This week we're extremely fortunate to have Mike Booth as guest contributor. Mike owns luxury Chalet Annabelle in Chamonix and runs holidays year round so you can discover and enjoy the Alps in all seasons. Here he's given us a great round up of great routes for road bikers.
Road biking is back in vogue. Lycra is trendy. With the achievements of Team Sky’s Manx riders Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh, especially Cavs’ success winning the Tour de France Green jersey last year, then becoming Britain’s first World Champion in over 40 years, more and more keen road cyclists are heading to the French Alps each summer to battle with their own Tour de France.
Access to the Alps has never been easier and once your bike has been dismantled and packed in a bespoke bike box (which you can hire or buy www.bikeboxalan.co.uk), you can be in the Alpine hub of Geneva within a few hours via Liverpool, Manchester or Gatwick or the new BA flight via London City.
With the rising popularity of the cyclosportive market and many riders setting their sights on the Etape du Tour, Marmotte and Time Megeve cyclosportives, there are many challenges in the Alps to prepare you.
At the heart of the French Alps is the self styled extreme capital of the Alps, Chamonix, which in summer and early autumn offers access to many of the cols made famous by Le Tour, in addition to some local favorites and the ever rising popularity of the cyclists Tour du Mont Blanc (CTMB).
The CTMB can be achieved in 2 days to 6 days depending on the group fitness and takes a circular route of Western Europe's highest mountain. Cycling firstly through France, onto Switzerland, over the Grand St Bernard pass to Italy and back into France. With a distance of 360km, 9000m of climbing, over 7 major mountain passes, Western Europe's highest peak Mont Blanc (4810m) is never far from sight.
The road bike is an amazing machine and with the right gearing set up and a concerted training campaign it is it possible for the relatively fit cyclist with the right determination to conquer the Alps. The key to 'enjoying' your trip to the Alps is the critical choice on gearing. There is no shame riding a triple chain-set, or a compact set up and you are pretty much guaranteed to use every gear. If you opt against the advice, those with a traditional gearing set up to tackle the Alps will soon be lining the pockets of the local bike shop once in France!
It’s widely acknowledged that Alp D’Huez is the climb most cyclists want to conquer and whilst its popularity and place in history is not questioned, there are many more Alpine passes which are both more challenging, and definitely more scenic. For me it would have to be the climb through the hairpin bends of the Col de St Petit Bernard from the Italian side, rising above the tree line and stopping for a quick cappuccino at the summit (2188m) before descending over the border back into France to Bourg St Maurice (820m) - after a few hundred meters on the flat you are climbing again over the Cormet de Roseland (1967m), surely one of the most scenic Cols in the Alps. Over the summit you descend towards the azure waters of the Roseland lake and into the famous cheese making valley of Beaufort.
“It’s fair to say even after living in the Alps for 5 years its still a big achievement to reach a Col summit such as the Colombiere. Taking some time to absorb the spectacular scenery and wrap up for a spine tingling descent!”
Mike, and wife Jude, own BreatheBike.com based permanently in the Chamonix Valley France. In 2011 Mike competed in Europe’s toughest cyclosportive, the Marmotte and finished in the top 10% of starters in the Etape du Tour Cyclosportive to the summit of Alp D’Huez.