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5th July 2013 to 13th July 2013
Riders: Richard,
Stevo, Paul, Wob, Rob, Adam, Si, Carbon-Rob and Terry
Destination X, Areches-Beaufort, France
Weather: 30°C

Day 1 (Friday 5th July)

Wobbem and Rob drop by my crib early on Friday evening and the car loading goes surprisingly well. 3 people but 4 bikes and bags as we are bringing Si's kit and bike with us.

We load the bike rack and are on the road at 7-30 pm for the 12 and a half hour trek down to Areches Beaufort in the alps.

We catch the 21-38 chunnel from Folkestone and 30 minutes later are cruising at 80mph on the Autoroute des Anglais.

We travelled most of the way in convoy with Stevo and Ted II and amused ourselves with the set of walkie talkies that I had brought allowing us to chat between cars.

We only get separated when Adam takes over the driving of Ted II and takes a wrong turn (no comment).

Day 2 (Saturday 6th July)


We arrive at 9 a.m. C.E.T. and after spotting Laurent wandering down the main street with a coffee in his hand we sit down for breakfast in the sun at a small but pleasant restaurant.

The rest of the day is spent hanging around in the sun and chatting bikes and we also snatch a few hours sleep when we get to check in at 1-30 pm but the big news of the day is that Fishybob has been to the bike park on his own (he arrived a day early) and broken four spokes on his wheels. They are the Mavic spokes that you can't get anywhere and he has to drive to Albertville and plead with a bike shop to provide the spokes and rebuild both wheels for him on the spot.

So potentially his holiday is over before the rest of us have turned a pedal in anger. But luckily his Frenchness works in his favour and the wheels are rebuilt and spares bought in case of need (just as well too as it turns out).

Day 3 (Sunday 7th July)

The first riding day and TA take us to the bike park in Les Saisies to get us used to the speed and steepness of the alps.

But we start with a descent from Areches into Beaufort before jumping onto the local bus service with 16 mtb's in tow.

Les Saisies is great lift-assisted fun with a number of different trails graded blue, red and black although many of them cross each other and so you can start on a blue but opt to branch onto a red further down.

We tackle all the trails but all agree that the red is the most fun in terms of flow and technical requirements. Laurent manages to blow another couple of spokes on his rear wheel but fortunately has bought a few spares and manages to fix them there and then.

Si also blows a couple of spokes (he's on Laurent's old bike).

Just as we finish lunch and start saddling up one of Adam's spokes breaks with a massive 'ping' whilst his bike is just sitting on the ground (rumour has it that Laurent was looking at the bike at the time).

After lunch we have a couple more runs before taking the XXC trail back to Beaufort for a few beers and to compare Fauxleys and then an uplift back to base from Oli and the TA van.

Day 4 (Monday 8th July)

So after yesterdays tester rides came the dreaded selection process. As expected the shredders group contained Paul, Steve, Wob, Si and me with Will guiding and the rest of the group riding with Stru and Tim.

We head up the road from Areches on the morning and then a different descent into Beaufort before getting the bus up to Les Saisies. But instead of the bike park we transfer to another bus and head up to the ronde with the panoramic views.

Down a superb trail and into Beaufort where we get the bus again up to Les Saisies.

We were supposed to transfer again but somehow missed the bus and made the decision to ride to the top, all 4km and 400 vertical metres of climbing.

Exhausted we reached the top in a light rain which was nice and refreshing before riding a different descent into Beaufort.

Another great day. I'm pretty sure Si and Laurent broke another couple of spokes but its happened so often now I'm losing track.

Adam offers his wheelbuilding services and re-tensions Si's wheel which does the trick as he survives the rest of the week with no breakages. Good work Batters.

Day 5 (Tuesday 9th July)

We are joined by work-Rob today (who also becomes known as Carbon-Rob) and start with a long, long uplift in the van from Oli to the Ridgeline which then requires a long, long push up a steep mountain side before we finally hit the Ridgeline proper.

