalet for the TdF, and with 2 stages in the region, on the non tour days we took on our own mini Tour de France over the Cols in the region. So for me my Etape recovery ride was our regular loop over the Col de la Colombiere and the Col des Aravis. 

Tuesday we were over the Petit St Bernard and the Cormet de Roseland.

Tour day and we're over on the Col de la Grand Colombier. This is an epic climb and seems to be getting the reputation as one of, if not the toughest climb in the Alps. I was amazed that they got the Tour caravan over some sections of the climb. It was the first time this climb had been used in the Tour, having previoulsy be used in the Criterium dauphine and the Tour de l'avenir. Epic views down the Aix les Bains and the lake. Its a region we need to explore further.

Isle of Man crew out in force for Cav!

Following this we were over again to to the Albertville to Les Toussieres stage and placed ourselves on the lower slopes of the Madeleine to watch the Sky Train.

Team Sky?

Last day in the Alps for our guests and we opted to take on the Joux Plaine which had been used in the Criterium Dauphine earlier in the year. We have a suspicion that the JP will return to the Tour in 2013 for the 100th TdF. Its not been used in the TdF since 2006 and Landis' drug fueled ascent. After a quick pit stop in Morzine we went over the Col de la Jouxe verte. This is the back road up to Avoriaz. Much more spectacular than the main road and brings you out just short of the TdF finish line in 2010.

So an epic few weeks in the Alps especially for us Brits. Congrats to Wiggo and Team Sky:we're already counting down to the 100th TdF in 2013!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Marmotte Training Weekend

Recovery day today from our Marmotte training weekend where we were joined by John and Paul who are based in Dubai. It sounds a long way to travel for the weekend, however with just a 2 hour time difference to France, the guys landed Friday lunchtime and we managed to fit in a ride on Friday afternoon, and 2 more full days before they flew back late Sunday evening.

Experiencing the Alps first hand is considered vital before any attempt at the Etape or the Marmotte.

After some erratic weather in the Alps we have been lucky with warm temperatures and just the odd late afternoon shower.

Saturday we pretty much cycled the route of one of the Time Megeve Sportive options departing from Megeve and over the Col des Aravis where we met herds of cows being moved to their Summer pastures. Descending to Thones, we started the tough climb of the Croix Fry, where our pro support vehicle was waiting with Kevin, pro bike mechanic and owner of Vaudagne Velo After refueling and the short descent to the Aravis junction, its a 20 min climb back to the top of the Aravis before the technical descent to Flumet and returning to Megeve, continuing to Sallanches.

Sunday we drove the short transfer around to Taninges and after 7kms warm up we hit the Ramaz for the 14km ride to the Summit with a height gain of 980M. The Ramaz featured in the 2010 Tour de France and is a tough one! After winding up through the meadows, shortly before a brief respite on Ramaz plateau the gradient peaks at 15% through the tunnel. Onwards towards the summit, 2 weeks earlier we'd met a snow plow at this point!

Ramaz Summit

Descending back down towards Taninges at over 70KM's an hour and onto the flat 11kms to Samoens before tackling the Joux Plane.

Many of the pro's consider the Col de Joux Plane harder than Alp D'Huez and it is definitely a more spectacular climb. Immediately ramping up to 11%. Its 12kms to the Summit with the exact same height gain to the Ramaz at 980M hence with 2kms less to the Summit that kinda says it all! The Joux Plane returns to the pro races in 2 weeks time featuring in the Queens stage of the Criterium Dauphine. It was the seen of Landis' drug induced ride and Armstrong famously bonked on the climb. We predict it will return to the Tour de France route in 2013. Watch this space!

Today our support has Jude (wife, co-owner!) at the wheel and she's also responsible for most of the spectacular photos.

By now the temperature was rising and the thunder clouds were gathering over the Mont Blanc Massif as we approached the summit.

With snow still by the roadside as we got the the top and with a noticeable chill in the air we descended back to heat of Samoens for a pit stop before a flat spin of the legs back to Taninges.

Back to Chalet Annabelle for a refuel, box up the bikes and off to Geneva airport, just an hour away for the return flight. If a weekend is possible from Dubai, then the options for our UK visitors are pretty easy!

Good luck to John and Paul in the Marmotte on July 7th. As for me, I'll be saving myself for the Etape du Tour the following day!

Summit in sight, 2kms to go on the Joux Plane

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some of our rides from

Summer or Winter? Its been a bizarre few weeks in the Alps. A week ago we had 26 degrees, now its 2.6 degrees and snowing! I guess its that time of year. One day its Winter gear, next its Summer gear. The weeks are flying by towards the Etape du Tour and the Tour de France however before that we're all training very hard for the local Time Megeve event which is only 3 weeks away and excellent conditioning for anyone undertaking the Marmotte or the Etape du Tour. The Time Megeve always coincides with the Criterium Dauphine and this year we'll be watching the Queens stage of the Dauphine on Saturday June 9th immediately before the Time Megeve on the Sunday. The Dauphine goes over the Joux Plane this year. We tried to go over it on Monday however its still closed about 3/4 way up due to snow! The Dauphine also goes over the Grand Colombier on Friday 8th June so we'll be off to that stage too as this climb will also feature in this years Tour de France. Even though the main Cols in the area (Grand and Petit St Bernard, Colombiere, Joux Plaine, Roseland, Madelaine) are still closed due to the epic amounts of snow we had this Winter there's still plenty of challenges in the region and Monday saw us over the Ramaz which is passable with care at the summit ( we met a snow plough just before the Summit) and the Encrenaz.
3 weeks ago on the Col Des Aravis No further on the Joux Plane
In the sun last week we also had a ride over into Switzerland and the 80KMH an hour descent to Martigny and to prove its not all eye balls out climbing in the Alps we had a 100kms on the flat around to Samoens and back Tomorrow sees the first Sportive of the year near Lyon (yet another Bank Holiday in France tomorrow!) and we're forecast a sunny day. Then its a likely trip down to Mt Ventoux in 2 weeks, followed by the Time Megeve and then its all down hill to the Etape!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Summer is here!

Summer has returned in the Alps the last couple of weeks and finally its back to two wheels. With the epic amount of snow that fell this Winter the lower Cols have a spectacular amount of snow at the side of the roads and we can't wait for the higher Cols such as the Col de St Petit Bernard and the Colombiere to open as we're in for some great photos with the snow walls.

Summer 2012 is looking to be a great year for cycling in our region with the Criterium Dauphine in early June visiting nearby Col de Grand Colombier, Morzine and Chatel which ties in nicely date wise with our Time Megeve Cyclosportive weekend. Then its the Tour de France where we have 2 epic days in the Alps immediately preceded by the Etape du Tour from nearby Albertville.

Our own season at starts off towards the end of May with our Etape training weekends which are vital preparation for anyone attempting the Etape and maybe haven't had the opportunity to cycle in the Alps before. Then its onto our Criterium Dauphine and Time Megeve weekend which can be extended into an Alpine training week with some of our guests coming all the way from Australia. Then the main event of the Summer, the Etape du Tour and Tour de France week.

So its time to knuckle down with the training with the hope that the early arrival of Summer continues!