Saturday, 29 September 2012

Day Ten – Trans Alp Challenge – Sospel to Roq Brune Cap Martin (the Mediterranean Sea)

Day Ten – Trans Alp Challenge – Sospel to Roq Brune Cap Martin (the Mediterranean Sea)

  • We have finished!!!! What an achievement.
  • Distance travelled in total – 550km – from Geneva to Monaco!
  • Vertical metres climbed today – 324m (we have biked the equivalent to the top height of the new ‘Shard’ building in London)
  • Total vertical metres climbed to date by bike – to the top of Mount Everest and beyond now!
  • Beers – 10, Wine – Red and not enough
  • Condition – Wet from biking into the sea at Roq Brune
  • Men with Berets – Still now two!
  • State of mind – Elated and sad!
  • Money raised for St Peters Lifeline - £1,645.00 - Thank you so much everyone -
  • Anyone ever fancy taking up the same challenge - Wilderness Breaks -  
On the first day of our adventure and challenge we were faced with icy and freezing conditions, puddles thick with ice! What a contrast to our tenth day, a warm 23 degrees in the very pretty village of Castillon, just outside of Sospel. 

Castillon, where we stayed just outside Sospel with views down to the sea

Our last ride and amazing drops down to the Med

'Carbon' Fabrice - our mountain Guide

First views of Monaco

A short stroll through the village in the sun with the Medieval Church bells ringing to set us off on our way. The sea is in sight, it will be a short ride down from here, through the easy gently descending tarmac roads and through the pretty hillside villages of the Alpe Maritime high up above the Mediterranean. Then down to sea at Roq Brune Cap Martin where the streets will be lined with well wishers. Motorcyclist outriders clearing our way and champagne drunk as we gently roll down to the beach and seaside!

Oh, how wrong can I be!! ‘Carbon’ Fabrice takes us up the minibus higher than we were staying, the road narrows dangerously and the small protective concrete blocks disappear from the side. A very long way down from here, my heart visits my mouth on several occasions. The views are stunning as we look back to the Cotes D’Azure longingly as we climb further away.

No Trans Alp Challenge can be without one final adventure and a last roll of the casino dice before we descend down towards Monaco! Fabrice was never going to let us get away with it too easily and still he mentions ‘a short climb maybe, some steep, some technical and a little more climb perhaps’. A master of the understatement as we picked up the Trans Provence race route once again. The telling ‘TP’ signs were clearly visible on the tracks, this trail is designed to challenge the best mountain bikers in the world whom are timed down each of these sections and the best cumulative time overall wins. Oh shit! I had mentally switched off and thought we had arrived at our destination – big mistake. Fat Lady, await some more, keep the champagne on ice a wee while yet, we have work to do!

Sheer drops, traverses with nasty getting ‘oh so much narrower’ paths and rock falls littered our path, steep rocky and pebble sections and lets not forget the tree roots angled dangerously towards the precipitous edge. The fast way down to drop into Monaco was to my left and sometimes to my right, once or twice either side!

The sea way below looked spectacular and inviting, but a very long way down. Our challenge was not yet over and time to get my biking head screwed back on, sunglasses off, discard the champagne flute and James Bond black tie and time for business. More of the same as before, tumbling down through forest, mountain edges and cliff paths until suddenly all opened up and there was the incredible sight Monaco below us. Large cruise ships moored up, opulent Russian Oligarch sized yachts the size of Chelsea Football Club moored up and helicopters darting in and out like honeysuckle bees laden with ‘golden’ pollen to and from their opulent hive.

From here it was a set of tricky rocky steps switch backing to and fro and then onto the road down to the tiered village of our seaside hotel. We skipped down the many steep backstreet alley steps with glee, and rhythmic style then landed on the beach road, a few more yards to go to the beach.

The waves breaking could be heard and down onto the beach. Four sweaty, dusty and relieved mountain bikers went straight into the surf to the amazement of the stunned bronzed sun worshippers lazily enjoying their peace and quiet. 

