Tour du Mont Blanc day 3

……It was a proper lightbulb moment! I don’t know what inspired it, the amazing breakfast or the surreal sculptures of the “walk of the mushrooms”  but suddenly a chain of thought occurred to me – the freehub’s knackered & I don’t want to walk back to Chamonix, high torque will only make it worse, straining up a hill in the granny ring is high torque. Therefore, I can get off and push up the hills and it’s not because the hill has defeated me, I am being a mature, reasoned rider- Get in!

The "mushroom walk". Indeed.

The breakfast was quite likely the cause of such genius thought. After the previous day’s misadventure where neither of us ate enough, we weren’t going to make the same mistake twice. “They have four types of cereal” may not be a statement to excite a seasoned business traveller, accustomed to the Hilton chains’ finest continental buffet breakfast, but most hut breakfasts consist of jam, stale bread and a bowl of coffee. “I’m eating all of them” declared Sanny and then did with much gusto. The couple next to us, walking the TdMB in a brisk 6 days, were chatting with us when conversation stopped & a look of joy spread across the man’s face. “you have to try the Ovaltiny!” we did “it’s like Maltesers, in a paste, on bread” A few sachets may have been purloined from the table for later in the day. Suitably fed and watered we’d waddled upstairs, collected our gear,   grabbed our bikes and headed out for our final day on the trail….

Meters Climbed: 4247

Meters Singletrack descended: 3895

La Fouly descent day 3

……Bovine, bull. The Bovine climb up from Champex has something of a reputation. it was one of the main reasons for us choosing to ride anti-clockwise on the TDMB and so hike the bikes up rather than carry them down this section. Out of Champex; possibly the most perfect Swiss village with its lake, clean quaint streets and cold war gun emplacements, a cunning detour kept us climbing on fire road, interspaced with short sharp descending on rooty single-tech trails. After gaining 200m , the fire road stopped and the trail began. It took us about 90 mins of hike a bike to get over this section, but it’s really not that bad. A few awkward steps to overcome, but nothing like the hell it had been suggested by the irritatingly smug guide back in La Fouly.

Boviner climb

It would be an interesting descent for sure and you’d want either Danny Hart or McAskill’s bikes (I assume you get the skill free when you buy the bike, that’s how it works isn’t it?) as the trail varies between full on rock garden DH to super precise trials between boulders. Definitely a challenge, and not one I’d want on a multi day ride with a light bike and heavy rucksack. There’s a reason every guided mtb route that goes clockwise misses this section out.

Bovine climb

At the opposite end of the scale, once we’d finished dragging the bikes up the bovine climb, the trail abruptly turned 90 degrees right and flattened out, we got back on the bikes for that rarest of incidences, a trail that rides better up hill than down. Part of this may have been that instead of staring at our feet, we were now looking across the Rhone valley, over Verbier and Crans Montana, and even out onto Lake Geneva, a view much easier to appreciate at uphill than downhill pace. Or maybe it was just the excitement of getting to ride the bikes rather than carry them! The rewards weren’t done yet either. Sanny had been briefed on how good the descent from Bovine down to the Col du Forclaz was, and I had a cheeky little track to get us from there down to Trient.

Descend from Boviner

With stunning views and blue skies, we set off down yet another cracking descent. Compared to the previous wooded descents it was much faster riding, with natural rollers setting the bike light into corners, lots of short sharp pedalling to make the most of the banked inside corners, and short sharp braking to steady the nerves on the unbanked, unprotected outside corners! All interspaced with sections of steeper and rootier terrain that needed the levers most of the way to the bar to negotiate, or in Sanny’s case, all the way to the bar as his bike had picked today to give up….

(more) Ice cream, in Trient this time

Meters Climbed: 5448

Meters Singletrack descended: 4844

……All over bar the eating.  I’d enjoyed the climb, the first of the route where I’d ridden the entire thing from metre 0 to metre 800. Just as well too, as it was the last of the route. Sanny hadn’t faired so well. A big crash the previous week had smashed a full face lid and front wheel, also resulting in some very tender ribs. His back was now coming out in sympathy and he was fairly relieved to see the Col du Posettes. Most people are. Even if you live in the valley, the view is something else. First the Chardonet comes into view, wow, what a mountain, then a little higher the Aiguille Vert & Dru’s, you forget the Chardonnet, look at them mountains! Then you get to see Mont Blanc itself, the axis for the ride. At this distance you really appreciate just how big it is. After the compulsory photo stop (go there, see the bit of trail, you’ll understand) we set off up for the final 100m or so of real climbing to the start of our last descent, which I knew wasn’t going to disappoint.

Climb to Le Jeurs

Col du Posettes, with Chardonnet & Vert

Meters Climbed: 6241

Meters Singletrack descended: 4844

The Aiguille des Posettes trail is well known by Chamonix bikers. I’ll admit to selling it a little short to Sanny, partly as the Chamonix v Verbier propaganda war, and partly because the first section promises more than it delivers with regular drainage bars crossing the trail.

Posettes trailPosettes trail descent

As the trail goes below the tree line, the bars stop and the riding gets better and better. Sanny was clearly enjoying it, but something was holding him back. His bike had become increasingly niche and, to compliment the 1×10 gearing (barely indexed now due to bent mech hanger) and cantilever esque braking, the forks had reduced in travel to 45mm to go with the 145mm at the back, all with a super steep headtube angle. A bit like a Proflex from the mid ‘90’s really. These problems couldn’t take the shine off the descent as we rolled through Frasserands & joined the Petit Balcon Nord for the mostly DH cruise into Chamonix where we could begin consuming our own bodyweight in junk food and beer. Even the degregration of Sannys bike, with the bolt through axle & saddle disintegrating on the way through town couldn’t stop us now…

Sanny's bike: no happy

Meters Climbed: 6351

Meters Singletrack descended: 5764

Petite Balcon

So what were the final scores?

Over the 3 days and 3 countries we’d ridden almost 150km, climbed 6351m and descended 5764m of singletrack. Broken 1 spoke, 1 rear hub, 1 saddle, 1 rear mech hanger, 1 front shifter unit, 1 fork, 2 brakes and had no punctures. Taken a combined 870 Photos and eaten more than we normally would in a week.

Refuge Nant Borant

Only you can’t measure a trip like this in figures:  It’s about the feeling of travelling a proper distance, one you can see on a big scale map; of not having to get back to the starting point that afternoon, but keeping going; and seeing the landscape change.

I’d aimed to get as much quality singletrack descending in without straying too much from the Cols and valleys taken by the normal walkers route, but never expected that the quality of the riding could be so consistently high.

So what are you waiting for…

Youla descent, Peutery behind