After months of preparation, planning, stressing and excitement, I was finally taking off in my VW T5 for my annual roadtrip to France to ride my bike and get my fix of some epic alpine loam! But first up, I had to make sure the van was looking sharp and had its annual pre-trip pimping before hitting the road!
Day 1 – 3: Dublin to Morzine
Day 4 – 7: Morzine
Day 8 – 10: Chamonix
Day 11 – 20: Alpe D’huez
Day 21 - 23: Geneva - Les Arcs
Day 23 - 27: La Thuile
Day 27 – 29: La Thuile to Dublin
Total KM: 3000km
Day 1 – 3: Dublin to Morzine
I arrived in Morzine midday on Thursday, two days after leaving a warm and sunny Dublin. I had taken the overnight ferry from Rosslare to Cherbourg and took the 10 hour drive to Morzine at my leisure, stopping off in the big town of Auxelle for the night and managing to get the second half of the Ireland V Italy match in a nearby pub. Setting off early the next morning, I completed the second half of my journey by lunchtime, with a cheeky stop off at a giant Decathlon where I had to exercise extreme levels of willpower.
Day 4 – 7: Morzine
Within minutes of arriving in Morzine, I bumped into fellow mountain biker, Monet-Rose Adams, and made plans to go and chill at the beautiful nearby lake in Montrond. This was the hottest part of the day so after two days of not showering and driving in over 30 degree heat, I was straight into the icy cold lake for a refreshing swim.
That evening, I continued on to Champery, where I was to begin the 80km Passport du Soleil the next morning. I parked up for the night under the ski-lift and got my bike and gear ready as I was keen to get going for an early start the next morning.
The Passport du Soleil was something that I had heard of last summer and was keen to find out more about it. I thought, as I was travelling to the Alps alone, it was a perfect event for me to do as it was a good opportunity to meet new people and gently break myself into alpine riding with 10 hours of riding, I would sufficiently work up a healthy dose of arm-pump, something I had missed all year! The MTB Pass'Portes du Soleil is a mountain-bike ride ranging from 1000 to 2250m in altitude, in both France and Switzerland, where you follow a map that takes in over 6000m of descending, 1000m of climbing and over 80km of trails with food-stops along the way that provide riders with the most amazing food from chicken curry to chocolate fondue! It was a great event to ride completely at one’s leisure, with the only time challenge being to make the last lift at 6pm!
I spent the next three days hanging out with Canadian and Kiwi downhillers Jaime Hill and Victoria Armstrong, who had been on the road since the end of May, racing the UCI World Cup Downhill Series in Scotland and Leogang and just generally hanging out in the Alps riding their bikes and living the dream! We had an epic all-mountain ride on the Sunday, starting in Morzine and following singletrack (as well as lots of lifts!) to Switzerland and back again, riding the supercool Col de Cue ridgeline which was well and truly worth the climb in the midday heat!
Day 8 – 10: Chamonix
My first time in Chamonix and to say that I was blown away by the beauty of this place is an understatement. Driving towards Chamonix, I found it hard to not get distracted by the views of Mont Blanc, getting closer and closer to the mountains with each kilometre. It wasn’t until I was parked up in the town of Chamonix and found the nearest café, that I could really take it in and get some photos of this beast of a mountain that surrounded the town. It was 8pm but still the sky was a beautiful blue and the contrast between the white snow of Mont Blanc against the sky was just stunning. I walked through the town, over a little bridge where I had to stop and appreciate the gorgeous flowers that covered the wooden railings. Not usually one for stopping to admire flowers, the contrast of these vibrant pinks and purples against the fast flowing, turquoise alpine river below, made me stop in my tracks and just stand and listen to its powerful sound.
After a short wander around the town, I stumbled across this small but very cool pub with a crowd outside watching the England game on a big screen. I sat down, got myself a pint, a very quickly got chatting to a girl who came over to say hi. It turned out that she and her boyfriend were playing a gig there that night and so I ended up staying and having a great night listening to this super talented duo, who go by the name of ‘Reel Relish’, and play real feel good vibe music with a bit of ska, jazz and reggae mixed in. If you’re ever in Chamonix, you should definitely watch out for these guys!