The views down the cobbled steps across to Monaco

We are here, the sea and seconds before we dive in - what a feeling!

We had made it and we exchanged high fives all round only missing ‘9 foot tall’ Christian whom had crashed out badly yesterday.

A wonderful end to an incredible adventure, a seriously tough challenge but an incredible time with so many memories that will live with me forever. A great bunch of guys thrown together pushing each other through tough moments but and sharing the exhilaration of the highs!

A huge thank you to ‘Wilderness’ Adrian (his website is Wilderness Breaks)  for this opportunity and an amazingly well organised trip. To Carbon’ Fabrice for his guiding, tuition, patience and just being the best biker I have ever known. ‘Carbon’ Alex for his incredible hill climbing and fitness that I have only ever witnessed from Brian Jacks in the 1970’s Superstars! To ‘Wheels’ Josh for getting our bags secretly from place to place somehow as the trails he had to experience were in many cases tougher than ours! My room mate ‘9 ft tall’ Christian for putting up with me and sharing ‘Garmin’ lingo.

A wonderful experience – I loved it!

Au revoir - Merci.


Day Nine – Trans Alp Challenge - St Dalmas to Lantosque to Sospel

Day Nine – Trans Alp Challenge - St Dalmas to Lantosque to Sospel

  • Distance Travelled in total – 520km
  • Vertical metres climbed today – 785m
  • Total vertical metres climbed to date – to the top of Mount Everest and beyond now!
  • Beers – 10, Beers raided from Hotel kitchens - 4
  • Condition – Arms are shot to pieces,
  • Men with Berets – Still two!
  • State of mind – Relived now we have seen the sea, surely all down hill from here!!
  • Money raised for St Peters Lifeline - £1,645.00 - Thank you so much everyone -

It’s never over until the fat lady starts singing! Well young lady start clearing your throat, we are on our way, Monaco awaits us! 

We can see the sea - great elation!

From where we had come the day before

Taking a quick breather listening to the calling of the stags in the valley

Another sheer drop, I'm safely hugging the rocks

A very early start saw us with a long uplift up road and dirt track and we are dropped off in the middle of nowhere, again! We are only two days away, silence descends the group and the Alps have, I’m sure, one last trick up its sleeve.

My arms seriously ache from the day before, I feel as weak as a new born kitten and we have 500 metres or more to climb ahead of us and one very log way down to the from . Through farm trails we cycle, Adrian back marking (taking a breather) for a while until suddenly the scariest of rabies infested dogs jumped out of one of the mountain shacks barking in full attack mode. Attached to what looked like a serious anchor chain we should be safe, he charged manically towards us. Adrian jets opened up and he suddenly accelerated off like a rocket fuelled Lewis Hamilton from the Monaco start grid straight into the relative safety of the Peloton, well the all five of us! Which then left me at the back of the pack and too late to be able dive for cover myself and braced myself for the inevitable. How long was that chain? The rabid foaming dog was still the dog snapping at my heels I looked back with huge concern and now pedalling like a possessed lunatic. After what seemed like an eternity the chain suddenly reached its end and dog sprung backwards in mid air recoiling backwards like it had been shot. The anchor chains straining and creaking and the vibrating chalet just about still standing – just. We had survived and sweating even more than I was already were on our way yet again, Adrian breathing heavily but alive! 

We soon are off our bikes and negotiating rock falls and tree felling with giant fir trees blocking our path. We choose soon to carry our bikes on our backs and walk on up the last 150 vertical metres for 15 minutes or so over the steep boulders and steep mountain tracks. When we finally arrived at the top it is with much excitement as way below and way in the distance we could for the first time see the sea, many pictures were taken. This gave us renewed vitality and energy for what proved to be a big and long scary traverse across the mountainside and the followed by yet another challenging downhill section.

