Thursday, 4 October 2012

Trans Alp Mountain Bike Challenge - Selection of Photos

Our first chalet at Les Gets

Setting off with snow capped Mont Blanc on the horizon

'Carbon' Fabrice high above Samoens

Samoens valley

600 metres to climb from here
Below ski area of Flaine
'Carbon' Alexis near Flaine
Megeve Village

High above Megeve

Just across from the Col de Galibier

Adrian, Tim, Christian, Alexis, Fabrice
A long way down
Still more than 300 m to go
Looking back down towards Plan Lachet

Dramatic route down
Looking down over Guillestre

Fabrice, Adrian, Christian & Alexis

Remote Refuge Napoleon at Col D'Izoard

Chateau Queyras

Stunning start to our ride, smiles on our faces

Still loving it!

Pine needle forests, great mountain biking terrain
Dropping down towards Colmars

Well deserved beer at Colmars

Tough riding high up in the Queyras National Park

Stunning & deep Gorge

Chain off again!

Another steep climb up carrying bike

The sea can be seen - happy moment
Fabrice stylishly negotaiting steep drop

Fast downhill section
Tim, Alexis, Fabrice, Christian at Colmars

Tim dropping down side of castle walls
Tim giving 'wheels' Josh a lift!

Steep steps down into Monaco
Not too far to go to the warm Mediteranean seas
May be the last day but the terrain not any easier

Fabrice pointing out Monaco way below
Great welcoming views
Casino Monte Carlo
Monaco from way up high!
The beach at Monaco - we had made it!

Going home ! :-(

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Summary of Trans Alp Mountain Bike Challenge – Geneva to Monaco 19th – 29th Sept 2012

  • We have completed the most incredible mountain bike adventure & challenge!!!!
  • Distance travelled in total – 550km – from Geneva to Monaco, off road, at altitude & right through the French Alps!
  • 8,928m – The total vertical metres climbed with our bikes (on the saddle and some pushing or carrying)  – the equivalent of climbing to the top of Mount Everest from sea level and a bit further!
  • Beers – only 13, Mountain snake infused Schnapps x 2, red wine a plenty and gallons of water  
  • Condition – Lungs fit to burst, thighs the size of Scotland and calfs like sandwich boards – no broken bits!
  • Men with Berets – Only two (what has happened to the Traditional French Beret?
  • State of mind – Elated and very sad it is all over!
  • Money raised for St Peters Lifeline - £2,250.00 - Thank you so much everyone -
  • Anyone ever fancy taking up the same challenge and adventure – visit website or call Adrian at Wilderness Breaks.
The Trans Alp Mountain Bike Challenge was everything I had hoped for and in many ways so much more! It was an epic adventure that challenged my fitness, biking ability, mental strength and nerve! 

Above Samoens

A rest at the top before we venture down

Yet another spectacular sheer drop
Mountain Wilderness
Village of Colmars
 We have just returned from the most incredible mountain bike adventure and challenge where we travelled from the beautiful shores of Lake Geneva at Thonon up through the French Alps, all off road, all the way down to the warm sunny beaches close to Monaco. 

Ten full days mountain biking including some serious climbs, approximately 1,000 metres each day with uplifts each day taking us up to our start point. Onwards and upwards from there we went deep into the remote mountain trails and wilderness of the French Alps, often seeing no-one all day.  

After picking up our bikes, mine was a Cannondale Jekyll Carbon 2012 model, lightweight, full carbon and adjustable 90-150mm adjustable suspension which was most definitely required and almost £4k new. I normally ride a Lapierre Zesty, this would not have been ideal for this terrain but the Cannondale most certainly was. I loved it but it really needed an adjustable seat post as the rocky terrain went up and down like a fiddlers elbow.

Our expert guide and nimble mountain goat ‘Carbon’ Fabrice rode a Specialized Stumpjumper Evo, a similar bike spec however he made everything look just so very easy! Easy it was definitely not!

We awoke in a different mountain village each day in a variety of lovely small family hotels, mountain refuges, Gites and chalets all of which were great and our hosts were very welcoming, a lovely way to finish our incredibly tiring days. Tumbling into bed each evening was not difficult!

The biking was amazing and though the climbs were often long & seriously hard, it helped that the scenery was so spectacular. On some occasions it was just the case of head down closely following the wheel of the bike in front and don’t look up. It really does not help to see how far you have to go. Quite often it got so steep the wheels spun in the loose shale which meant I could pedal no further and a combination of climbing or carrying our bikes on our shoulders was necessary. When we reached the top we were rewarded with stunning views. The highest we climbed to was approximately 2,650 metres, the air was rarefied. A good long rest was in order, time to get the camera out. 

Going down should be easy and it rarely was! The legs had suffered up now it was time for the arms and upper body! The easiest it got was wide open stony and very uneven mountain roads but the variety of downhill trails. Fast flowing single track descents included zipping through verdant pine needle forests the combined with tricky rocky & slippery root sections lurking with intent. We encountered slippery waterfalls, river beds, bouldered gulleys and seriously rocky mountainside descents and traverses with sheer drops to one side. There were also some very steep downhill sections that required the saddle to be fully down, bum over the back wheel and hope for the best. Some of the large boulder ‘rock gardens’ defied sensibility, how on earth did we get down those still intact.

It was a real mix of excitement and fun, littered with scary and challenging moments, high fives, frowns, smiles, exhilaration and relief and the occasional tumble. The tendons and muscles in my forearms took a severe battering and there were times when the brakes were constantly on, sometimes this was not enough as the brake discs burnt red hot, sizzling in the occasional rain and still we were not slowing down. 

Everyday was a new adventure and different challenge. The excitement was very real when we saw the sea for the first time and the mountain terrain and colours changed as we ventured across the Southern Alps towards the Mediterranean. Monaco was a welcome and spectacular view from high up and one last bumpy ride through the stony forest and down onto the cobbled streets and step steps of the old town of Cap Martin Roc Brune took us down to the welcome sea and straight into the surf.

A brilliant mountain bike challenge and incredible adventure but seriously hard work. I knew it was going to be tough but this was much harder than I anticipated. Where next, bring it on!

Thank you to the superb organisation by Adrian at Wilderness Breaks and ‘Carbon’ Fabrice for his exemplary guiding, advice and patience! 

Thank you also to everyone for their support, encouragement and generous donations to St Peters Lifeline, the charity that I was supporting on the Trans Alp Mountain Bike Challenge -

Some of the steps down into Monaco
The last few yards, Garmin says it is -6 metres, tide must be out!