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La Vernaz and Col de Trechauffe

Both these climbs are key challenges of the Morzine Sportive, but while cycling through both looked like grand places for a wander hence todays excursion ‘au chiens’.  La Vernaz is a 20-minute drive down from Morzine through St Jean D’Aulps and past the Pont Diable, you can take the first signposted turn to Vernaz, its shorter, but I think its worth carrying on down the gorge another mile to the second turning and take in a longer and more attractive climb to the small village and parking area by the church.


There is a handy map in the carpark showing the local ‘discovery’ walk, also reproduced here:

The walk goes up through the village to the peak, then dives into the woods.  On a day like today, roasting, this was a real bonus!  After an easy saunter, the track descends down a steep path before opening out into bright tracks full of butterflys.  We were lucky to see a pair of Bonnelli’s eagles enjoying the air currents, before they were dive-bombed by a black kite.

Having given away a lot of height, its now payback time though the trail is well-marked and easy going, following a stream around the field edge.


The trees are full of mistletoe and the local farmers clearly enjoy the art-form of log piling.

IMG_4357 IMG_4360

As is typical with all these villages, there are some fab old farmhouses which effortlessly combine the new with the old: IMG_4361

The only thing missing after a steady 90 minute loop was a cafe for re-fuelling. So we headed off back down the switchbacks, right and then hard left to take in the Trechauffe area where i knew there were a few choices.  While the Sportive ride comes from the opposite side of the mountain, climbing Grand Taillet and descending down to the gorge road before climbing again to Vernaz, the full climb to Col de Trechauffe is a good 5Km extra above Grand Taillet, and the overall average is about 8% so its a tough challenge at any time.


Still the rewards are immense!   The views as you climb above Grand Taillet are staggering, as the full vista to Lake Geneva opens out.  The road starts to peter out at the viewpoint, or you can do another stretch to get to the Auberge Trechauffe (cash only!) at the end of the road, where there are also a number of footpaths to take you onwards and upwards.


Footpath map:


View back towards Seytroux and St Jean:


By |July 16th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on La Vernaz and Col de Trechauffe

Morzine, Parc des Dereches

The River Dranse is running pretty wild this week after some heavy rain, and down in the ravine below the Super-Morzine lift, its thundering through the trees past the tennis courts, pools and then through to the Country Park.


I’ve never spent much time down here before and was pleasantly surprised by all the facilities and family activity this Sunday morning.  It could have been Richmond Park (apart from the mountains of course, and not so many yummy mummies).


The main drag follows the river all the way down to St. Jean, its got well surfaced level tracks so a good choice for the old folks and littl’uns. There was lots of ‘stuff’ going on.


As we wandered down, over various bridges and back on the other side, we took in the horse riding school, the zip wires and tree ropes, childrens cycle tracks, a fairly strange looking kind of golf with frisbys activity.


Further on we found the fitness zone, bee hotel, and an area where they seem to be in the process of building a water-driven sawmill, though it seems to be a bit behind schedule.


The fitness zone was good fun, taking in multiple activites around the woods and challenging our imaginations as we tried to work out exactly what we were supposed to do, probably we needed to be dressed more like the athletes we know we can be.  Below is on the more sensible side of what we achieved, though Dan seemed in no doubt that this exercise was all abouth the tail wagging the dog….


It was a wee bit wet so the smart bees were tucked up but there was no doubt this place was a lot better option than the local Ibis and I’d swear the rooms were bigger!


So a nice place to wander and judging by the variety of people jogging, walking etc. etc. its well-used and maintained.  There seemed to be access points all over, we came in on the Little Train after a big breakfast, and headed out up the S-M lift opposite the pool.  All very easy and a nice diversion from a Town full of, we were loudly told, “World-Class Lumberjacks” whittling tree trunks into matchsticks.

By |July 13th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Morzine, Parc des Dereches

Road Cycling Guide to Morzine area

This guide has a number of local rides:

Road Cycling guide

By |July 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Road Cycling Guide to Morzine area

Walking Guide to Morzine area

This is a local Guide from the Tourist Office, with several good walks.