The next morning I headed to the bikepark in La Tour, a few kilometres away. It was a real scorcher of a day so I made sure to take a full bladder of water in my bag. I spent a few hours riding the bike park, having fun on my own and practicing my cornering! As a popular destination for hill-walkers, I shared the lifts with many and got chatting to a few. It was fun to compare our sports, both polar opposites but yet share a love for the mountains. After pretty much doing every run three or four times, I decided to head off on an all-mountain spin. I’d been told about a trail that involved a ridgeline that was well worth doing so off I went in search for it. I traversed the mountain and got myself onto the trail which was basically a natural walking trail. It was brilliant! It descended starting from the top of open mountain, through loose rocky singletrack, snow sections and then down through the woods which was technical and fast! I must have been on this for about an hour and a half until I eventually got to the town of…… From there it was an hour and a half back on the main road to La Tour. I got back to the van exhausted but really happy as I had been on a solo adventure in Chamonix and didn’t get lost!
That evening, I decided to treat myself to a meal out as I was so tired and hungry. Up until this point, I had been cooking in the van, so it was definitely a treat. I headed back to Chamonix and parked up for the night. I woke up at 4am with stomach cramps and couldn’t sleep. For the next two days I was laid up with food poisoning! Nothing serious, and luckily I was able to go to the local outdoor swimming pool for a swim and a shower, but I started to feel worse as the day went on. I spent the rest of the day just lying in the van, dying with stomach cramps and trying to stay cool in the 30degree heat. I decided I would check into a campsite for the night and get a good rest. The plan was to head to La Thuile the next day to ride but as I was still unwell the next day, I decided that rest was more important and went straight to Grenoble where I was picking up a friend that night and then onto Alpe D’huez from there.
Alpe D’huez Day 11 – 20
It had been exactly a year since I last stayed in Alpe D’huez where I had competed in the Mega Avalanche Cup. After having such a brilliant week at the Mega last year, myself and my friends made a pact that we would be back again the following year and so the planning and preparation began in January. T-shirts proclaiming our top three priorities of last year were made – Beer, Wifi, Bikes : ) My two weeks of living in the van were now done for a while as I had an apartment share with three friends. Although I love vanlife, it really was nice to have the comfort of a shower and toilet facilities! This is the one hardship of vanlife I reckon!
Les2Alpes Day 11 - 12
Two of the guys I was sharing with were racing in the Mountain of Hell in Les deuz Alpes that weekend. Myself and Bex Baroana, who was also staying with us, headed over to Les deuz Alpes the next day to do some riding and check out the event. There was a real buzz to the place with mountain bikers everywhere, and the race village set up with stalls and bike companies advertising and selling their products. We headed over to enquire about the price of uplifts for the weekend and found ourselves at the race entry table asking how much to enter. A moment of potential race entry impulsivity was quickly squashed by our sensible selves, deciding that even though it would be cool, that we would definitely stick to our plan and not race it as we had the Mega the next weekend and then the EWS the following week. Wise decision!!
The riding in Les 2 Alpes was just unreal. A huge bike park with some brilliant red and black runs, full of jumps, big berms, tabletops and techy trails through the woods that were physical and long. Arm pump was the order of the day and with my rear brake not working well, I was struggling to maintain speed with the constant braking and giving my hands a tough time! Cant exactly complain though, it was great craic. Following Bex down the trails, trying to keep her in my sights, hitting drops and finishing the day with a big hour of power xc climb on the adjacent mountain, we were pretty wrecked by the end of it and treated ourselves to pizza.
We drove back that evening to our apartment in Alpe d’huez, had an early night and drove straight back to Les deuz Alpes the next morning for another days shredding. Day 2 was eventful as we spent it on the mountain watching the qualifier race and managed to find ourselves on a red run that was part of the race! Little had we known when we dropped in, that within minutes, we had become part of it and just had to go with the carnage of it all! It had just been raining so the dry tracks had transformed into muddy, slippery trails, which, with the steepness and speed of these, were an absolute blast to ride! Especially in the middle of a race that we weren’t actually racing!
Next up....the Mega Avalanche Cup! Watch this space.....
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider