The French Alps

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I’ve just spent 6 days cycling in the Alps around St Jean de Maurienne and Annecy with some mates. I could write a huge spiel about each day, but that’s probably a bit repetitive so here’s the Thirteen Things I Learnt From Cycling in the Alps.

  1. People who say you can’t train for the Alps in the UK are talking nonsense. Yes we don’t have any 30km long climbs, but if you can ride your bike hard for an hour and a half in the UK you can do it up the Galibier. 
  2. Motorhomes are incredibly cheap up front for a week’s transport and accommodation, but become a lot less cheap pretty fast when you factor in French peage charges and fuel costs.
  3. Every ride should end with a dip in Lake Annecy in bib shorts.
  4. One delicious, replenishing beer at lunch time is completely necessary. Three beers at lunchtime can make descending a mountain mildly treacherous.
  5. French roads are immaculate.
  6. Eau Potable is the most precious commodity around, cash in when the opportunity presents itself.
  7. Boulangeries stocked to the brim with freshly baked goods are found in every single little French village, but when you need one for some breakfast at the start of a bike ride they all vanish.
  8. The French can’t make a good espresso.
  9. Heart rates are boring…and really really useful. When a climb goes on for 30km it’s rather handy to avoid the red zone for as long as possible.
  10. Mountains look awesome and keep getting awesomer the higher up you get. Enjoy the views.
  11. It gets quite hot in France in August. One day my Garmin clocked 42 degrees, get as much climbing done early doors if you can to avoid the worst of it and make time to enjoy an nice leisurely lunch.
  12. The French are crap at making Strava segments, usually just naming them after the road number the climb is on. “D926” is neither as romantic or instructive as “Le Col de la Croix de Fer”.
  13. Come armed with a fresh set of brake pads and keep your braking surfaces nice and clean. Had squeaky brakes all the way down the Telegraphe. Nobody likes squeaky brakes.
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