Geneva to Annecy (Traverse Aravis guided) 5-day cycling tour – 17-21 September 2015
by Hugo de Palmas
and Olly Mitchell
The Cheese Classic
“Snaking its way from Geneva to Annecy, through the alpine meadows and villages that are home to some of the best cheese producers in France. It also includes some infamous Tour climbs, along with the beautiful Lake Annecy”.
As promised this trip was a pleasant mix between challenge and relaxation. The reward of cheese and wine after a ride, what else could you ask for!!
The weekend started for us with an early train on the Thursday from Paris to Geneva. Once again the use of a bike bag made the trip relatively straight forward and at no further cost to the ticket. After some confusion with the pickup point at the airport the two of us decided to jump on the bus to the first meeting hotel in a tiny village of Segny just north of Geneva.
Once we arrived at the first hotel we waited for the second batch of arrivals that had arrived from the airport Bike boxes and all; we then all went for a Pizza before an early night.
Day 1: Geneva (Ségny) to Abondance
With a departure time of 8:45am everyone was up early for breakfast and to prep the bikes ready for a weekend in the Alps. With temperatures of below 10 degrees and light drizzle the early start was not welcomed with open arms however spirits were high in anticipation for some alpine climbs!
As a group we all set off (only 30mins later than planned). The cycle into Geneva was not the nicest as the roads were wet and quite busy however everybody made it to the lake and then on to the open roads to the first climb into our first stop into Abondance.
As the cycle out of Geneva was wet a long pause after 45km allowed the group to warm up and take on some sugar. It was then decided that we would ride on through to Abondance and have lunch when we arrived.
As promised each evening meal included elements of the local produce and specifically the local cheese. Friday was no exception where were all treated to a taste of the Abondance cheese just before settling down to watch the England Rugby team get their first win of the World cup.
Day two: Abondance to Reblochon
Col du Corbier (5.7 km at 7.1%) + Col des Gets (6km at 4.8%) + Col de la Colombière (16.3km at 6.8%)
Day two is where the climbing really started the first a climb up the iconic Col du Corbier. Very quickly everyone was soon under no illusions how this was not a leisurely cycle in the hills. The weather was perfect and although the short decent from Abondance to the bottom of the Corbier was very cold layers were soon taken off as the climb started. The Alps are a special place to cycle at any time of year (weather permitting) however at end of summer for me they are at their very best. Once at the top a short pause allowed some time for photos and a coffee. Again the warm clothing was taken out of the support van in preparation for the decent to the bottom of the col de Gets.
Again the “Col des Gets” was a nice short climb which was enough to give the burning sensation in the legs and split the group. Once at the top it was a short break before the fast decent into the village below. Here lunch was waiting for us with Michael having reached the bottom before us and already set up the lunch and was cooking fried eggs which went down well with the whole group.
Then came the col de la Colombière for those who have had the pleasure of climbing it is known for a sting in the tail. Although only a cat. 1 climb its length and final 3km make it a challenge, add to that the two previous climbs and you have an interesting personal battle for all who attempt it.
The three fast guys (incl. Hugo) were kindly sent to another climb (Col de Romme 9km at 9.5%) which joined the Colombière before the sting. This meant the group arrived at the top with only 25 mins separating the first and the last. The weather was not so kind to us at the end of the day with the rain following as we hit the top of the climb this made for a scary decent into Reblochon.
Speeds of 80km around sweeping bends (only for Olly) ensured a great conversation around what was a great meal in St Jean de Sixt.
Day three: Reblochon to Beaufort
Col des Aravis (8.9km at 4.6%) + Col des Saisies (14.8km at 5%) + Cormet de Roselend (20.3km at 6.5%)
Again we all woke up to cloudless blue sky on the Sunday morning for what promised to be another tough day in the saddle. Day three started straight away with a climb that featured on this year’s Dauphiné. Again any warm clothes that were put on in preparation were given to the support vehicle very early on.
Day Four: Beaufort to Annecy
Col de la Forclaz (11km at 6.2%)
Last day also means last climb, we were all happy to finish this one. Then we went down towards Annecy with a fast peloton ride on a nice cycle path along Annecy Lake.
All in all it was a fantastic weekend. Michael is now in his third year of cycle tours and it is apparent from the first moment you meet him he is there to ensure you enjoy your weekend. For this trip he drove the support vehicle with its trailer carrying all our kit for the weekend and day bags that we prepped each morning. Any time you are feeling alone of isolated he appear to be just around the next corner with his new companion Zola (puppy named after the Chelsea legend).
The route was chosen and tested months in advance and again it didn’t disappoint. The reward of great cheese at the end was a just reward. We would recommend any trip of “Traverse Aravis” as its clear the trips Michael does are run by a passionate cyclist for other passionate cyclists.