Morzine Walking Guide

By |July 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Walking Guide to Morzine area

Walking the Avoriaz loop around Serrausaix

This is a fine walk which follows some of the Nordic ski-ing trails (7 and 8).  It takes about 2-3 hours and gives you a good way to explore the Seraussaix alpage while avoiding most of the mountain bikers and getting more peace and quiet than if, for example, you wander around Lindarets.



The ideal place to start is the top of the Super Morzine lift, nice and easy if you are taking the lift from Morzine.  If driving, go up the Avoriaz switchbacks and park at the bottom of the Zore chairlift (take a left hand access point just before Maisons de Zore).  The benefit of starting/ending here is you can grab a meal after at one of the mountain restaurants.  We think Le Passage is the best…

There is a large map of the ski-de-fond area at Zore, or you can use the winter guide, or just follow the Nordic arrows which are easily visible throughout.  Take the low track round to the back of the Super Morzine bubble, it leads under the Le Passage restaurant and slowly climbs, signposted ‘Crete de Super-Morzine’.  There are a few paths down to Morzine and Montriond here, but keep on a slow ascent and it becomes a very quiet trail.  Effectively you are above the steep cliffs dropping off to Lake Montriond.   This area is a nature reserve for Chamois, though I can’t claim to have seen one.  Plenty of evidence of wild boar though.



The highest part of the climb is the Col de la Croix des Combes.


Here there is a wide open meadow full of orchids and butterflys.

Its pretty marshy though so be prepared for wet feet as you cross it.  From the large cross, you can decide to carry on round the loop, or go all the way up to Avoriaz, or descend across the Joux Verte to Les Lindarets and visit the goats.



The track now meet the ridge at the top of the Zore chairlift.   There are great viewpoints here, and also Les Cretes restaurant which is excellent and often has a band playing.  The route down, again following the Nordic arrows, follows the Blue piste track until it meets the Avoriaz road at the Ferme de Serraussaix.  At this point you want to go through the tunnel and then turn right as the track bends round to the right and parallels the underside of the road.  It can get pretty muddy if the cattle are grazing so be prepared to stay on the road if it is wet.  After a mile the return track to Super-Morzine is visible on the right, but be careful as some of the track is used by bikers.






By |July 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Walking the Avoriaz loop around Serrausaix

Wildside at the Spring Classics: Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2014

The Challenge!

First half up, second half more up!

How it Began

It’s a classic stitch-up, send out the email on Jan 2nd, at the peak of post-Xmas Holiday depression. “OK guys we’ve done Tour of Flanders for the last 2 years, time for something different, how about Liege-Bastogne 100th anniversary it will be good N.B. its 276Km don’t worry there’s a short option too. Just sign up and i’ll do the rest”. And 11 of us did. Gary, Neil and Peter from the previous Tour of Flanders, alongside James, Marcus and Jonathan from last year’s Granfondo Roma, and new boys Gavin, James, Dan and Fraser.

Liege-Bastogne is the last event in the Spring Classics season. The Sportive is on the Saturday, followed by the Pro race on the Sunday. Unlike Roubaix and Flanders, there aren’t many stretches of cobbles to negotiate, instead the challenge surrounds the huge distance to be travelled and the sudden dramatics inclines of up to 25% on 10 climbs scattered around the course, mostly in the second half.  And what a course it is….

Not too many shortcuts here!

Not too many shortcuts here!

None of us had ever ridden such a distance in a day. With constant rain soaking the UK and ripping up the roads, training before the event was a tough and dangerous prospect. But as the rain subsided, gradually the updates came in on Strava and Email of 100-mile rides ridden, sneaky training weeks in Mallorca, and long hours on the turbo.  Fair to say that the prospect of 165 miles of cycling was sowing seeds of fear and doubt into the Team.

