Closing our season with the Cheese Classic has made me wish it was May already and that we could start all over again. Seven months is going to be tough, the remedy will be some skiing but still…

Thursday evening saw our group of 13 arrive and ferried just to the north of Geneva for our first night and some pre riding pizzas. Always a good idea to have a flexible meal on the arrivals night incase of delays. They were damn tasty pizzas! But with the weekend ahead, people were ill advised to go for the quatre fromages!

 "Olly, if you could just grab my pump..."

"Olly, if you could just grab my pump..."

We arose on Friday to cloudy skies and spots of rain but it was a relatively relaxed start to the cycling as most of it was around Lake Geneva, it was ashame that we missed the stunning views of Mont Blanc but there is always another time! Ivan, in true fashion, held up the departure with repetitive punctures but Olly was there to help him with his pump and soon everybody was back together.

Turning away from the Lake at Thonon, the route winds its way upwards towards Morzine before darting left to the Abondance valley. You could almost smell the cheese funneling down. Not a tough day but a perfect way to warm up. Everybody was in good spirits and settled down to watch the opening game of the Rugby World Cup. A cheeky chappy, named Andrew also met the group in the afternoon after arriving from work – better late than never I guess.

 The advance party working out the competition on the first slopes up to Abondance

The advance party working out the competition on the first slopes up to Abondance

Thanks again to MOMA as the porridge complemented the hotel’s breakfast well. We were pleased to see a selection of Abondance on the table too. The sun was out and we knew that we were in for a great day of cycling, if not a more challenging one!

It started off with the Col du Corbier, short but very sweet. The penultimate two kilometres are classic switch backs through beautiful meadows. It was a good chance to see how everybody matched up and although there were obvious differences in fitness levels, everybody made it up quickly. As a group we were making good time through the mountains. It was only a very confused café owner at the top that proved to slow things down. Weirdly, for a café owner, he did not seem to know what a coffee was!

 Joris was loving the switch backs

Joris was loving the switch backs

Next up was distance over height, with an undulating route down to Morzine, through Les Gets and on to our lunch stop at Taninges (or tangerines as I like to call it). Being lovely weather, meant that I could get the cooker fired up for some eggs. Somebody, probably Peter, said that we needed to watch out as it was going to rain at 2pm. We all laughed at their precision. It was getting a bit cloudy but when we set off for the last climb of the day, the Col de la Colombiere, we were not worried.

 Cycling heaven

Cycling heaven

Dropping down into Cluses gives the opportunity for a vast view back up the valley towards Geneva, that’s is when David spotted the dark clouds slowly and menacingly drifting towards us, he stopped me to get a jacket out of the van.

I suggested that Ivan, Andrew B and Hugo attempted the Col du Romme first. This steep climb rejoins the Colombiere half way up it so with them being pretty speedy, it would keep the group together and also challenge them.

Then at precisely 1400 hours, it only went and rained! As it was towards the end of the day’s cycling, this was not really an issue, it just meant that the group made good use of the Hotel des Aravis’ drying room! It was now time for tartiflette (the local Reblochon cheese dish) at Le Peille, just across the road.

 They sometimes say "better late than never" but this fella turned up a day late 

They sometimes say "better late than never" but this fella turned up a day late 

Day 3 comprised of a route that is common on many of our tours. It ramps up with the finish on the Cormet de Roseland. First though is our home climb, the Col des Aravis. This is not steep and the constant gradient actually makes it pleasurable to ride. Dropping down into Flumet is always enjoyable and is longer than the way up, which is a bonus. Regrouping at Flumet meant an opportunity to ditch any warmer clothing ready for the Col des Saisies.

Lunch at the top was almost the end of the day for some, as the final climb from Beaufort to the Cormet de Roseland was optional. It meant everybody was relaxed and could enjoy the views back across to the Col des Aravis and sit there content in the knowledge of their cycling accomplishment. There was also the job of some cheese tasting to do!

 Beautiful warm up on the Col des Aravis, Day 3

Beautiful warm up on the Col des Aravis, Day 3

Claire could not relax though, our mascot and 5 month old puppy, Zola, who was along for the ride, had taken an instant liking to her and attached himself to her throughout the weekend. She did not seem to mind the attention though!

We arrived at the Hotel du Grand Mont where people made a decision to either continue up or chill out in the town. There was certainly no disgrace in staying behind. It was a chance to relax. It also meant that I could get on my bike for a spin too.  I have to say that the view over the reservoir, halfway up is worth the effort.

 The support team

The support team

It was getting colder, with a strong wind, so nobody waited at the top, instead we turned back for a coffee by the lake. We had made it. We knew that we could enjoy the evening meal with the knowledge that it was a pretty flat (one tiny hill) ride to Annecy the next day. What a meal to enjoy, the steak and chips went down well and some people opted for the fish. It was very impressive.

 Showboating all the way to Annecy

Showboating all the way to Annecy

Annecy is very impressive and a perfect place for the finish line. Again, this was a weekend where people were challenged but fun was had, new friends made and lots of cheese eaten. Thank you, in no particular order, to Ivan, the two Stephen’s, the two Andrew’s, Claire, Tanya, Liza, Joris, Peter, Olly, Hugo and David. 

 Not a bad place to finish

Not a bad place to finish

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