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Day 5: Bourg St Maurice to Annecy

June 14, 2014

It was one of those days on a bike when nothing else seems to matter. When the surroundings, the weather, the route and – yes – even the company cannot be bettered.

The kind of bike ride you sometimes had as a kid in enjoyment terms, only so much better amidst the majestic Alps.

We felt alive, even if our bodies were sore and legs wearing weary.

A day to cherish, and that the #LVG is all about.

It went like this. Straight off the bat, climbing 19km up the Cormet de Roselend. That might sound tough and it stretched the legs, but what a climb. An average of 6% but it soon slipped below that as we wound up through woodland past old watermills.

It then perked up with 8 and 9% hairpin stretches as snowy Alpine peaks came into view again. There was little let-up and my burning legs were feeling it.

And then as if my magic, the next kilometre marker showed 1%. Soon we were freewheeling through a stunning lush valley, hidden on both sides by rocky outcrops. A welcome breather.

It went from the sublime to the ridiculous though. We heard the bells first, then came around a corner to be greeted by hundreds of stinking backsides. Not the lycra kind, but a huge herd of Alpine horned cattle being moved to new pasture. Too many to squeeze past, so we sat behind them at about 0.5kmh for a good kilometre.

Cows behind us, it was back to 7 and 8% for the final 6 or 7km, flattening a little towards the top. All the while there were waterfalls everywhere, meadows, snowy mountain tops and Mont Blanc looming beyond. Not the hardest climb by some stretch, but all the points for beauty and variety.

We descended to the pretty town of Beaufort, as in the cheese. Coffee stop, JL consuming his body weighting cream cakes.

And then on the further descent to Albertville, near-disaster. One of the scariest moments I’ve had on a bike in a long time. Steady descent through trees, and it was hot. The road felt like it was melting in places but it was an oil trail down the middle. Going into a corner, my front wheel hit it and lost traction. No time or point in braking, I was going down or off the road. As down most likely meant taking everyone behind me with them, I just let it run across the other side of the road, in front of an oncoming car. It missed by 10m or so and I went up a bank without a scratch. You should see me do the same thing one-handed.

From there we made our way via a long and shady cycle path for about 40km to Annecy, with a lunch stop. When the lake finally came into view, more superlatives. A turquoise green and inviting for a quick swim, but we had the finish line ahead of us so pressed on.

And then it was all over for another year. Eight riders set out, seven returned, one is wished a speedy recovery ahead of the Mt Ventoux trip next month.

Five days, some 645km, many laughs and some industrial bottom-numbing cream later, it’s back to reality.

Thanks one and all, but especially Matt, Jon and Howie, for making it what it was.

Bell to the safekeeping of Lee, by the way.

 

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