The High Alps Challenge is a week-long cycling challenge which starts in Geneva, traverses the French Alps, and ends in the coastal town of Nice in Southern France. Catch up on what happened earlier in the week on the High Alps Challenge Part 1 and High Alps Challenge Part 2.
After horrific conditions on the Galibier, we all needed a rest day. Yesterday was spent packing, washing and letting muscles rebuild, protein bars were certainly needed. We had a few wines over a pizza in Argenitere and we were ready to go.
Anton won’t mind me saying that he has been a bit off the pace over the last few days but whatever was put in that pizza gave him some energy. We started off behind the group and overtook each one up the hill, everyone in their usual pace within the group but where was Anton? We continued to climb and he was still not there, the usual suspects coming through but we were getting worried. Then we saw his trademark (only) black and white shirt and baggy shorts right up the front – a man possessed!
The whole group infact made extremely good progress up the Col de Vars. At the top, a welcomed coffee and an acknowledgement of the scenery and vistas of this stunning climb. We took advantage of this and took some great film of some of the climbers - Adam’s film is going to be epic - and then started the descent.
As we were going down, at a fair pace, we in the car heard a noise. We thought it was an eagle or some wildlife but in our rear view mirror, we saw Tom holding on like a pro with a front tire blowout. We stopped and did the usual inner tube change but it was a tyre problem, off came the Merchx Demo bike and we whipped off the front wheel – Tom then paced it back all on his tod.
The pace up the Vars meant a one o’clock finish which meant that we could eat and set up camp before going to watch the Tour in Jausiers and luckily have everything ready as another huge storm. It passed as quickly as it came and everybody was enjoying the alfresco chili con carne created by Barry and Andy.
Now then, tomorrow is the Bonette – the highest road in Europe, we will be getting up to just under 3000m, our one final effort. Energy gels are being packed into jerseys as we speak in preparation.
Again please do not forget to support us, it is all much appreciated – www.justgiving.com/HAC2013
Pictures to follow when we get a better signal!
Today really posed our last challenge. It was not an easy one mind – the Cime de la Bonnette, the highest road in France. It loomed over our base camp in Jausiers and everyone was keen to make an early start due to forecasts of bad afternoon weather – the Galibier day was still fresh in people’s mind.
We were ready and all keen to start, the group gathered at the entrance of the campsite, which after some renovation from last year was lovely. Who were the group waiting for? One word, that seemed to be the morning call – “Max…”
The start of la Bonnette is gentle and pretty straight forward. It is similar to the Col des Aravis, back on second day. Breaking through the tree line is just out of this world and the last 15km is certainly that. Baron! The weather however, was really on our side and the whole group again made amazing progress to the summit. The problem with this ride is that the pass is not really the summit and you have to go up this road and the only reason it is there is to be the highest. And how it goes up! – a killer of a last 500m that destroyed everybody – challenge achieved and handshakes all round. Pretty much downhill to Nice now.
We all went on to the campsite to set up when we received the call from Pete that there had been an incident. A bit of a collision left Pete without a back wheel and helmet and Dave with plenty of grazes and bruises and a sore wrist. Both have plenty of work to do their bikes. But all OK.
We are now in our favourite campsite of the week. Deep in a gorge, next to a river with ridiculous views upwards. Everyone can smell the med and are itching to dip their toes in salty water and have a cheeky celebratory beer.
We all really appreciate your donations, it is so much deserved – www.justgiving.com/hac2013
What a beautiful last night of the High Alps Challenge, spent deep in a gorge on the edge of a tiny village called St Sauveur. The campsite is tucked away next to a roaring river and as the sun went behind the mountains and the light faded out popped thousands of fireflies, just like fairies dancing over the river and into the banks. We could have been in a scene from the Lord of the Rings. The relaxed atmosphere was enhanced with the knowledge that we had done the hard days and it was a shortish ride down into Nice.
An early start and a gentle decline towards Nice before a short, 25 minute climb to Levens, avoiding the big, busy, main artillery into the city meant that today was one to enjoy. Everyone was riding together and until a few punctures split the pack, there was an appearance of a Tour Team. Life does not get much better!
The two vans with Andy, Barry, Harvey and Adam made quick headway into Nice to grab a parking space (a challenge in itself!) and postion ourselves on the shores to welcome the gang. Then came the two motorcyclists, Cliff and Trigger, so we knew that the cyclists' arrival was imminent. We were all ready with the banners, melons, bananas and - most importantly - champagne.
Due to Tom’s puncture, the arrival came in two groups. First to arrive and crack open the bubbly was Sarah, Adam, Pete, Max, James, Nathan and Gregor. Dave and Gary rode back up out of Nice to help Tom and Hannah fix the puncture and only shortly later, this group of 4 came in to the second bottle of bubbly.
Before we knew it everyone went down the steps and jumped in the sea for a rewarding dip. Challenge done and many memories and friends made. What a great group of people to cross these magnificent mountains with.
A special thanks should go to everyone who has sponsored us and Terra Nova for their tents, Vango for the beds and camping equipment, Beachbum for the very appreciated bean bags, Continental for the inner tubes and bottles and Merckx for the support bike which was used more often than we thought!
A final word needs to be said about Andy. His support and help this week with a constant smile on his face has been invaluable and everybody loved his rice cakes! They were welcomed at many a mountain top. To think that last year he was following this blog from his hospital bed, his recovery and fight is as inspirational, if not more, than the challenge the cyclists have conquered this week. This is why we are so proud to be supporting the efforts of the fantastic Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.