Day One: Geneva – Allevard

The day started mercifully dry but wet underfoot (or maybe I should say ‘tyre’) and the forecast somewhat better than the rain and storms forecast earlier in the week. In the event we stayed dry until we hit the mountains, later in the morning, when we got very wet but happily that was the only rain we saw for the rest of the trip.

Departure on these trips is always a high mix of nervous chat, laughter, outright fear and anxiety and when that is multiplied 40 times over, it’s a heady formula. However, with bikes prepped and ready, the optimists showing Macmillan Jerseys and the others in rain gear, we set off at 8.00, only to stop at 8.02 as Robert had a puncture, so we lined up at the roadside while that was fixed. We then launched into the slow process of leaving Geneva, traffic light by traffic light with the cry of ‘split’ ringing out every time the group was split at a red light. Andrew then made the fatal error of side slipping a tram line and came down heavily on his shoulder and Jock also fell but without a good reason as is his custom!

We had a team photo down by Lake Geneva and then about 40 minutes later, we started to clear the City and the traffic. There was then a steady climb onto higher altitudes and cloud and rain, on quieter, small back roads. At some point I presume we also passed into France but I’m not sure when and we never passed a visible checkpoint. The route, in customary DA fashion, was marked by orange triangles pointing the way, a system which works well until some local vandal, or in the case of Annecy, the local deputy Mayor, decides they’re illegal and takes them down!

The morning saw us head South into the beautiful town of Annecy, surrounded on the way by fields and distant views of the Alps. There was a welcome random coffee stop for most in Annecy and then a steady climb to lunch where sadly Nobby was offloading gear as the van was malfunctioning once again & he was off to try and find a replacement alternator. A vendor at a hotdog stand proved amazingly helpful and phoned several places for us and miraculously found a possible solution, some many miles away.

A descent and climb to Col de Frêne at 950 mts came after lunch together with an 8km switchback descent, which was quite wonderful, but high winds made this a hairy experience and not everyone enjoyed it.

The final leg of the day took us up a valley with high sided, dramatic cliffs and where the temperature dropped quite dramatically. The rivers were massively swollen and very fast flowing, a result, I think, of the best snow conditions through Winter and Spring, the Alps have had for many years.

Our hotel in Allevard was adequate but very French, very dated and being allocated the disabled room where the bleak and cold bathroom was as big as the bedroom, was hardly designed to lift spirits. I’d also had a hard day’s ride, feeling out of sorts and where I struggled to keep up with the mates I regularly ride with. I also began to feel seriously off colour soon after arrival so took my ECG with an app I have and was able to diagnose I was in Atrial Fibrillation, a condition that I’d had diagnosed about 6 months ago and which means my heart beat is irregular. Fortunately this passed in about an hour, but I was to feel way below my cycling best for much of the ride and not quite sure what to attribute that to.

We had a good group dinner and a briefing on day two which we were told held a number of ‘cheeky’ climbs for us. ‘Cheeky’ sounded ominous and indeed it would prove to be so!

However, the good news was that half way through dinner, we were told that Nobby was on the way back, the van was fixed & we flocked outside to give him a rousing welcome!

Stats of the day:
85 miles
2650 metres of climbing