Anything 4 A Ride MTB Club / Race Team

Passportes du Soleil FRANCE & SWITZERLAND 24 -29/06/08

   Just 2 of us for the 1200 mile round trip to the French Alps for what is one of the best marathon events out there. We left Tuesday night to catch the EuroTunnel train to France, then drove through the night to get to Les Gets Wednesday lunchtime. After unpacking the car we just had to “quickly fix” Dave’s bike ready for the rest of the holiday. This turned into quite a long fix and pretty much set the tone for the rest of the holiday.

We stayed at Rush Adventures in Les Gets. The hosts Chris and Beth were very friendly and made us feel very welcome. Chris showed us around the town and helped us get our lift passes then took us up the mountain and showed us where the trails were. On the 2nd run down we tried the Downhill route, this was a tad hairy the 1st time. MTBing in the alps is a bit like skiing cause it takes you a few runs to “get your bike legs back”. We spent most of the first day getting used to the trails and playing with tyre pressures. That night we went out into town for a well deserved beer or two,  however after that drive down it was early to bed.

 Next day we went out over the Mont Chéry side of Les Gets. We got driven up to the top of the Mountain (well as far as the road went) and then contoured around the back of the mountain. This was one of the rare times on the holiday where we actually had to climb for a bit. It was +35oC and there was absolutely no wind, riding up mountains with back protector, knee/shin and elbows pad on plus carrying a fairly full rack sack was hard. It was well worth it though as the singletrack down the other side was amazing, steep and rooty with hardly any room for error, perfect. We ended up down in Morzine where we stopped for some lunch, then headed back down to Les Gets via “the Canyon”. This was a brilliant technical trial down through the woods with drop offs, roots, bit of north shore, a river crossing and gullies. We spent the rest of the afternoon between the Les Gets side of the mountain looking and Morzine just riding as much as we could. That evening we went into town for a rather nice pizza (without the egg!) and a beer or 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6).

We decided to take it easy on the 3rd day as we had a lot of riding to do the next day. We went over to Morzine then up to Avoriaz. We then headed down to Morzine via the Passportes route. I got a bit of brake fade on the Epic, which was a tad scary at first, but I got used to it. I guess super light weight 160mm brakes aren’t the most Alp worthy of kit, although that’s not exactly what Hope Mini Mono Pros are designed for and after a pad change to the trusty Goodrich’s it didn’t happen again. Dave got a blow out (ripped tyre wall) after hitting a rock so we had to stop and put a tube in. After fixing this 20m later Dave got a pinch puncture, stop again, another new tube. We got down into Morzine for a bit of lunch at what was becoming the regular lunch place. Plan was to make this an easy day although it had already turned into a bit of a mission. We decided to head back into Les

Gets via the “Canyon” route and take some pics and vids. Heading into it at a rate of knots, it was awesome. Dave an I took it in turns with the camera. We hit some North Shore (which we’d done the day before) and I followed Dave into it. Next thing all I see is a back wheel in the air. I get to the drop off to see Dave lying in the middle of the trail. After asking if he was ok (which he was) it was out with the camera for as many pics as possible, payback for Chamonix 05. After a few mins we got back on and headed back down via the steepest trial ever. A near vertical 20ft with a gulley at the bottom. Lean back and go for it, easy! After this we decided we best call it a day and headed back to the Chalet.

We spent the next few hours at the Chalet trying to fix Dave’s bike, by the end of it we decided it would be easier if Dave used my spare. That would mean the Maxlight would be on its 4th year in a row tackling the Alps. Who said light weight Aluminium hardtails can’t hack it in the big stuff. We swapped the wheels and saddle over for Dave’s and were good to go. A lovely pasta dinner cooked by Chris and couple of beers and to bed.

Up bright and early the next morning and down to the tourist office for registration for the Passportes Du Soleil 08, along with every other rider. Who on earth decided that registration could only be done the morning of the event. It was much better last year in Switzerland where we could register the day before. Once registered it was back to the Chalet for breakfast and then off we went. Well after we’d put some air in Dave’s tyres (it wasn’t the first time we’d need to this today).

