We arrived at Geneva airport early last Saturday morning and were thrown into a mild panic when my bike didn’t show up – a mountain biking holiday without a bike wouldn’t have been much fun. But was just a broken conveyor belt at outsized baggage.
Reunited with bags and bikes, we were collected by Gerry, one of our guides for the week and drove through Annecy where we were hit with the full force of the sun and 30degree heat. Having left Scotland dressed in jeans, hoodies and down bodywarmers this was a shock to the system and although the sun was very welcome, the heat and strength of the sun was a bit daunting given the amount of riding we had planned.
After about three hours we arrived in Landry, a small village 7km from Bourg St Maurice nestled in the forested valley below the ski resorts of La Plagne and Les Arc. Bike Village in Landry was to be our home from home for the week. We spent the afternoon relaxing in the garden until the rest of the guests arrived in time for dinner. Our fellow riders consisted of a German girl who lived in Brussels and a group of five girls from the Lake District. Si is the only male guest (but all three guides plus the owner are all male so the overall balance is pretty good).
Our first ride takes us directly from the house. Starting through classic alpine meadow, riding through the long grass the pollen hits my throat and lungs and I spend the rest of the day wheezing and barking. Not the most auspicious start, particularly with a 1000m climb ahead of us. We rode up underneath the ‘Vanoise Express’ cable car linking La Plagne and Les Arc and through ski village Piesy-Vallandry and stopped for water in a village on the way up before continuing to the chapel at an altitude of 1800m just below Les Arc.
After lunch at the chapel it was all downhill back to Landry at 800m on tight switchbacks and beautiful forest trails, skimming over bone dry grippy roots, without a muddy puddle in sight. About three-quarters of the way down we stopped to re-group and suddenly I was hit by the familiar tightening in my chest and wheezing. Whatever had been causing the reaction was clearly something in the valley that wasn’t such an issue up high. I don’t usually suffer from hay fever in Scotland but do sometimes react very badly to tree pollen in London. I would have to find some anti-histamine and hope that this was just a first-day problem that could be managed.
My gps stopped before we reached the top of the climb so I don’t have any stats on this first day’s riding but I estimate we rode about 25-30km over about five to five and a half hours and we know we climbed 1000m of ascent (and same in descent).