Haute Savoie

In hindsight, there were plenty of warning signs all the way along until, far too late, I realised the full horror of my predicament.

Lets start with Res. Old school. He actually has many bikes, not just a Brompton (1). There are no Japanese components on his 30 year old custom built steel frame that he rides today (2). He glues his tubular tyres to his rims (3).

“Let’s ride up the Col de la Colombèire.”(4)
Sure, why not? It sounded vaguely familiar. But hadn’t I already conquered the Belpberg, the most feared peak in Switzerland?
Sadly, this journey would be taking us through France.(5)

“I think it might be a two banana ride (6), we’d better leave at 7am (7).”

I’ll stop counting now, but I still hadn’t twigged and the signs continued….

The journey starts with a descent in the lift; Res keeps his bikes inside.

But we end up not starting until 7:01am. Disappointed Res…

Still predawn, but there is some ominous scenery:

Dawn breaks; “Don’t worry, we go behind these, the next range is higher.”

Here Res demonstrates how to adjust a Campagnola Super Record derailleur with a Swiss Army knife.

After a couple of hours, I’m feeling that I’ve done a day’s worth of enjoyable tempo. Where’s the coffee shop Res? Oh, oh, Res is getting out of the saddle:

This sign flashed past quickly. That was 600m of falling rocks, right?

No, that was 6 kilometers. And that’s just the start of the ascent.

What? What is all this writing scrawled on the road? It’s mostly washed out, but then I see, “Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy, Fränck, Andy” and then: “Lance, go home!”.
The penny drops: Col de la Colombèire. The category 1 climb on stage 9 of the 2010 Tour de France. The stage after the rest day, where Cadel lost the yellow jersey with a broken elbow.

So now in delirium I imagine I hear the helicopters circling and the scenery shifts into HD. In my mind’s eye I mentally cut to picturesque chateaux, and Gabriel Gaté recipes. We eat the first banana.

I can hear the voice of Phil Liggett explain yet again how up to 20% energy is saved by drafting in the peloton, and I tuck closer into Res’s shadow. Allez, Res, allez!

Cycling is all about conserving energy, being comfortable at 98% of the red line, tiny incremental adjustments. The body goes into automatic (survival) mode. Thinking has switched off; but, like a dinosaur, the various peripheral brains take over, acting on whatever signals are coming in.
Twinge in knee, ease power. Shift hand position. Look behind. Stand for 10. Sit and shift down. Command centre to engine room: how are legs? Legs are deciding where to cramp first. Leave legs with indecision. Drink. Pick smooth road marking around drain. Trim front derailleur. Look at forest. Look at peaks. Is that the Matterhorn? Adjust chamois. What is this car doing? Coast because you are not a fixie. Stand. Dodge cracks. Overtake car. Is there a lower gear?

Suddenly its flat: “Le Reposoir”, we are halfway up.

It doesn’t last, as we climb out.


Only other bikes can get this high.

Finally we are there…

AYHEMC (All You Haters, Envy My Col)

…with a multitude of other cow-themed riders who have tackled it from the other (easier) side.

After that coffee, we descend fast: road surface, traffic, sun, scenery, gradient: All perfect.

Here is Res at 98% of the speed of sound.

Absolutely amazing experience. However, at the bottom there is a “surprise”.

Res translates “deviation” as changing “Downhill all the way back home” into “We have to go the long way around. There is a lot more up. It’s off the maps I have”.

In desperation we eat our second banana.

We go around this one (note the beer kegs in foreground for scale).

We are suddenly assailed by a French bike scout troop. The leader stops traffic. Res powers through.

And up the next col.

This is where I hear: “I’m pretty sure I know approximately where we are now.”

We are now in the outskirts of Annecy. We have now passed onto the next TdF stage.

Something must give. Just before bonking we stop to refuel.

This is more than a 2 banana ride.

We finally reach the top of the next col…

…and are speeding downhill.

Back on the flat, and eventually back into Switzerland, and eventually back home.

Packed the bike that night. Fly out of Geneva and another big ride tomorrow.

A big thanks, Res….
It may have been just another 9 hour bike ride for you, but for me it was: Totally Epic.

This entry was posted in epicness, gänz Europanische, training. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Haute Savoie

  1. Pingback: Le Tour 2010 redux | Xmas Epic 2011

  2. Kathy aka ma-in-law says:

    We here in Sydney are exhausted just reading about this epic. You’ll dine out on this for the rest of your life!

  3. Wendy Riley aka yr mother says:

    This is the REAL Wendy Riley aka yr mother….sounds and looks like great fun. I can’t feel the pain. What a buzz to follow the Tour de France bits. The countryside looks gorgeous.

  4. Mitchell and Annaliese says:

    Happy Father’s Day!

    We’d write more, but we’re two tyred…

  5. Leah says:

    Jens factor?

    On the heirarchy of Epic cycling clichés, what comes after, “Shut up legs”?

    • Mark says:

      Yeah, I’ve pushed the collective Jens factor up to 0.11, Still a way to go….

      As far as clichés, its all very subjective. To me “shut up legs” is hors catagorie and beyond this, early Pink Floyd will start popping in my head:
      “I’ve got a bike.
      You can ride it if you like.
      It’s got a basket, a bell that rings,
      and things to make it look good.
      I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it.”
      You know its time to ease off if you reach this stage.

  6. Wendy Riley aka yr mother says:

    I’m tired just reading about it! (But all good fun.)

    Has rained here non-stop for 2 days. Wonderful stuff.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s