My arms were aching from the pummelling yesterday on the rock beds my legs felt like Bambi and I was struggling to do even the most basic of manoeuvres and we were heading for my least favourite of terrains – very steep and rocky traverse with sheer drops to one side and paths barely fit for nimble rabbits! Wary of the steep never ending drop to my one side I picked my way across carefully admiring the dramatic landscape and worried that I might meet a rabbit coming the other way, there was no way I was giving up right of way.

Jacknifing through the forest with great care and attention and several sections that required getting off and climbing down several meters we dropped down the several hundred large smooth and slippery rock roman steppes (many quite steep but good fun) into the village of Lantosque where our very first lunchtime beer was awaiting.

Our waitress was a firebrand red head and very scary who was just full of attitude and body language suggesting don’t you dare mess with me. Meekly we ordered 4 beers (in celebration that we had seen the sea) and ‘9 foot tall’ Christian boldly asked for something ‘off menu’, we all dived for cover as the atmosphere crackled with anticipation of an explosion but after what seemed an eternity she strode off crunching the paving stones underfoot. There are no known active volcanoes in the Alps but the husband must have asked a simple question and violently the top lifted off the roof of the restaurant and a torrential outpouring of hot molten French swear words spewed out soon after. We saw him later looking like withered tree after a raging forest fire. If we were lucky to get our drinks whom was going to brave enough to ask for the food menus. Pizza and well done steaks seemed the best bet as she could cook them with a gentle breathe.

If we could survive this then anything that could be thrown at us this afternoon was going to be easy. Steep deep and rocky held no fears no more, arms and legs revitalised by the beer and the fun at lunch and I followed ‘Carbon’ Fabrice down the trickiest of descents. His route and line did not seem possible but I followed it and surprised myself with ongoing survival and the beginning of a sense of enjoyment. Speed was fun but sudden realisation that we needed to take care as unfortunately 9ft tall took a big fall over the edge. Hitting an unseen object apparently he was projected over the edge with bike still attached and flew some 4 metres or so, somehow he stopped quite quickly but took a blow to the head and both ankles twisted as still in his pedal clips. A sobering moment. 

The blow to head and full on concussion made ‘9 ft Tall’ Christian bike like the devil and he was jumping, cornering with zeal and taking risks like we had not seen before. Go Christian go! When he got off his bike he could barely walk and the realisation of how close he had been to major injury caused him to take stock.
Down to the lovely village of Sospel and onto our mountain edge hotel with views onto the Med, fantastic. An easy day tomorrow, let’s start chilling!

This has been an amazing adventure, without a doubt and great challenge but also hugely rewarding. I am so glad that I found 'Wilderness' Adrian's website - Wilderness Breaks - 


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Day Eight – Trans Alp Challenge - Colmars to Guillame to St Dalmas

Day Eight – Trans Alp Mountain Bike Challenge - Colmars to Guillame to St Dalmas

  • Distance Travelled – 456km
  • Vertical metres climbed today – only 809m (felt like so many more)
  • Total vertical metres climbed to date – 8,650 metres – It’s official we have now climbed Mount Everest by bike from sea level - wow!
  • Beers -9, Wine – Red, and not enough
  • Condition – ‘Thighs’ the size of Scotland,
  • Men with Berets – Now two!
  • State of mind – Totally shagged!!
  • Money raised for St Peters Lifeline - £1,619.00 - Thank you so much everyone -

The Trans Alp Challenge has been a wonderful experience to date. Waking up in a new village each morning, a totally new area to be biked each day, new faces and differing challenging terrain. The local customs and cultures changing as we ventured further south. We also saw our first signpost for Nice on the South Coast, we cannot be too far away surely? – But when will we see the sea, only 3 days more to go, excitement filled the camp after the previous days wonderful adventures.

Just the cutest 3 day old donkey

View from our Gite back down to Colmars

However, today I was reminded this morning that this is the ‘ultimate’ Trans Alp Challenge. It is expected to be hard, challenging, a variety of terrain with differing degrees of difficulty both up and down. I had a number of friends who said I was mad to do this, there were times today when I had to agree This however was not in a bad way but one that if you put the really hard work in the reward was very worthwhile and so it has proved.

