This year’s Etape du Tour Annecy was certainly a cracker. The start finish loop meant that there was a real buzz round town. The blue sky above meant that conditions we perfect for those training in Mallorca and the organisers had learnt some vital lessons from last’s Etape.
Our Big Brother house for the week was on the shores of Talloires on the east of Lake Annecy, a flatish 10km from the old town of Annecy. If you are considering a cycling trip in the Annecy area, then start your search with an abode in Talloires – it is just the perfect spot to base yourself.
I was the only one travelling from Mallorca, the rest had flown in days before, all from the UK. I arrived on the Friday and by then they had already made themselves acquainted with the best spots dining spots on the edge of the lake and had over done it at a Rose Party somewhere on the lake. Having proudly stated that my bike assembly was smoother than normal and that I hadn’t forgotten anything, I secretly phoned home to confirm that my Garmin attachment thingy was still in my shorts pocket from the night before. Indeed it was, and thus I started my search for a local bike shop and a Garmin thingy.
We joined the rest of the rabble at Le Poisson Rouge restaurant in Sévrier, on the edge of the lake. We quickly established that chefs have an easy life in the Annecy area – it is impossible to dine anywhere after 2pm, even if you have friends already dining in the restaurant, clocking up an impressive dead Rose count. We sat under the trees, with a stunning view of the lake as those left in the kitchen kindly rustled up some wonderful French cheeses, bread, saucisson and more bottles of chilled Rose…
We left the majority of the crew at the restaurant and headed off to find a bike shop, joining the masses on single lane road round the lake heading into Annecy. Provelo eng.provelo.fr was recommended to us and the owner was a true gent. He ticked off all the items on our shopping list…. The Garmin thing, gas bottles, inner tubes, gels and new Mavic tyres.
Back home we headed to the lake for a swim, some went for a water ski and the others returned a little wabbly from Le Poisson Rouge debating whether their waitress was the most attractive waitress in the World or just Western Europe.
Lake Annecy en.lac-annecy.com was formed 18,000 years ago as a result of the melting of Alpine glaciers and the ‘Blue Lake’ was spectacular early morning on Saturday fas we headed out for our pre-Lions cycle. Those of us who hadn’t partied till 4am in the BB house cycled out at 7am for a extended loop of le lac. At 9am we registered in the Etape Village and then stretched our legs homeward for our water taxi that was booked for 10:45.
Our rendezvous point for the water taxi, was on the lake 100m past the (traditional French) Cottage Hotel www.cottagebise.com – a favourite of my folks. Off we headed to “the Irish bar” in Annecy. Having established the Irish bar opened at 5pm (a strange business decision), we joined the hundreds of other British & Irish faithful and wandered the romantic streets of Alpine Venice in search of somewhere to watch the boys in red. Someone on the team of staff at Le Milton restaurant decided it would be prudent to switch allegiances from F1 to Rugby and The Lions served up a real treat. I am not quite sure where I was watching Jeremy Guscott’s drop goal squeeze between the posts in 1997, but safe to say I was sipping something a bit more exciting than a sparkling water.
Anyway a rendezvous with a fellow Etape cyclists from Mallorca and then into the village for a snoop round. Our water taxi met us outside the impressive Hotel Imperial www.hotel-imperial-palace.com and we set off on our 20 minute boat ride across the corner of the lake. Back at the ranch we headed to the lake for the swim while the rest jumped on our boat for a water ski. Prior to heading to the BB house to get ready for tomorrow, we concluded that one beer would be acceptable preparation for the challenge that laid ahead and we sat on the sofas outside Le Cottage and nursed a Kronenbourg 1664 till it went warm. At home, bikes & cycling gear were prepped, departure times & strategies were discussed and lots of tuna and pasta was digested before a restless nights sleep.
I had changed numbers with one of the guys, so after my early porridge, I headed off at 6am as the rest were rising. The 10km ride to the start got the legs spinning. The road was littered with cyclists, parked up, putting their bikes together and loading up their supplies. With my new number in the 4000’s, my start time was 07:15 which was a real touch as I was closer to the front and would head up Semnoz before it was too hot. I chatted to some great guys from Amer Sports who own numerous well known sports brands such as Mavic, Wilson, Salomon, www.amersports.com. One of the chaps was from Annecy and had been out and previously cycled the route, one of the others looked v fit and from his patter sounded an experienced cyclist. Their advice mirrored the research I had done – save yourself for the final climb of Semnoz. My plan was to enjoy the early part of the route. Overtake but ride within myself up Côte du Puget, Côte de Aillons-le-Vieuxand and the Col du Prés as they were similar to a lot of the shorter climbs in Mallorca. Push myself up Col du Mont-Revard and hang on in up Semnoz. I only planned to stop for two water refills and maybe an extra up Semnoz if needed.
I stuck with my Amer Sports guys in yellow for the first 20km and got through a fair bit of traffic. I then kept up with the fitter guy until my 1st water stop before the descent of the Col de Prés. The scenery as ever in the Alps is spectacular, but with clear blue skies and the back drop of the Lac the first 15km was something special. I was ahead of time at my water stops at 50km and again at 77km and clocked that I was on track for under 6hrs. The right hand bend in Quintal showed us what was to come, straight into over 10% gradient and the heat was a little bit toasty! The streets were lined with people cheering us all on and gave you that cheeky little boost you needed – in a funny way, you get a feel for what it must be like for the pros on the tour. It was at that point I decided to use the water stop at 120km to top up on liquid and stretch my back out. The hardest point was 7-4km from the top, where you needed a word with yourself and had to focus ahead. For some strange reason I started humming the theme tune from The Great Escape, much to the surprise of my fellow cyclists and my own amusement. As we hit the top, we were in the clouds and the temperature dropped. It would have been a bit parky if the general weather conditions weren’t so warm. Plenty of food at the top I particularly remember shovelling in handfuls of the most wondrous ham & cheese quiche and necking warm bubbly coke till my eyes watered. I checked in with the government at home to let her know I was safe and sound and then headed down to the Tented Village in Annecy, with my fingers crossed (or thumb held if you are Swedish) that I wouldn’t get any form of mechanical failure.
As you arrived at the village there was a second finishing line, a red carpet and loads of people cheering you in. I headed for pasta party, which was a bag of snack food and a bowl of tomato pasta and sat down on the grass, ate, stretched & bumped into a guy who had stayed with us in Mallorca last year. The crew at the Rapha tent, next to the pop up shop, then looked after me with more Coke, fruit, cakes and sarnies as I waited for the Marsh-Mallow crew to roll in. I met some cool people at the tent including Anthony from www.performance-pro.co.uk who has a great new setup in Great Titchfield Street, London. We had a few beers on the grass, bumped into Dave & Grant who had been out to Mallorca in 2012 and then headed off for a couple of days partying round the lake…. Highlights were a wonderful long lunch at Ma Cousine www.chezmacousine.fr, stopping off at a beach club, a bit of tipsy wake surfing, cocktails at Le Cottage, Pizzas at….. can’t remember the name.
With the one exception due a blowout early on, it was great to see all Marsh-Mallows complete the course and that included all those who were out training with us in 2013.
Stats – 2013 Etape Du Tour Annecy
11,475 cyclists from over 50 countries rolled over the start for the 21st edition of the Etape du Tour. With 3,500m of vertical climbing it was great to see 10,624 cyclists finish the 128km route. Congratulations to all!
Next Trip Vatternrundan 2014 – 300km flat cycle round one of Sweden’s largest lakes. We plan on taking 30 cyclists in 3 teams to complete the challenge, have a laugh and experience a sportive away from the usual French Alps. Drop us an email if you are keen.