[dropcap2]T[/dropcap2]he idea for the group trip to France was made a while ago now back in 2012 and organised as a closed group on Facebook which was really useful. My friend Neil Williams has a penchant for organising a nearly annual MTB trip to France. I have been to Morzine and Les Gets before but not been out with the Rave Racing group for a long time. I’m getting older and slowing up on the gnarly descents but after a long break from DH/FR trails I was keen to get some alpine air and conquer my fears. To boot my wife came out so she could do some long alpine walks.
Some of us left Blighty earlier to get some additional riding in. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take my share of driving down to Bourg St. Maurice with Neil as the insurance was ridiculously pricey so my wife Janet and I did our best to keep Neil awake. We were in convey from the Channel Tunnel with 2 other vans containing Ned, Suzy, Greg and Faffy down to the Alps which took about 9 hours of driving – mostly on the payage, although not cheap is much quicker and the cost shared was pretty reasonable considering the fuel saved too. We arrived Wednesday evening to The Loft in Bourg which is a well run small multiroom bunkhouse with kitchen and bike storage facilities. It worked out well as we were moving on to a lovely Chalet in Peisey up the valley later in the week then the rest of our group was to arrive (Paul, Rosey, Beef, Danni and later Nicky, Neil’s partner).
We visited on the first day, Tignes Bike Park about 25 mins drive down the road. 5 Euro card deposit was all that was needed as the lifts are free as they are sponsored by Canyon Bikes. Some nice flowing but steep trails allowed us to get into the riding on groomed but as yet unspoilt trails and the fact that the snow had not melted in the upper levels of the Alps so many of the high altitude trails were not open. Also the weekend approaching was when most of the lifts were opening too. The call of the Marmots which are pretty common were also very unusual as we flew down the trails!
The second day in Bourg led us up the funicular railway (After we had bought our area pass for the next 7 days (Approx 80 euros)) and then up the Cachette chair lifts to the groomed red, black and blue runs where we played on the trails and feeling our feet as it were before we moved to the chalet.
We had a great couple of days riding steadily before we moved up to Peisey and I managed to get some footage of our first full day’s riding on my GoPro as well a load of stills to boot. I made a fairly dirty edit below (to be improved LOL). They were variably waymarked but Neil had it in hand with his previous visit and knowledge of the free MTB trail maps we had it in hand. Eating out wasn’t cheap given the exchange rates and the special beers were at least 5 to 7 euros a pint so tried not to drink too much!
We said goodbye to Bourg and decamped up to Peisey to our relatively luxury ski chalet, Chalet Bronzier. Plenty of room for the group with WiFi, TV, cooking facilities and bike storage. We all arrived by the Saturday evening and the place was full. Not enough time to ride so I went out with Janet, Neil and Faff for a walk to the local river and falls behind Le Moulin. Fabulous blue waters and torrid foaming fast running water made for a Tog’s delight as I left the ground and set up camp with my tripod and DSLR to return 2 hours later hot and sweaty.
Later that evening I walked about 2-3 miles up the road to Nancroix and grabbed a stunning sunset of the clouds rolled over the peaks including Laliet and Grande Casse as well as the Grande Motte.
We mostly rode around The Les Arcs Valley and down into Bourg for the next 2 days. We mostly used the and the Lobster Pots cage and Vallandry Lifts and also riding down into Bourg the train back up to Les Arc 1600 and on from there, traversing sometimes on paths and fire roads to link more of the region up. One day we included guided riding taken by a local French guide who ran out of the Intersport shop in Vallandry. It cost us about 30 euros each as there was about 10 of us. It was money well spent. The local knowledge meant riding great fresh singletrack, some pretty extreme for all but a few of our group. The off-piste make for quiet undisturbed riding but without the pain of knowing which trail to take next. Knowing what could expect in front on virgin trail helps you prepare and you end up bagging more riding in the day that you would ever do without revisiting a few times. I myself didn’t attempt a few jumps and drops other did with variable success, some of the off being captured on camera for prosperity!
After lunch, whilst sitting on the Cachette lift we felt some spots of rain, this then turned to hail towards the top and the temperature dropped. We saw a few flashes of lightning and the lift speeded up. After the lift was emptied it was shut down and we huddled under the lift as the hail worsened and the storm came closer. It was a great site but we were rather cold and wet. My friend Neil managed to capture some of it on film. Needless to say the afternoon was a bit of a washout but makes you glad you have packed a waterproof as on our return we nearly got hypothermia.
We had another guided day with the Coolbus guys later in the week which had set up waymarked routes and a paid uplift service for about 35 euros which was pretty good for a shuttle service. Unfortunately I was ill for a couple of days and couldn’t participate but the group said it was one of the best days biking on natural singletrack again away from the groomed trails.
I managed to grab one day at the end for some shots of the local area, visiting the local chapel at Les Vernettes. The views were spectacular and the flowers on the alpine meadows were glorious. Was a baking day and I ran out of water in my hydration pack. With 10kg of equipment and temperatures > 30 degrees took its toll and I left a bit early to stop myself from being dehydrated although there are some fresh water streams along the way.
All in all a great holiday with some great riding and fabulous scenery and got a bit of togging in to boot! I’ve been asked by Dogtag Insurance to write a blog so I’ll elaborate on the above and link when to it when it’s finished.