Hi everyone, and welcome to my first blog post for a while. Most summers I'm able to head back to Méribel for a break, and this year is no different. If you are a regular reader of these posts, you will know that I love my time out here, especially in the summer. This first of three posts is dedicated to the use of two wheels! Cycling is a very popular sport in the mountains, especially with many of us ski instructors. Fresh air, freedom in the mountains and plenty of healthy exercise seems to be a common link with skiing. I love both road cycling and mountain biking; before leaving the UK I shoved both of my bikes in the car for this trip.
In July the Tour de France came up through Méribel, over the Col de la Loze, and continued down to the Courchevel Altiport. Last week another professional road race, the Tour de l'Avenir or Tour of the Future (stars) rode here as well. It was the second time that the Tour de France has ridden the Col de la Loze, the first being 2020. This summer it was also awarded the title of the Queen Stage, ie the hardest. The winner of this might well confirm who would win the race overall. It's a route I've cycled several times before from both directions, and I'll be honest with you, it's absolutely horrible.
In the winter, when skiing, there are two connections between Méribel and Courchevel: Saulire and the Col de la Loze. Both of these options offer beautiful scenery, and it's the same in the summer. Not that you are able to appreciate this when tackling the extremely steep ramps on the way up, but once summited it's a real treat. One interesting thing I noticed this year is that about 70-80 percent of the cyclists up there were on e-bikes, ie battery power assisted. This side of the sport is growing in popularity every year, and I can see why. For those of us who weren't riding e-bikes seemed to have a special bond; there was much encouragement amongst us when the going got tough.
It's a Col that I have cycled every year since it has opened, and I have no idea why, because it is so steep and unpleasant. Perhaps I won't bother next summer, we'll see!?! Another big brute of a climb nearby which occasionally features in the Tour de France (the last time was in 2019), is the Col de l'Iseran. The summit is at 2,770 metres, very high indeed. We've had a nasty heatwave titled the North African Heat Dome going on this month, and cycling at lower altitudes hasn't been that appealing. So I decided to head as high as possible to avoid this heat. I hadn't cycled this Col for well over twenty years, and I'm really pleased that I went up there again.
The Col de l'Iseran route passes through some of the Val d'Isere ski area, which is incredibly dramatic. And at the top there is little vegetation growing. There was a photographer at the side of the road who took the photo above. At that stage of the ride I was hot, pretty knackered, and could barely breathe at such a high altitude. I failed to think to smile when he took the shot!
One thing I didn't realise until I reached the summit is that this Col is the highest road crossing in the Alps. I was buzzing up there, and really proud that I was able to reach it after all of these years had passed. Tell you what though, there were more German motor bike tourers on this route than road cyclists. Talk about a wind up as they scream past you, when you are crawling up in your smallest gear. A much nicer ride than the Col de la Loze, and far fewer e-bikers. But those motor bikers from Germany.......
Another fun way of moving around the mountains, especially downhill, is mountain biking. Here in the 3 Valleys there are a selection of ski lifts that run during July and August. In Méribel the Tougnete gondola and Tougnete chairlift are available, as is the Pas du Lac gondola from Méribel Mottaret. It's a tiny fraction of the lifts that run over the winter months, but these summer ski lifts provides access to plenty of terrain and a decent number of downhill mountain bike trails, as well as enduro routes.
On the ski lifts most of the time mountain bikes dangle off secure purpose built hooks, or sometimes they accompany you inside a gondola.
I've had a great time on both my road and mountain bikes this trip, and have really appreciated the scenery at the same time. The mountains are an incredible place to visit, especially during a heatwave when the air cools down at nighttime at altitude. Right, that's it from me for now. Do come back soon and I'll share some photos taken whilst out hiking. As always let's continue with my mantra - Live With Passion. Martin.