So it was with mixed feelings that we gathered on Wednesday evening to load bikes and make sure all was ready for an early Thursday departure.  We’d booked shared rooms at the Chateau de la Neuville, which turned out to be perfect for cyclists, having lots of space, useful cellars for storing bikes, and easy to ride out of and to get to Liege for the event. And of course good value!


A grand place to stay


The Chateau was located just by a town called Huy, which coincidentally is the end point for the Fleche Wallone race, raced the day we left and won by Alejandro Valverde.  Our first experience of what to expect in the Ardennes was a quick try-out of the Muur de Huy, a short sharp shock which rises straight up from the town passing 7 Chapelles while it works hard how to knock you to your knees! In the hot sun we were soon panting hard and needing a solid rest at the top, before heading out for a short ride round the local area, which proved to be quiet, relaxed and very rural, despite the nuclear power station down the road.

The Muur de Huy hits 25%

The Muur de Huy hits 25%

Friday afternoon was spent in the traditional way before a big bike event: general panic and downplaying our own fitness, chasing around town trying to find a bike shop for last minute spares, and hunting for Registration. Remarkably, no-one took the opportunity to change to the Short 100-mile distance. It was a sunny day, we’d all been feeding and beering up fairly liberally, what was there to worry about! The bikes were prepped, snacks and kit prepared, bikes loaded and locked, breakfast organised for 5.30am. Game on!

The LBL Travel Guide became my bible for the day.

The LBL Travel Guide became my bible for the day.

The morning of an event is always memorable. The tenseness over breakfast, subtle games of one-upmanship over what to eat, stressing to leave on time, where will we park, commitments to ride together soon instantly broken! Despite our nerves we hit Liege on time and joined the mass of cars parking up and riders panicking over how much to wear in the semi-darkness. The weather forecast was fairly good and no way did we want to be carrying loads of clothes.

Every event starts with a bit of chaos, which we achieved by all heading for registration and the ‘official start point’, only to realise there wasn’t really one! The organisers decided just to let everyone go and so we passed loads of people heading the other way, got lost in the crowd, before turning round cussing to follow everyone else. An unnecessary extra 2Km ridden! It was 730 in the morning, we were off!

A mass of riders snaked through the backstreets of Liege as dawn came up. Peter had clearly got team orders to kick off a breakaway, as he headed off at some pace, leaving the rest of us a bit surprised but convinced we would see him later. We’d all studied the route and could see the key factors of the early course: a fairly stright ride to Bastogne of 100Km, all on an incline. Despite the hour, the route out of town was really well marshalled and we soon settled into a rhythm of working round the group, having 1:1 chats with the other group members, discussing tactics while we ate up the miles. Most of the early part of the course was on wide quiet roads where large groups could form and split with ease. Early credit must go to James, Gavin and Neil who spent long periods on the front while the rest of us hid in large groups of riders. But it was clear they were faster than the bunch we were in and after a few hours they were stretching ahead. The field thinned significantly at the split of the Short route, no surprise there, and we finally reached Bastogne without any crises.

The locals come heavily armed!

The locals come heavily armed!

But this was still early days: the first of the major climbs was coming up, and as we headed down into Houffalize we passed a Tiger tank sitting in the town square, took a sharp right and hit one of the toughest climbs of the whole race as we headed up past an avenue of houses at a gradient hitting 20%. One feature all these climbs has is sudden kicks and extensions, so that you give all to get to the corner, then see there’s another stretch to come and its even worse. That said, if you’re a roadie you love climbing anyway, ignore the pain and carry on.

Horribly steep!

Horribly steep!

At 172Km we hit the first timed climb and the Tryptych, 3 evil climbs (2.7Km @ 7%, 1.1 Km at 10%, 3.5 Km at 6%) including the Cote de Stockeu, viciously steep, appalling surface and horribly narrow, in a wooded section with a statue to Eddy Mercxx at the top – its hard to know what to make of it, hardly complementary to the man!