We awoke in an idyllic and friendly Gite, just above the fortress village of Colmars, overlooking the walls of the castle that we had biked down the night before. In the field outside, the September ‘Spring’ lambs played in the early morning sun and there was the cutest baby donkey with his Mum. He was only three days old and just needed to be taken home with us. Will he mind being tucked up in my scary smelly suitcase, will they miss him? Sadly he had  to stay behind.

Off we trailed out of Colmars and said goodbye to our very friendly hosts and up the Col de Very High. It was warm when we left but way up in the misty alpine wilderness there was a distinct chill factor and three new layers were put on, sunglasses were now rendered useless as could not see the end of my arm yet alone the mountain edge we were about to throw ourselves off!

‘Carbon’ Fabrice is not only an amazing mountain biker (also sponsored by Specialized – top mountain bike brand) but in thick mist and fog he found our trail like Sherlock Holmes' bloodhound . Before the ‘Beast of Dartmoor’ could hunt us down, we appeared out of the swirling mist we fell onto the sunny green high meadows and swooped down and was swallowed up into the verdant stony and root filled forest. ‘The rocky steps are a ‘little technical and it is possible steep too’ says ‘Carbon’ Fabrice in his indomitable English whom then drops his saddle low and tightens his knee pads. I do the same to my now worn new knee pads, checked the arm protection and got set for one tricky section.

Mum do not read this following section - We dropped low to the handle bars as the ground fell away, steep drops, sharp rocks stood proud and a lot of loose stony shale and tree roots. This could be messy and I’m delighted I invested in the big set of '661 knee pads' – not sure they will do much to save me but they give you confidence that they might! Each step and slide down the vertical slippery singletrack was a step closer to surviving, pulling out now was not an option as gravity took over despite both sets of  brakes full on, the heat generated from the screaming brakes warming my already adrenaline fuelled body, the arms took a battering, pumping over each rock and vibrating like an Irish road navvy with an out of control jackhammer!

Somehow we all arrived down that section intact and high fives all round as relief was tangible. More tricky sections saw us arrive down at the road and then back up quickly to the ‘Terre Gris’ a brilliant downhill track on which another mountain bike downhill race was being held today. This course is set on an odd area of grey slate shale, very grippy, undulating with no big rocks or tree roots (quite a relief), just let your bike go! Steep and smooth in places we were suddenly downhill racers and like excited children let loose in Thorpe Park we all got the ultimate adrenaline buzz. Two crashes within 30 seconds saw me cross the finish line not on my bike anymore as it followed behind me and then over the top of me. Inglorious ending, uninjured but very funny and all on film too!

We chilled out for lunch at Guillame and watched the racers appear soon after before we disappeared up again for out last descent of the day down to near St Dalmas – Col de La Couillole at 1,652 m. A very tough climb up a further 650 metres carrying our bikes for some way before we reached the very top. One very and steep rocky drop down 1,800 metres, the already battered arms took a serious beating as we absorbed some big hits dropping low into our saddles and rode down boulder after boulder, changing direction and sliding into crevasses and shutes. This was like I have never quite experienced – Popeye would have complained and there was certainly little revitalising green spinach about to help. Exhilarated, exhausted and arms and legs sore beyond medical terminology we dropped down to the swing bridge back across the Gorge to see ‘Wheels’ Josh awaiting us. Barely speaking as just too shagged we piled into the minibus and slumped in our seats.

The rugged terrain from way up high looking down towards St Dalmas

Tim crossing the swinging bridge

Off to our hotel where yet another thunderstorm hit – we all know that this is going to make tomorrow even tougher than ‘Carbon’ Fabrice has delicately tried to tell us to conserve our strength for. I am ever so slightly concerned!         

