It has been a busy season so far in 2018. It has been thoroughly enjoyable but it has meant that rather than doing weekly write ups of what has gone down, I am putting it all together in an end of season report.
We started way back in May. Shortly after our decamp to Norway for April, we were back for two weekends based around our home, the Aravis. We first had the Brighton Brigade out- Olly, James, Matt, Tim and Justin. Although most of the roads were open, the heavy winter meant that the Col de la Colombiere was yet to open, but with two mountain bikers in the group, we decided to head up. The snow was patchy so we could weave our way up until the final 500m where it was bike on the shoulder time. Still, whatever the conditions, this will remain one of my favourites.
The warm temperatures kicked in (and stayed in for the whole summer) and by the end of the month, with our second group out, Kelly, Liza, Nathalie, Euan, Ivan, Stephen, Mark and Matt, we took over 4 apartments and were in for a treat. A trip down to Faverges and into the Bauges was in order. The foothills of the Alps, the Bauges is a wild area with plentiful views and greenery, even in the early season. This long day out involved a steep, bitey climb up to Cohennoz. With the prospect of the Tour and the Etape du Tour coming to the region, it would have been rude not to check out these climbs as well. The Plateau des Glieres, was once a sleepy backroad that not many people knew about. We did this on both occasions and there was a real buzz, with many two wheelers testing it out.
It was then a real change of scene for the beginning of June where we helped the Ripcor Crew make it from London to Brussels. I was a little apprehensive about doing this, no mountains! But, it has to be said, it was so enjoyable. Cycling onto the ferry, visiting (and cycling around) the Roubaix Velodrome and seeing two bussling cities in Lille and Brussels were highlights. We even had Paul take a detour into the canal. As usual though, the Ripcor banter was in full flow.
It was a flight back and straight into another new region for us. We had the Rank Team out with Nick, Chris, Titch, Gemma, Sarah, Ron, Paul and David. This Jura Adventure looped directly out of Geneva. It left the busier tourist routes and took in the Grand Colombier climb, not easy but stunning views. Then from Lac Bouget to Lake Annecy, before climbing over the Saleve down to Lake Geneva. What made this such a beautiful route was that every climb gave way to views of the whole route, amazing to see where we had been and where we were heading. Just a note to Ron, watch the road and not your Garmin!
A week off, meant some cycling for myself before welcoming the boys from Wimbledon out. This rabble of 13 were a mixed ability group but everyone had it in them to complete some epic routes. Again, we show -cased the Tour de France stage, doing the Croix Fry, Colombiere and Plateau des Glieres. Everybody loved Fred’s hospitality at the Hotel Beau Site, enjoying some massages, spas, swimming and a few beers!
Then it was the start of what made 2018 so special. Everytime I was out locally on the bike, people would say are you training for the Etape. This is the Etape du Tour – a sportive for 15000 cyclists which follows one of the stages of the Tour de France each year. This year, the start was in Annecy and finish in Le Grand Bornand, metres from the house. We had a great turn out providing logistics and support for 50 cyclists. It was a belter of a weekend and the atmosphere was electric. Watching endless streams of cyclists pass the end of the road was mesmerising. Every one of our group did brilliantly, but it has to be said a special shout out to Mark, who, when he first came on our Geneva to Nice challenge 4 years ago, was a bit out of his depth. He entered the Etape and I thought that he might be pushing his luck, but a winter of training and hard work has transformed him as a cyclist. Chapeau Mark!
That was that, and two days later, was a trip to Bormio, for our annual Traverso trip. It was the Brighton Boys’ time to tackle the Stelvio, Gavia and Mortirolo. Most were on our Pyrenees trip last year so I knew that a fun weekend was in store. Everyone had upped their game this year! Supporting them was pretty easy but curbing the enthusiasm of the ring leader, Tom, at the bar was a bit more demanding. Needless to say, Tim J was not the man to help on that one! I say it every year, but the mini-Stelvio is one of my favourite climbs and this year, we finished it off with a trip to the “secret” hot springs.
Coming back on the Monday, which was a rest day on the Tour de France, meant that we had time to watch the actual pro stage of the Tour as it passed on the Tuesday. I was keen to see some climbing action and also the finish in Grand Bornand. The only way to do this on closed roads is by bike, so we went to the first few bends of the Plateau des Glieres, where we were lucky enough to see a nutter on a mountain bike gap the road directly over the peloton. Impressive stuff. Then as a group of about 10 of us, we hot- footed back up to the finish where we saw Alaphillipe bring home the stage win. I wondered what the area would be like after all this buzz.
I then had the pleasure of hosting David, an old buddy, from Pannier.cc where we spent a weekend working out the logistics and some routes for a Gravel weekend that he is keen to put on next year. It was lovely to get off the tarmac for the weekend, we could even take the dog. Zola loved it!
August is always a quieter time for us, the high season means that accommodation is harder to come by for groups so we tend to step it down a notch. This meant that we could host Sue, Lorraine, Kate and Barry for an e-Bike weekend. This is a revolution, which is not really televised! It opens the routes up to so many more people, and is a fantastic sensation. We took on all the classics of the area, checked out new coffee shops in Manigod and even passed the gravel road from the Arpettaz to Aravis (which was a little more up and down then I thought), fantastic Mont Blanc vistas though.
Now we have one more group out here for a week in September, a weekend in Girona and our Velo Club Traverse end of season bash in October. Then its time for a bit of skiing!
Velo Club Traverse is my new concept which I have been pushing this summer, I already have 45 members and I am hoping that it will capture the essence of what I do more. I am not a big tour operator looking for big numbers, I would rather have a tight community that regularly do enough pedalling around together in search of challenges, that can justify a coffee and the odd beer. With this in mind, I have just finished my coaching qualification so able to offer members training programs to get you up to speed for the mountain. Please check it all out at traverse.vc