1.1 Km at 10%, then the shock of this statue!

1.1 Km at 10%, then the shock of this statue!

The second half of the race if a completely different and surprising beast.  Your expecting a lot of climbing and hard riding, but actually the majority of the distance feels like fast flat and even faster descent. Yes the evil hard climbs do come, but the long miles between them are some of the best riding you will have, beautiful rural areas with few cars and you hare along in a peleton. I’d done my best to hide in the various peletons during the day but now there was nowhere to hide and I took a long turn at the front with my head down and gave it everything for about 20 minutes.

And that’s how I ended up doing the last hills on the course in a bit of a blur and without the earlier panache. On the Cote de Haute-Levee, 3.5Km at 6%, I tried to drop the fast boys with a break at the bottom of the climb, they caught me half way up, I broke again and they gave me 100 yards before catching up and finally dropping me behind for the summit.  Agonising!  And I needed longer and longed rests at the last food stops. Psychologically the pressure was building too, getting to 4pm we’d been in the saddle for 9 hours and we still had 100Km to go. Thoughts of getting back in darkness start to weaken you. The route started changing though from countryside to industrial as we go closer to Liege, but the biggest heartbreak is when the route goes past the Liege signs and heads back to Bastogne, you really think your going around again for 10 miles before you start to loop back again to the City.

Despite all, we still look sharp!

Despite all, we still look sharp, even Mr Rapha!

The last hour was tough as hell. Your pace slackens, all you can think of is two really tough hills on the route map, they start to figure high in your mind. At the bottom of the last climb Red Bull had thoughfully supplied a last drinks stop. Gratefully I swigged a can down but half way up the climb this proved to be a mistake, causing stomach cramps. Somehow we got to the top and the last 10 miles swings in and around the Steeltown suburbs of Liege. The final climb of 1Km at 11% swings through what can only be described as ‘The Street of 1000 Gypsies’ before getting even steeper. To make matters even worse, the organisers take you past the official race finish and you end up doing a circuit around the northern end of town before a fairly low-key finish back at registration, a full 175Km ridden over 12 hours! We finished about 7pm as the evening started to darken. Peter came in a few minutes later, clearly he’d found reserves, and Gary came in almost an hour later, having dug deeper than the rest of us.
Some of our group didn’t even look tired, congratulations to them for their fitness and resilience. I was dog-tired and thankfully beer was on the way. There was a great feeling of achievement and thankfully it was a simple task to get back to the car and pack up after in the semi-darkness. Dry clothes and showers set us up for a decent dinner, but unfortunately that wasn’t on the agenda. We were too late for dinner at the hotel, and most of Huy was shut by the time we got back. A sad evening meal of kebab and chips has to go onto the wall of shame!

Fraser contemplates a recovery snack

Fraser contemplates a recovery snack

The following day we were up and ready for a big breakfast and to follow the pro race. Most of us were dog-tired and were up for a pretty low-key day. But after some food spirits revived and we decided to head for Houffalize where we’d had the hellish Cote de St Roch climb the day before.  After an hours drive we found the village starting to warm up as fans appeared and crowds gathered. We took spots half way up the hill and soon enough the promotional caravan arrived, dispensing tons of tat to eager fans. The passage of the breakaway and the peleton was as exciting as ever, only they didn’t look so tired!

The Break hits the St Roch

The Break hits the St Roch

Fairly shattered by now, we all headed for a bar in town with a telly to watch the rest of the race. Luckily we fell on our feet across the road with a fantastic Brasserie where we got a great view, and great food for the afternoon, in a tremendous atmosphere.  Unbelievably, Dan Martin fell off his bike 100m from the finish, losing me 80 Euros winnings in our sweepstake, happily collected by Neil who (claimed) he had Simon Gerrans!

All in all, it was a great weekend on riding and racing. We all had a fab time and there’s a definite feeling of accomplishment now its done!  The challenge now moves on to the Morzine Sportive in June, and the Haute Route in September.


By |May 14th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Wildside at the Spring Classics: Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2014