'Wilderness' Adrian taking time out

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Day 7 Trans Alp Challenge - Guillesstre to Colmars

Day 7 -  Trans Alp Mountain Bike Challenge -Guillesstre to Colmars 

Our Day in Pictures

Our Start on a beautiful morning

Valley De L'Ubaye
Me on a steep drop -- looking pensive!

The Goathearder - Just the greatest beard!

Fabrice & Adrian in the Melezes Forest

Us all at Castle Colmars

Steep shale descent

Tim dropping off the castle walls - seriously steep

Me giving Josh a lift to the castle
Its Beer O'Clock - well earned


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Day Six –Briancon via Chateau Queyras to Guillestre

Day Six –Briancon via Chateau Queyras to Guillestre

‘The Sublime to the Ridiculous’

  • Distance Travelled – 278km
  • Vertical metres climbed today – 1,284m (the equivalent of climbing higher than Ben Nevis on our bikes)
  • Total Vertical metres climbed - 7,800 metres - Just less than climbing Mount Everest by bike from sea level
  • Beers -8, Wine - Plenty
  • Condition – Calves like sandwich boards,
  • Men with Berets - One!
  • State of mind – seriously gone off pushing bikes uphill!!

None of us has slept too well with the storm raging outside, high winds as heavy rain lashed the windows and the shutters crashed onto the window frames of the Refuge Napoleon. All the lovely and decorative pot plants were cast across the car park and down the mountain side. We could barely stand up in the winds despite the hearty breakfast, this was not going to be an easy day. Thor, the 'God of Thunder' was going to have a word or two before this day was out!

Off we went up and up from a dramatic start in the isolated wilderness of the Col D’Izoard. Scary looking mountains stared own at us with a sense of forboding. As we climbed rumbles of thunder could be heard as the storm Gods cleared their throats menacingly. We were in a Melezes forest surely protected from anything that could be thrown at us. We climbed out of the forest onto the open mountainside, the winds blew strong and grim determination took us up 300 and more vertical metres.

Refuge Napoleon with its shutters still on

Hiding from the thunderstorm

The Imposing Chateau Queyras

Lightning could now be seen all around us, thunder cracked above, we need to get down the 1,400 metres quickly and down we went like rocket fuelled lemmings on speed. The atmosphere was electric and the biking just the best. Fast, furious and with lightning speed the trees flew by and before we knew it we were above the wonderful village of Chateau Queyras and its impressive castle. The storm was now all around us, lightning crashing down in the forest below, thunder seemed to be right above us. Then suddenly as we tackled the last descent down a sheer rock wall the storm hit hard. Rain came down in stair rods, bouncing hard off the road 100 meters below. It had got dark too now, soaked and the only living things out in the open we needed to sprint quickly into the sanctuary of the only open CafĂ©/paper shop/charcuterie/boulangerie/cheese emporium – we were in the right place to take refuge for a few hours until the storm abated. We were lucky to get away with only 5 minutes of rain and a great morning arriving at an impressive village in such a dramatic way. A sublime morning on the bike, Thor has not quite managed to catch us out today, we live to survive another day.

The afternoon saw Adrian having to drop out due to altitude sickness. Not surprising as we had stayed overnight at well over 2,200 meters the night before, dropped to 1,000 and straight back up to 2,500 to start our next section down into Guillestre in the heartland of the Southern Alps. The storm had all but gone but left muddy trails (my current favourite enemy), a serious chill and a long section ahead of us. More tough climbing, on our bikes and pushing up some steep mud trails, sapping at you calves and thighs. Some seriously exposed and steep and dramatic drops areas made my stomach invert and Pasta Quatre Fromage lunch was no longer a happy memory.

Scary drop

The Gorge

I was quite relieved to pull into the village some 2 hours later, still alive but struggling after two big climbs and some tough downhill sections. The valley trail was much more to my liking but don’t count your chickens ………………………. suddenly we were pointing uphill again.