This is a very photogenic trail but not too many really rideable bits. There is loads of stopping for photos and wheeling ones bike up and down unrideable sections.

After being so sure-footed yesterday the SX trail is feeling sketchy today. I lose tracking completely on the front a couple of times requiring major dabs and wash out completely in a wooded section with Rob hard on my tail.

The back end feels loose too and a bit of pressure in the rear shock and a lot of pressure in the rear tyre which has a slow puncture stabilises the rear end but the front feels twitchy all day.

After lunch in Beaufort Oli gives us a van assisted lift up to the lifts past Areches and then up there to another long push and cross country section until we reach the very highest point of the ride.

We can look down on Albertville in the distance and the effect is like looking out of a plane window or searching on google maps for a view of the city below.

Another rip-roaring descent and we finish up at Albertville train station with beers for all plus a kebab for me and Si and our lovely lady coach driver who takes us back to Beaufort where we pick up Oli and the van again and home for a well deserved evening meal.

Day 6 (Wednesday 10th July)

Its the formal day off for the guides but the shredders are still out there putting in the miles for you and shooting video and stills.

Me, Stevo, Paul, and Wob head down the Morning Glory trail to Beaufort to catch the 9-05 bus for the uplift to Les Saisies bike park.

We hit the blue and red runs although a lot of rain last night has made some of the corners in the woods very sketchy.

Laurent has driven over for his last day riding before taking the hire car back to Geneva airport but we somehow contrive to miss him all morning although we do wave him off as we sit down to a fantastic burger and chips for lunch.

After lunch we take the 14-05 bus up to the lookout point and after posing for a pic with the mullet-haired driver we follow trail 13 back into Beaufort before finishing with large beers at the bar and sitting in the sun


Day 7 (Thursday 11th July)

We hit the Col du Pre today with four van uplifts from Oli taking us to 1,700 metres before we take a different line down each time back to Areches.

There was heavy rain last night and the adverse camber, narrow trails, wet roots and steep drops to the trail side see me mincing down for the first couple of runs but as the trails dry my confidence grows and I'm soon back in the groove for the final black run of the morning.

The mood turns a little sombre as we meet the other group in Beaufort and hear that Adam had another big crash today that saw him and bike rolling off the side of the trail and hitting trees on the way down. To top it all a boulder chases him down and cracks him on the head.

But luckily his previous experiences this week see him in a full facer and body armour and he escapes with just a few cuts and bruises but that's the end of his riding this week as his confidence is shot to pieces.

After lunch another uplift sees us ride Donkey Kong and another trail I forget the name of but both trails are beautiful as we carve our way down the mountainside, across alpine meadows, through cow pats and crossing electric fences whilst getting shouted at by farmers.

Steve also gets a heart check as he catches a big shock from one of the fence posts as he tries to lift it.

Day 8 (Friday 12th July)

The final day and its our turn to choose which trails we want to ride again.

We decide to head back over to Les Saisies to ride Adrenalin and the tight switchbacks on that side and after the local bus uplift we drop back into Beaufort twice via different trails.

Its dry, fast and dusty today and we all seem to be on top of our game as we tear down the mountainside.

Yesterday I couldn't get dialled in but today I'm dragging the rear round the switchbacks like a pro as we push each other onwards faster and faster.

Some great riding in sweltering heat but up on the moutain top hitting 40km+ on some of the fireroads there's a lovely cool breeze.

The final trail of the day after lunch is Dev Albertville a 15km descent that snakes down the mountain and we charge down this leaving various groups of walkers and another couple of groups of riders in our dust as we descend to Albertville finishing with beer and a doner kebab in the local kebab shop and the final bus ride of the day with our favourite female driver who drops us back in Beaufort.

The fair has hit town and we plan to ride the dodgems in our riding gear, armour, lids and go pros but its not open so we have to amuse ourselves with Stevo, Paul, Will and Artur the 15 year old local shredder dropping off a four foot high stage to flat tarmac.

