Day one in the mountains, and if there is one thing that I felt, it was trepidation as to how my legs would cope with the testing that had been laid out for them.
I had done what I could to avoid looking into the 4 days of planned routes, knowing full well that there would be nothing I could do in the short term to improve my form and better prepare for the big days ahead.
Instead, I took the measured approach. I looked to everything I could do to improve my performance in the short term. More sleep, more food, better kit choices, better nutrition choices, more stretching, less beer!
Day one was about as gradual and ‘introductory’ as is possible in the high mountains near to Annecy. Residing at Chalet La Giettaz (amazing chalet run by Chris and his wife, check them out at https://bit.ly/2zeuGU2), situated partway up the Flume side of the Col du Aravis, meant that when setting off for the day, you either needed to descend to Flumet or climb to the summit of the Aravis to descend into La Clusaz. Today we took the former route and certainly the path of least resistance, down the mountain, through the town to Flumet and beyond, where the road winds sinuously through the valley, along the cliffs and through tunnel after tunnel. Back at sea level, we found ourselves following a mountain stream (more of a river in winter I would imagine) kilometre after kilometre, eventually arriving at the Autoroute. Not without a stop most unusual to us, but likely common to the region, tree felling and the dusty aftermath. We waited for the dust to the clear and for the workman to give us the all clear.
A little further down the valley, we took the seemingly sensible but ultimately unknown left turn off the valley road, feeling that to continue heading away from the chalet, would only incur further elevation. Google Maps had indicated that heading north, to head back up and over to Cohhenoz would provide us with a relatively direct route home, with a 'moderate' climb to contend with. The problem with data and stats, is that they never reveal the full picture. Still very much green under the gills and fresh off the plane, with no prior knowledge of the parcours, any climb would have felt like the most epic or romantic of mountain passes. Nevertheless, we tackled the ascent as a group, with the temperature peaking to 30 degrees. With the mountain unrelenting we soon found ourselves feeling unprepared and certainly undercooked.
The climb undulated and spiked, though the views were rewarding, the ramps were punishing. In the heat and with the weight of travel and sleep deprivation, the mountain took its toll on us one by one up to the summit, despite only being a catergory 3 climb, we were all glad to see the top. A closed, rather looking desolate restaurant, awaited us, accompanied in the ski off season, only by a lone bovine water trough, perfect for a top up and a cool down, but not much company. Time for a quick snap of the bike, captured in it's climbing guise.
The short descent down to Crest Voland was wide, fast and open, with little to concern ourselves with other than to enjoy the adrenaline of our first (of this year) alpine descent. On this occasion, dinner and a well earned beer awaited, so we lanced through Crest Voland itself, heading back to Flumet. A haphazard loop, only covering 40 or so kilometres so far but over a 1000 meters of vertical elevation, with the climb up the Col des Aravis to cap off what was crudely labelled a warm up. The last bit of the descent into Flumet, is certainly of note. Somewhat of a corkscrew of 5 or 6 switchbacks to really put your school physics to the test, wrenching smiles onto already pleased faces despite the grind of the day.
The climb up from Flumet to the chalet, via a small local cafe/ bar for a hoppy recovery beverage, was largely uneventful with the legs already making themselves known. Tapping out fatigued day 1 tempo, chatting and rotating and savouring the breeze blowing off the mountain as it lifted salty sweat from our brows and from our open jerseys.
Certainly a warm up in more ways than one, and we certainly needed it.
Kit : Isadore Apparel - Climbers jersey, shorts and socks. Giro Helmet and shoes. Key Climbs: Col de Cohennoz, Col de Aravis Distance and Elevation : 50km and 1400 vertical meters