The ‘Carbon’ Brothers were recharged somehow and off up again. Steady at first, maybe not too bad but then steeper and steeper it got. Eventually the bike wheels spun in the rocks and mud with disgust and we stopped. 9 foot tall Christian and I looked at each other and called for a taxi. None were about. We trudged and trudged uphill, then it was just I, as 9 foot tall Christian trudged faster with his infinitely longer legs and I was left cursing to myself. Some days and many swear words later I arrived at the summit where I promised ‘Carbon’ Fabrice that if we went any further up I would personally shoot him. He only lives today because one I had no gun and secondly was in no fit state to be able to point it if I had! We did not speak for some while.

The trail down from there was memorable only once we hit the big open road as it was like a Top Gear Maserati test trial, fast switchback open roads, steep gulleys, dramatic backdrops and a raging river below, sunshine and a small smile just reappearing on ‘Captain Slow and Miserable’s’ face.

Maybe just maybe I will like biking again!  


Monday, 24 September 2012

Day Five – Valloire to Briancon via Serre Chevalier

Trans Alp Challenge

Day Five – Valloire to Briancon via Serre Chevalier

Lou Reed, gargle & get ready to strum, this looks like a good time for ‘Perfect Day’!

I awoke with a nudge in my ribs and a ‘grunt’ from Christian. I had slept like a baby. Thee sun was just breaking in the valley and the top of the mountain were already bathed in an orange glow of expectation. Yesterday has already been consigned to one that was endured, experienced.

My Cannondale bike
Watching the racers go by
We met a bunch of English guys the night before whom were doing all the famous famous ‘Tour de France’ climbs over 4 days, 2 per day. Today as we met queuing for breakfast in the Hotel Les Melezes, they mentioned they were pedalling both La Galipier and Alpe D’Huez – Good guys and loving it too – Respect but it was on tarmac!

This morning we however had a 700 metre climb up from Valloire to the Col de Ponsonniere at 2,657 metres high in clear cool and sunny conditions. Our climb up co-incided with the ultra marathon mountain bike race ‘Raid de la Meije’ – 100 km, including 5,000m meters vertical ascent. This is serious biking and apparently out of the 500 equally mad as us starters only 15 or so will actually finish. I hope all 5 of us do!

The first guy passed us half an hour after we started soon followed by 2nd and third, these were seriously fit guys but we kept pace for a while but we could stop and enjoy the views they could not!

The climb was very long and included a long traverse across the broken mountain rock and scree, not overly comfortable with this at all, looking down was not an option so why did I do it!
Top of one of the Cols looking down over the Souther Alps

When we arrived at the Col the views were incredible either way, one direction towards the Southern Alps and other was the arduous route we had just taken. We continued to follow the race trail occasionally pulling over to let the mad fast guys through. The wind blew warm and welcomed us down the valley and into beautiful Melezes Forests where we could let go of the brakes and enjoy real freedom. Whoops of joy from Adrian and delight on all our faces. This was the best yet and mountain biking as it should be, a few frowns, some good and steep challenges but overall stunning scenery and fast and fun! We had been biking for almost 5 hours straight!

This morning also saw my first bike fall, at almost zero speed I misjudged a corner in sight of the village and dropped over the bars straight into a gorse bush! Was filmed and in front of everyone too. I was still picking thorns out of my elbow at lunch much the amusement of the others.

High above Briancon
Lunch at Serre Chevalier was much needed to recharge and also where I saw my first French man with real blue French beret – it made me smile. We then headed up high up the mountains with ‘Wheels’ Josh to over 2,200 metres. Only a mere 350 metres more climbing before a long descent to Briancon. The scenery and mountains have taken on a new complexion, they have now changed. It seems so much more dry, yellow stone, the pine forests look quite different and so much warmer, Is that the Mediterranean calling?  We have dropped into the southern Alps – it is beautiful here and just loving the biking!