Queue for the first lift wasn’t to bad, we purposely didn’t follow the Passportes signs the last couple of days so this section would be new to us. Lucky we did as this was a steep climb straight up. Easy if your on an XC bike, not so if you’ve got a downhill rig. Now I don’t mind people walking up hills but get out the bl**dy way and have some trail etiquette. I managed to get all the way to the top without putting a foot down, however I did have to lean on a couple of people who were just walking in the middle of the trail and some muppet who just stopped dead at the bottom of a climb and jumped off without even trying. Once at the top it was a great ride down the mountain into Morzine. I had to take a few people on the inside of a hairpin and go for it as it was so crowded. Once near the bottom I stopped to look back for Dave. Oh dear he wasn’t there. Quick phone call to find out his chain had snapped, twice! Once fixed we got down into Morzine, we had to queue for nearly and hour for the Lift up to Avoriaz. We got down to Les Liderets where had had a quick bite to eat at one of the lunch stops and tried to explained the concept of queuing to a couple of (I’m afraid to say) English guys.

We decided we’d take the “Variante DH assez difficile” routes where possible which was a great idea. The Chatel downhill route was awesome. Much smoother than the Les Gets one. Next chairlift took us to the beginning of my favourite bit of the route, the 13km run down to Chatel. Unfortunately this time we had to stop twice whilst Dave fixed some punctures, plus I had to climb back up the hill thinking something bad had happened as Dave wasn’t answering his phone. Because of the we decided it would be best not to do the Torgon optional routes so headed down the route to Morgins and over the border into Switzerland. The routes from Morgins to Champery was pretty un eventful (apart form hitting 45mph) and was on double track all the way. I ran out of water along here and so had to do 10mile or so with a dry throat. Champery was hosting the Passportes this year so was the main town and it was buzzing. We stopped for a quick reload of water and a cake from the feed station. Whilst waiting for the cable car back up the mountain Dave noticed he didn’t have his helmet. Luckily he found it on the table we stopped at.

Next up was the 2nd “Variante DH assez difficile” route. We said we’d meet each other at the bottom so I went for it. This was route we’d done a few times last year when staying in Champery. I got to the bottom and had a look back, but no sign of Dave. Few mins later and he came walking out the bottom of the route with yet another puncture. Once fixed it was back up the mountain to go across the snow and head down into Les Liderets. Here Dave had yet another puncture, but at least he wasn’t alone, a French girl asked if we had any patches as they had had 12 punctures already. We got down in Les Linderets a tad late and all that was left at the feed station was French stick and chocolate which made for quite a nice sandwich. Once up at Avoriaz Dave had 2 more punctures, then on the way down to Morzine his chain snapped again. How can one rider have so much bad luck? We sprinted for the telecabine in Morzine back upto Les Gets and just made it. We come down into Les Gets and straight to the bar for a well earned pint. It took us 9 1/2hours to complete which is way worse than last year. We went out for some Fondue that evening and a couple of beers, however we were both shattered.

Next day we had a bit of a lye in then it was time to pack the car backup and head off home. 30oC heat in a car with no aircon wasn’t the most pleasant of trips, but it wasn’t that far. Once at Calais we got to the Eurotunnel terminal 3 hours early only to find a jam. Apparently there was problems with the trains and they were having to send people off to the ferries. As you can imaging there were a lot of annoyed people at the terminal mouthing off at the poor Eurotunnel staff and then deciding it was best to turn back up the slip road. Dave and I just waited it out, we were in no rush. Eventually cars started moving and we were told we were getting ferry tickets. When we get to the kiosk they said no problems and we were booked on our original train! When they called us to the train we actually ended up getting the earlier one. It was funny to sit there thinking of all the hot headed morons who wheel spinned out of the terminal in a huff to get a ferry.

It was a great trip and definitly one to do next year. The Continental Mountain King Tyres I’d picked especially worked flawlessly and the Epic was well up to the job. Rush Adventures were excellent hosts and we’d definitly use them again.