Saturday 8 June 2013

Loving The Lycra!

Yes, it’s true I’m loving the lycra, not of the running variety this time (ankle still says no to running after the Fellsman) but road biking and after four days cycling in the Alps I am officially hooked.

Mountain biking was probably the first outdoor sport I got into as a teenager, avidly reading MBUK, glued to the television watching their legendary mountain bike film Dirt and saddened by the tragic death of Jason McRoy – a hero on the bike to many teenagers at that time. The mountain bike got side lined and more recently I bought a second hand road bike – it seemed like the most time efficient and effective option to grab an hour’s training after work.

I still reckon that for me road biking is probably the most effective training I can do for alpine climbing living where I do, mainly the ability to get long days in without putting major stress on your joints. Whether it is the most effective or not it seems to work for me and more importantly I’m motivated to do it and enjoy it. It’s no use having the most effective training plan possible if after a long day in the office there is no motivation to do it, it just won’t happen.
First day in saddle in the Alps, heading up to Plain Joux with Ross and Michelle - check out the Scarpa road cycling jerseys! (photo - Ross Hewitt)
I had an amazing four days biking out in Chamonix with good friends. It started off with a blast down the valley and the steady climb up to Plaine Joux above Passy with Ross and Michelle. The next day Josie and I headed through to Italy with Steph, Emily, Misha and Tom. After the obligatory coffee to start the day we set off from Nus just below Aosta and started climbing up the very sunny south facing side of the Aosta Valley.

Misha and Steph in the small village of Saint Barthelemy high above the Aosta Valley

For some reason Misha and myself were under the impression it was only a short climb so set out at a pretty fast pace pushing each other all the way. Unfortunately, the short climb wasn’t so short and 14km later we had a tactical stop at a road junction to ‘consult the map’, a misunderstanding or complete sandbagging?! Steph quickly caught up with us and we carried on for the final couple of kilometres to the top and the small village of Saint Barthelemy for a well earned coffee and an amazing homemade strawberry and rhubarb tart.

Just reward after a hot 16km climb!

Feed and watered and ready for the long descent back down to the Aosta Valley
Josie and I had planned to go skiing on the Sunday but with conditions looking 50/50 we had a last minute change of plan and chucked the bikes in the car instead of skis and headed down the valley to join a group of friends for a ‘Tour de Mole’. I’d never heard of the ‘Mole’, but it turns out I’ve driven past it literally hundreds of times on the Chamonix – Geneva airport shuttle run. It’s the hill just above Bonneville on the right as you drive towards Geneva. It was a great ride and really sociable to be out with a great bunch of friends. Being the newbie to riding in a mini peloton I had no idea what all the hand wafting was about and was a bit bemused by it all until Michelle and Josie explained the peloton sign language to me! Pretty scary at first riding so close together, but amazing what speeds you can keep up on the flats working together.

Relaxing in the beautiful old town of Aosta after a good days riding
After three days on the go the legs took a bit of warming up on Monday with an afternoon ride up to the Col de la Forclaz and back. A long climb, but stunning views down to the Sion Valley and an exhilarating descent back down into Chamonix.

I can’t wait to get back out biking in the Alps, I just loved it. It’s so different to riding back home, loads more smooth tarmac and a distinct lack of pot holes compared with here. You can’t begin to compare the climbs out in the Alps with the hills round Yorkshire, the longest climb near me is Greenhow Hill which at 4km isn’t even a warm up in the Alps. But on a short ride the other evening round Nidderdale I think I was out of the saddle more in 28 miles than in the four days of riding I did in the mountains, they may be short but they don’t half pack in a punch!
Thanks to everyone who lent me their expensive carbon bikes for four days, bit of a shocker back on my trusty old alloy bike now!

Back riding on home soil - and evening ride up to Middlesmore at the head of Nidderdale

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