There were a few moments of panic and fear as we edged our way along the long traverse across the mountain. The width narrowed to almost nothing, our wheels were pushing the stones over the edge and it was a very long way down and very steep. Warned not look down, focus ahead and keep your speed. So why did I look down and slow up, my pedals started to catch the inside edge as leant towards the hillside – bad plan! More stones fell and the bike slipped more. No liking this much at all. Shape up Tim! Eventually edging my way across unconvincingly to the other side I was much relieved.

Tonight we are in the Refuge Napoleon high up in the mountains on the Col D’Izoard another famous Tour France stage and close to the beautiful National Park of Queyras which is where we are going tomorrow. The owners are so welcoming and I was given a birthday cake with my age to be on it – hmmmm surely that cannot be me!  


Day Four –Aime (near Bourg St Maurice) to St Martin De Belleville to Valloire

Day Four –Aime (near Bourg St Maurice) to St Martin De Belleville to Valloire

Brutal ……………………!!!

 I had visited here earlier this year with the ski guys, we had a bubble lift that took us up and away from a very alcoholic and sumptuous lunch at the Restaurant E’terlou back in January, here we did not have that luxury, this was quite a different experience!

This was the toughest day so far by a merry mile, I hurt in places that I did not know even existed and my left arm (the recently broken one) has put in a for a free transfer!

We awoke to heavy rain and mist (aka. liquid sunshine in Antigua) which delayed our start and we had to miss some of the route due to fog on the mountain (Pah!! us English would have gone). Aching loads already after two great but demanding days on the mountain and no time to visit the enticing hot tub / sauna at the chalet which ensured maximum pain this morning. Our very important driver ‘Wheels Josh’ enjoyed telling us about his relaxation and how we had really missed out and that he felt so much better – we were not! – well the royal we, that is Adrian and I. The ‘Carbon’ brothers presumably just lie on an iPad charge pad or something similar for 7 minutes or so to simply return to normal state.

St Martin De Belleville - Christian's great Uncle!!

The Valley we climbed up, looks stunning after the rain

At the top, a tough  descent after!

Geared up and nowhere to go we drank double ‘hallucinatory’ expresso coffee until the weather cleared, after an early lunch saw us go up the valley. The rain had turned the tracks into muscle sapping mud, walking helped not much either and at one point the five of us were stretched across half a mile! I had to take myself aside for very stern talking to which worked for almost 3.5 minutes before I fell out with myself again! Pain was everywhere and etched into my face as ‘carbon’ Alex took a photo to prove the point!

If I thought for a fleeting moment (and by God I hoped) that reaching the top was going to be all downhill from there, how wrong could I be! We dropped down some steep scree and loose rocks with the occasional boulder onto goat tracks with sharp and irregular rocks ready to catch you out. Concentration was full on, so too the brakes.

My index finger was wrapped around each brake and fully applied but still speed was barely abating, my tendons in my arms was so taut and standing proud that Lou Reed would have had no problem playing a fine rendition of ‘Vicious’! He will have to save his version of ‘Perfect Day’ until tomorrow hopefully! Bring it on Lou!

So with the legs taking a severe battering on the way up our arms took savage beating on the way down! It could not flow, we had to stop incessantly to ford streams, climb down and up out of small gorges and over rock falls, this was mountaineering, coasteeering, hiking with bikes on our backs and not so much biking!

The various sections that we rode were tougher that I have known but no doubt an experience – enjoyable? Well maybe I will think so after a while to recover. The last 3 km back to the village were fast, flowing and superb but a mere sticking plaster hiding the mental scars and agonies of the day!

Today hurt a lot both physically and mentally, new aches on top of existing aches.  Silence was deafening in the van when we met up with ‘Wheels’ Josh as we reflected on our own individual experiences and moments.

Bed by 8pm, I missed most of dinner as could not stay up any longer!


