Morzine France, September 2014

Time for a quick mountain getaway before winter.

I had talked to Gordon, Neil and Will (we met Will on the Bilbao to Barcelona trip) about doing a single venue short break and they were up for it. I discovered that the daughter of an old cycling buddy was part of a team running cycling holidays out of Morzine and I had not been to this area since Le Tour back in 2003.

Will and I met at Luton Airport at some ungodly hour on the Monday morning and took the Easyjet flight to Geneva, where we met Neil ad Gordon, who had flown in from “up north”. We met the driver and he loaded all of the bike boxes in to his van and we wiggled our way up to Morzine.

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We arrived with plenty of the day to spare and were greeted by Ali, some fresh tea, coffee and cakes. Once fed, we got the bikes built and took a spin down the valley to La Baume, then climbed back up through Le Biot, and a quick dog leg to the Lac de Montriond, before heading back to base for the evening meal, where we met the other people staying in the chalet.

Originally there were plans to do a long, one way ride on the Thursday, which would give me time to get enough food in and get settled. Well, due to a poor forecast for Thursday the decision was taken to do the ride today, Tuesday.

From Morzine we headed down to Les Gets, Taninges and up to Araches. This was followed by a wicked, twisty decent to the ravine, which ran along the river down in to Cluses. A great stretch of road, which led to the valley floor and through to the base of the Col de la Colombiere, the big climb of the day, about 1500m and 12km long.

I had kept a reasonable pace so far, but I knew this was a long climb and we would not have lunch until we reached the top. As we started to get near the top they had been resurfacing and it was loose stones and really rough, an absolute leg sapper. I was ready for lunch at the top.

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We only had one more good climb after lunch and that was the Col de la Croix Fry, 300m and about 7km in length. We tipped over the top and had about 30km of rolling down hill to Annacy, where we had a nice ride along the edge of the lake before getting sorted with an ice cream.

A stunning day and although it would have been better after a couple of days in the saddle, I wouldn’t have missed it.

On the Wednesday we were back on our own, so we had a look at the maps and plotted route over the Joux Plane, down to Samoens, along the valley floor to Tangines, then a climb back up to Morzine through Les Gets.

We rolled through the centre of Morzine round the roundabout and started the 11km Col de la Joux Plane, which rarely drops below 9% and in places ramps up to 15-20%. As we crested the climb we were hit by the view of Mont Blanc in the haze. and better still, a cafe. Despite it only being 11km, it had taken some time, so we could justify a stop.

The descent in to Samoens was almost vertical, and is the side normally used on Le Tour when they finish in Morzine. Once we hit the base, we take a right and head 16km down the valley to Taninges, a slight descent with a couple of lumps in it, so Neil and I take it in turns to keep the group rolling and we average about 30kph in to lunch. We manage to find a nice little bar in the centre and grab a baguette full of cheese and ham.

We have a 600m climb back up to Les Gets before we drop back in to Morzine, but is is a steady 2% to 6% so easy to keep up some momentum, and within the hour we are starting the the drop home.

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Thursday did look a bit dodgy weather wise, so we decided to loop out of town and head up the Cold de la Joux Verte to the ski resort of Avoriaz. It’s always interesting to see these places in summer, when they look quite dull and lifeless, but you can imagine them buzzing in the winter. Hard to believe it looks like this in winter.

We drop back in to Morzine and grab some late lunch. Its only been a short ride, just over 40Km, but over 1000m of climbing. We then drop in to what is becoming our “local”, a small patisserie that also do a nice coffee. Hard to resist!!

Friday’s weather is much better, so we decide to head out and ride the Col de la Ramaz. This is a climb Gordon and I did on the Raid Alpine back in 2012, and we were interested to see if was going to be any easier this time.

We had to get there first, and that meant climbing up to Les Gets and then ride down to Taninges, past where we had lunch the other day. We take a right and head out on to the D907 towards Mieussy and a tight right and on to the D308. This is where the Col starts to bite as we head on to the 14km climb, which will take us up 1000m with ramps up to 11% as you go through the tunnel. This is a beautiful climb, on a good day.

As we approached the top the clouds started to close in, but we were aiming for the cafe at the top. As it is out of season, the cafe was closed(ish). They let us in and we bought a Coke, but they had no coffee on, and no food. OK, this meant we had to drop down the other side hungry, then pick up the Encrenaz climb, which was really green and beautiful. We had a quick stop at a village store and bought some snacks to keep us going.

The descent back in to Morzine was very picturesque and dropped us just outside the town. As we had not been able to get food earlier, we dashed to a bar in the centre of town and order four of the biggest pizzas they had. We were ready for them.

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We are joined by Ali and her team today as they have a nice route for us over in to a neighbouring valley. We start by rolling North out of Morzine, taking in some really nice back roads, avoiding the D902 as much as possible. When we reach La Vernaz we cross the main road and head up the Col du Grand Taillet, which lasts 9km, climbing 1000m, with stunning views.

Dropping off the climb takes us in to the other valley, which ends in Chatel. We ride up th valley for about 40km and it only rises about 300m. We stop in La Chappele d’Abondance for a nice lunch, topping up the reserves ready for the journey home. After lunch we retrace the route down the valley for a short while, then take a left and start the climb of the Col Corbier at 8km and only 400m, making it a much easier return journey. This brings us out on the D902 and  we launch a peleton back to the chalet so we are in time to get changed and go back to the patisserie. Sorted!

We reached the final day and woke up to some heavy clouds and rain, not too inspiring, but it is September.

We finally get a break in the cloud at about 10:30, so we decide to reverse some of the ride from earlier in the week and head up the Col de Avoriaz, a climb of 10km and 800m, then take a left at the junction with the Col de la Joux Vert, this time for a descent, slow due to the conditions.

We then hit one of the small mountain villages, Les Lindarets. The village was full of goats and small ski cafes and restaurants, with a great feel to it, even out of season.

The sky was now starting to fill up, so we made a dash down to a restaurant on the edge of Lac de Montriond, where the food and views were stunning. The rain started and so did the thunder. We sat outside, under cover, and got quite a light show.

Eventually we realised we would need to leave and take the remaining 5km back to the chalet. This has to be the coldest I had been on a bike for a while, the whole thing shivered all the way home, just like its rider.

This was a great short break and we were really well looked after, in great accommodation and offered some cool routes. Well worth the visit.

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