My trip to France started with a short stopover in Sydney for the King of Kincumber. The King of Kincumber is a charity bike ride/race run by Rocky Trail Entertainment over a 28km fire road course on the central coast near Gosford. This community event is in its second year and is a really fun way to support a worthwhile charity, the Westpac rescue helicopter. Although short, the course was pretty tough with some sections up to a gradient of 29%! It was worth it though, with everyone going down to the Kincumber Pub for relaxing lunch and some rehydration in the spring sunshine. Well done to Martin and Juliane from Rocky Trail, hopefully this event continues to grow.
Le Tour and col du Balme in background
My sojourn in Sydney felt a little like procrastination and sooner or later I need to get the big plane trip out of the way. Thankfully it all went smoothly and I eventually arrived in Geneva in one piece ..…and my bike even arrived on the same plane! My next challenge, and one that nearly got the better of me, was trying to fit a big bike box into a Ford Fiesta hire car. I got there eventually but it was at the expense of my leg room. It was far from ideal but I could still perform most of the important functions of driving a car, and at least it made me appreciate the ample leg room I had just had the privilege of enjoying for the past day in Qantas economy class. I was very happy to arrive at my final destination for the day of Chamonix and be warmly welcomed by my friend Seth who has been living here for the past year with his partner Jaymie. After a nice lunch I built my bike and headed out for a roll on the road to spin some of the flight out of my legs. It had been raining all day but I was lucky enough to catch a break in the weather by the time I was ready to go. As I rolled up the valley towards Argentiere the enormity of the Chamonix Valley hit me. Huge glaciers hang a couple of thousand metres above the valley floor and jagged mountains dominate the skyline, all of which are dwarfed by le Mont Blanc which for the time being was veiled in clouds. I’ve been here several times before but I had somehow forgotten just how amazing it is. Despite feeling the fatigue setting in from the trip, I was now super excited about waking up tomorrow for a proper ride.
Aiguille du midi and Mont Blanc in the clouds
If you have ever travelled much to race, you will have probably found that training while abroad can be quite tricky. At the race venue is usually fine because you have arrows and bunting to follow, but when you rock up to a town and have no idea where to ride, it can be hard to get that specific session that is on your program which you normally do on your local trails. I wanted to do a steady 3 hours today, and I spent half an hour trying to research trails on the internet before I gave up and decided to just wing it. 3 hours was long enough that it would matter if I took a few dead ends and I was excited about the prospect of exploring and hopefully finding something cool, plus even if I found a good route on a map, I knew that stopping continuously to check it would become very tiresome. I headed up the valley and started to follow a few arrows for walking tracks and the odd MTB trail arrow. Before long I was riding some spectacularly rooty and slippery trails (amaed particularly exciting by the previous day’s rain) and then stumbled across the Petit Balcon Nord which was a terrific swooping trail benched into the side of the valley. This spat me out at Le Tour where I began to climb a beautiful switchback climb up into the alpine meadows before topping out at a mountain refuge at the Col de Balme. It was a long and tough climb, made tougher by a growing impatience after having caught glimpses of a downhill track that would take me back down. On the way down it became clear that the MTB season was now over as the trail had some signs of erosion and evidence of goats grazing on it. Eventually I actually came across the said goats; there must have been hundreds of them parked right on the trail and nearby the farmer had even erected a yurt complete with a chimney. Imagine if farmers grazed livestock on the ski runs at Thredbo in the summer, it just would happen. On the way back to Chamonix I continued to follow my nose and I managed to stumble across more awesome trails. Steep, rooty and rocky in parts and then fast & flowing in others. When I got back I was grinning from ear to ear, 3hrs in the bank & sweet trails, I could not have asked for more and I can’t wait to get out again tomorrow.
Goats on the DH track at Le Tour