You can guess wher this one is going especially after a few beers and Steve doesn't let us down as he shreds his shin on the pedal and Paul takes a tumble. But hey, out on the beer tonight and home tomorrow with all the riding done.

A superb holiday, you really should try it for yourself.

 

Untitled Document

all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

 


17th to 21st July 2013
Riders: Richard, Sam & Ben
Following Le Tour de France in the Alps

Weather: 30°C

Five days in the French Alps following Le Tour de France. .

Wednesday 17th July - Surrey to La Mure

A long car journey down to La Mure which was the closest booking I could get to Bourg d'Oisans. I use a Lewis Hamiltonesque one stop strategy and cover 640 miles in 11 and a half hours.

Thursday 18th July - Alpe d'Huez

Sam, Ben and I tackle the Alpe d'Huez for the second time in 3 years (having last ridden it during the 2011 Tour). Unfortunately for the riders they have to ride it twice in one day but hey, that's why we're here!

I'm feeling quite nervous about this ride. I've not been feeling strong this week during my daily commute so how am I going to tackle this brute of a climb? But luckily the stomach bug I had has disappeared after 48 hours and we park up somewhere outside of Bourg d'Oisans and unload the bikes.

We have a short warm-up ride of about 5km before we hit the bottom of the Alpe which ramps up mercilessly for the first 3 or 4 kilometres. But Ben and I have prepared well. Ben has been putting in the road miles and climbing Box Hill repeatedly in training and I took the easier route of adding an 11-28 cassette to the Bianchi.

It's tough but we climb slowly up counting off the 21 bends which are handily numbered for you and we point out the places where Ben had crumpled in a heap during 2011.

Sam on the other hand has only done a couple of admittedly long rides with me and he struggles. But he's old enough to look after himself and Ben and I leave him behind as we grind onwards. We hit Dutch corner which is absolutely manic and I'm offered olives and beer as I ride through both of which I gratefully accept.

On into the village of Huez and Sam needs to stop for something to eat. We leave him to grab some of the baguette I have been carrying and Ben and I crest the Alpe some time later and then ride further on towards the offical finish line.

We then have a long wait for the riders to come through but we have chosen our spot well, opposite a hotel that is serving hot dogs and beer as well as having a handy toilet and large screen TV showing the stage live allowing us to check up on progress.

Many hours later the publicity caravanne and then the tour passes through and circa 6 p.m. we descend the Alpe dodging the circa 500,000 people who are also trying to get back home, many of them worse the wear for drink having been on the beer since 10 a.m.

Back to the car and I load up the bikes and have successfully negotiated the first day without incident when BOOM! I'm on the deck banging my left hip, elbow and knee heavily on the tarmac, all points of which start pouring blood at the same time. There's been a light drizzle for the last half hour and my road shoes which I've been wearing all day have slipped on the metal grating in the car park. Cursing my luck and dripping blood I drive gingerly back to the hotel.

Friday 19th July - Col de la Madeleine

Back to Friday and we drove from our hotel in La Mure towards the Col de Madeleine which was the first big mountain (hors categorie) on the route today and a tour classic.

We parked the car in the village of Le Chambre, unloaded the bikes and set off for about 200 metres and met a gendarme who told us the road was closed and the publicity caravanne was going thru. Even when it passed we could not ride.

So we pushed uphill for about 2k (not easy in road shoes and cleats) before we got bored and decided to sit by the roadside and wait for the tour to ride through.

After a while it arrived and we even saw an attack led by Mark Cavendish on a mountain stage! Yes, he was trying to tow two of his colleagues back to the breakaway.

The road reopened as soon as the broom wagon passed and we recommenced our ascent.

Now the Madeleine is a beast of a climb. 21km long and even counting in klicks those posts counting down the distance to the top don't come soon enough.

We reached the village of Longchamp at 1,650 metres and at 15 km into the climb and I could see the road stretching ahead of us and on and on up the mountain. We had now climbed into the clouds and it started to rain, light at first which was refreshing but it then got very heavy and cold too.

Still we climbed on, 18, pause, 19, longer pause, 20 and then finally 21 km at 2,000 metres vertical.

It was fookin freezin in the cloud and so were we. We huddled into a tiny souvenir shop along with about 150 other riders for a cup of hot chocolate.

We had some dry clothes with us but only one raincoat between 3 of us. Sam had that, I gave Ben the long sleeved thermal top and I had the short sleeved top and we made a break for it as the rain let off slightly.

Now I hadn't really realised before but Ben is a fearless descender. With slicks on the PA and with disc brakes he set off at a really fast pace leaning heavily into corners that were now soaking wet and diving past other riders.

We hit thick fog and I could hardly see him ahead but had to push on far faster than I wanted to so that I could catch him up all the time yelling 'slow down'.

Did I mention that I cracked a rib mtbing in Destination X, Areches-Beaufort last week? This was hurting as I tried to shout. Did I also mention that Ben has a disabilty that means he is only holding onto the bars with one arm (his right) and is only braking on the front brake?

But the tyres held and as we got lower we dropped out of the fog and even though it was still raining and the road spray was soaking us we raced past other riders on five grand bikes. Some started to follow but gave up when we overtook the cars and snow ploughs too and Sam heard one rider say in english, 'screw this, its not worth it' as he gave up the chase.

We weren't stopping for anything even though I was so cold my teeth were chattering, my gloveless hands were numb and my fingers shrivelled as they get when you stay in the bath too long and my whole body shivering was making the front wheel wobble.

On and on and on. A 21km descent is much faster than the ascent but its still a long time to be on what felt like the physical edge.

We eventually rolled up to the car wet to the bone and our faces and legs streaked grimy black from the road detritus flicked up by the rain.

Now my two boys aren't the most demonstrative but we just looked at each other and burst out laughing, still buzzing on adrenaline.

I was so cold I stripped naked on a french side street and got into dry clothes fresh from the suitcase (we were switching hotels today so had everything in the car).

I loaded up the bikes and even though it was 20 plus degrees at this elevation we had the heater blowing hot air for 45 minutes until our core temperature retuned to normal.

Onwards to the hotel in Annecy and Le Semnoz tomorrow.

Saturday 20th July - Le Semnoz

We are staying in Veyrier-du-Lac which is a short roll down the hill into Annecy which we take at about 10 am this morning. But Annecy Lake front is also the starting point for today's stage and it's absolute chaos down by the water and all through the town. We end up riding a few k's in the wrong direction in the blistering heat. But Annecy Lake is beautiful and it's no hardship.

After watching the caravanne pass through Annecy we finally find an underground crossing point and get to the other side of the barriers and work our way out towards Le Semnoz. We take the roundabout that points to the foot of the climb but there's a gendarme telling me that no, the road is closed. I've discovered that it's not worth arguing the point with a gendarme so we just turn around and take the next turning 100 metres along the road. A short push up a steep pavement climb and we are onto the hill and past another barrier where the strangely inconsistent gendarmes have no interest in stopping us.

For some reason I forgot to fill the water bottles today and we start the 10.6km climb without refreshment. But not to worry, it's only a short climb and even though it's much hotter today we won't need a drink. And just think of the weight saving too!

So we are fairly gutted to see the first kilometre post indicating 16km to go. How does that work? It takes me until we reach the turn from Quintal to realise that the tour will use this different approach onto the mountain than the one we use and therefore only measure the climb from here. But by this time we are sweating buckets and I've stopped at an RV parked at the roadside and begged for our bidons to be filled. The young french guys gladly oblige and also give us a glass of beer each too which they are surprised when I neck it instantly.

Le Semnoz is another tough climb. The length makes it so difficult. There's very little respite from the 8% average gradient aside from a few short 3% sections lower down the slopes. I'm leading with Sam following within sight and Ben a few hundred metres further behind. But we finally haul our arses up to the 800 metres to go point where the road really is closed off and we call that a day as we find somewhere to relax and cool down.

Luckily it's next to the car park for all the official tour vehicles and another helpful gendarme informs me there's somewehere to buy food and drink. After a baguette, water and coke we pick our spot at the 2km to go banner which provides us a nice view of the road in both directions plus a bit of shade to keep out of the relentless sun.

I spot a few young French guys painting slogans on the road and after a while I decide to ask to borrow it. After some pidgin French and English they agree on the basis that I won't write 'FROOME'. I agree and they have fun trying to guess what I'm writing and then even more pidgin French to explain what 'DOMTB' stands for. They are cool with this and the deal is done and I get busy texting some of you guys to look out for it on the coverage. and it's great that so many of you saw it on the live TV feed. See, I'm always thinking of you.

As normal I spend the many hours waiting photographing anything that moves. It's amazing how interesting a team car or journo's motorbike or even Chewbacca and a bloke in a naked cowboy outfit can look after a few hours in the sun. And as for the helicopters, well they never cease to provide excitement as that's when you know the tour et arrivee!

It seems very fitting on this great 100th episode of the tour to see the final podium ride through at the front of the race.

And around 40 minutes later the broom wagon passes through and the road is open again. And this time the roads are dry, weather is perfect and there arent too many people walking aimlessly about and so Sam, Ben and I race downhill passing every rider we can see. Into Annecy and then back up the hill to Veyrier we hardly notice the sharp climb we are so pumped.

It's another tour finishing for us and only the long drive to look forward to tomorrow but it's been yet another great experience for us. Why don't you join us next year?

Sunday 21st July - Annecy to Surrey

As everyone else heads to Paris we head home. Work for all three of us tomorrow and we arrive home circa 8-30 p.m. after another gruelling journey. But the Volvo V70 takes it all in it's stride, it's only me thats worn out.

 

 

Untitled Document

all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015


28th July 2013
Riders: Richard,
Wob, Rob, Lee D, Laurent, Tim, Mark and Terry
LOMAC to Leith Hill & back
Weather: 23°C

Back in the UK this is our version of the XXXC or Triple-XC trail that we rode at Destination X. 65 kilometres of trail ridden at a strong pace with very little stopping except for two flat tyres for me, the first one before I even reached the meeting point in Ashtead.

Tim and Mark are out with us for the first time in many months and they occupy the last two places in the group for most of the ride although they are never too far away.

It's no good trying to create an Alpine-style ride so we go for good old-fashioned XC trails and distacne on this warm July morning. This was a ride that was first tested out by Lee and myself back in April and although the trails are a bit more overgrown now than they were back then it's still a great if testing ride with plenty of climbing.

 

Untitled Document

all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015


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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

Top

click to view click to view click to view Steve Neill Big Trev Orange Dave dialled bikes pewter headtube badge Dave and Dave outside LOMAC Dave on Summer Lightning A grinning Trevor Steve (again) Davebus and Neill on Stane Street Jason next to Denbie's vineyard Trevor struggles up the climb Dave followed by Jason on Stane Street Banstead Downs singletrack It was getting dark by the time I got back Richard (that's me!) Surrey Hills logo at the top of Coombe hill Gary dicing with the cars through New Malden Stag party Gary's Giant SCR 2008 model  A cheerful looking Gary part way round Richmond Park speed limits for cyclists! Kingston Gate, Richmond Park view off the side of Headley Heath Bianchi K-Vid carbon forks self-portrait whilst climbing between second and third hairpin on the Zig Zag Road, Box Hill Dave and Mat, the folly, Reigate Hill urban riding, Richard in Ashtead High Street a bit underexposed but a nice shot of the view from the North Downs Way Richard dropping in on Colley Hill No, not the Mediterranean, this is outside LOMAC, Ashtead High Street Richard showing off for the camera Mat and Richard, Stane Street Richard, Headley Heath Mat on Headley Heath Gary with our 'rabbit' in the distance Gary in the dusk Richard Gary chasing the yellow 'rabbit' in the distance Cas Cas Richard 'self-portrait'