Friday, 21 September 2012

Day Three – Megeve to Beaufort to Aime (near Bourg St Maurice)

Day Three – Megeve to Beaufort to Aime (near Bourg St Maurice)

  • Distance Travelled – 55km
  • Vertical metres climbed – 1,121 m
  • Time on saddle – 6.5 hours
  • Time pushing / carrying bike uphill - 1 hour
  • Beers - 3
  • Condition – crazy tired!
  • State of mind – worried about tomorrow its to be the longest and hardest yet!!,
  • Marmots seen - 2, wild boars - none

We finish our day overlooking the valley and across to Alpe D’Huez on the other side and many pretty little Savoyarde villages nestled cosily into the hillsides.

Down below Flaine where chain broke yesterday

Top of Mont De Vores - 2,100m

My new Garmin Edge 500 GPS - love it!

The Geneve to Cannes Classic Rally in Beaufort

'Carbon' Fabrice, very tall Christian & 'Carbon' Alexis at the time trial

The sun is going down on another wonderful day full of incredible views. These experiences almost make me forget the 540 metre straight climb this morning. I arrive third (one place better than yesterday though it is definitely NOT a race) in the pecking order today inevitably behind the ‘carbon’ brothers’ Fabrice and Alexis whom chat all the way up (I could barely speak at all). Maybe Christian’s head whom is 6 foot 17 inches tall arrived before me but it was some minutes before the rest of his very very long body appeared. When I could see out of misted up glasses this gave me our second but much closer sighting of the majestic snow capped Mont Blanc which was brooding but stunning. We could look down in awe on the pretty villages way back in valley and the hot air Balloons that were being launched below.

Our journey down took us down the slopes of Megeve and through rich & verdant mountain side forest with fast sweeping bends, gurgling brooks and some tricky descents – ‘Carbon’ Fabrice’s description was this will be difficult so be careful! He does not exaggerate!

Lunch in the village of Beaufort was a pleasure, this is famous for the very popular Beaufort cheese, I can most certainly agree to this claim. The Geneva to Cannes Classic Rallye was there too and proudly showing off a wide selection of Austin Healeys, E Type Jags, Ferraris and a delightful old Porsche 946 whom were off to time trial through the mountains. I wanted to swap places with the guy in the old ‘E’ Type but he just said we were all mad as mountain marmots and he would have no part in it – wished us luck and off he roared with way much more throttle than was necessary!

We were delayed getting up the mountains due to the time trial which was fun to watch and eventually we set off up and up non navigable mountain bike routes. Over 300 metres we climbed initially, it was so steep or unridable (is this a word – it is now!) we had to push or carry our bikes). The reward at 2,545 metres was a panoramic delight where all we could hear was our own gasping of breathe and the odd cow bell from down in the valley (they would not be so stupid to climb up here!). We were so lucky to be there in the wild and open mountain savannah and above the tree line.

My bike and I are getting on much better today now I can speak ‘bike’ to it properly and it understand my strange commands (well some of them), the new chain, pedals and shoes help considerably!

Across the open slopes we flew, I wish my video cam had not run out and we whooped with delight and then took the goat trails across the meadows and fast down the cattle tracks navigating the periodic mini Alps laying inconveniently across our way! Into the woods again and down some big steep trails with tight corners and big rocks and even some jumps - heaven, hell, joy and fun and I even got brave enough and followed Fabrice picking his routes and lines and then occasionally both brakes were fully exerted rapidly, thankfully no agony! A fast finish to the village of Aime where the bells are ringing ‘beer o’clock’ very loudly! 

Fabrice, Adrian, Christian avec Alexis

I’m loving my bike and I’m loving this Trans Alp Challenge. It is seriously hard work and I wish I had trained harder but well worth the reward of the effort.

Bonsoir mes Amis

9ft tall Christian & 'Carbon' Alex (he's normal height)

PS. Christian all 9 foot of him (see pic above) and I still at the grunting stage but we have managed to speak ‘Garmin’ as we both have the Garmin Edge 500 GPS (my early birthday pressie from my ever so beautiful girlfriend Julie) and he has somehow managed to convey how I can now use it and check elevation (he should know), height climbed and descended!