Vote Leave*.

Col des Planches. Trying to make it out through the murk, if only there was some sort of analogy link wi the referendum there....

I left the EU today**. It was easy too. Me and 3 fellow EU citizens packed the bikes into the car, went to the boulangerie and drove over the border into the wildlands of Switzerland. Then after a days riding came back to the EU.

There’s still a couple of days to go until the Chamonix lifts open for the summer so lazy riding needs a bit more effort. Fortunately Switzerland’s Postbus service can provide just the help we need to get 1700m of descending for only 700m of up.

Woop.

There's some stunning views of the Rhone valleys. Apparently.

The Col des Planches area is new to me but Oli and Jarno have ridden there (and quite a few other places) plenty so there was none of the route finding stress I normally associate with riding somewhere new. Perhaps there’s something to be said for riding with a guide and bike holiday organiser in the crew.

There’s also a lot to be said for riding with a photographer in the crew, however the batteries died in Tom’s camera (possibly due to the several hundred artistic shots of “roof-rack mounted bike shadow on assorted roadside surfaces” on the drive over) and for most of the downs we were moving too fast and enjoying the flow too much to be having with any of that stopping for just push-up-one-more-time malarky, so don’t expect many insta-bangers the day.

Trailspotting

Enough of the scene setting. We’ve driven over to Martigny, taken the road up towards the Col des Planches, and parked the car at the village of Chemin Dessus (yes, that is the name of the village). A relaxed pedal up the hill later and we have to make the first choice of the day. A longer ride, with more climbing, to get two big descents or a shorter climb for a shorter descent to start, then a much bigger descent for main course. With the cloud settling in around us and the forecast for heavy rain early in the afternoon we went with the shorter day.

Looks a bit muddy, but it wasn't.

Said short climb through the mist done, we were ready to drop into Sentier des Mines. It’s called Sentier des Mines because it’s the path to the mines. The mines that you can still wander about inside (we’re not in the EU anymore Dorothy, them thar Belgian bureaucrats canny stop us getting killed in an abandoned mine now….) for quite some distance, though bringing a torch would be a good idea.

Mines. Better with more equipment than an i-phone app and a camera flash.

Fun as the dietrus of the industrial age is, the trail down was lots more interesting, and made even more interesting by the 4 up race to the end of the trail. The only thing better than trying to overtake 2 riders in one move is trying to overtake 3 with one move.

Sentier des Mines done we headed back up the same tarmac for the main line of the day, 950m descent from the junction of Route du Planard and Route du Col des Planches.

The ellusive mid crash photo. Tom en route to a sliced elbow.

Jarno and Oli were warning that there’s a couple of tricky hairpins near the start. They weren’t joking! Tight and steep is not too bad, but when you add exposed into the mix it’s all a bit more interesting. Oli got the only clean descent of the 3 of us, but Tom won most dramatic when he celebrated surviving the hairpins by clipping the side of the trail on the last narrow bit and firing him and bike off down the scree. He received a good sized slice through his elbow as a prize, and the first aid kits got raided to stick him back together again.

Stoppie turns for the win!

That was the last of the drama, and pretty much the last of the photos, as from here down the trail was just fast and swooping singletrack through a mix of alpine style trees and Mediterranean coast style brush. All grand fun if eyewateringly quick in places.

Any takers? I'll hold the camera.

Then, as there’s the unbreakable rules of physics to contend with, what went up finished coming down and we cruised back along the valley floor to the Martigny amphitheatre to watch the lions eat the Christians whilst we munched our sandwiches.

Fittingly some roadies arrived and sat down on the other side to do the same, so obviously a gladiatorial duel ensued. 6.9kg road bikes are nae match for our enduro gnar and no sooner had we bludgeoned them to death than we got the emperors thumbs up and headed off to 21st century Martigny for a coffee whilst waiting for the bus to get us back up to the car. Tae be fair, dropping the 5.60chf plus 1/2 fare for the bike would be the better way of making our way up the hill, but the bus timetable is a little limited, so bus at the end of the ride it was.

Hail bikers.

As we headed back to the shining bright lights of the EU we got stopped at the border, which reminded me, have you ever seen the length of the queue for the Non-EU citizens passport booth at border control? This referendum shouldn’t be about the economy or if you don’t want to share your island with other folks, no, just think of your holidays people.

Light at the end of the tunnel/oncoming train.

Please, please, please don’t vote leave! but if that’s the majority choice from the public, then out the EU we go. At least it will be the common will and so the UK should go forward looking to see what it can do for the world rather than what the world can do for it irrespective of the outcome. For your random non-bike lesson of the day however……consider Socrates.

The Socrates who accepted his (wrongful) execution by the state, even though he had plenty chance to escape, on the grounds that it was prescribed by democracy and therefore was right***. Even if it was wrong. That’s the Socrates who tried to prove the oracle at Delphi’s proclamation that he was the wisest of all was wrong as he considered himself to posses no wisdom. He questioned all the wisest members of Athens society and found them to think themselves wise, but there was more they didn’t know than they did. He knew he didn’t know very much which paradoxically meant he was wiser. And a bit of smart arse too, so aforementioned Athens high heidyins, who were a bit fed up now of being made to look foolish, sent him to trial. You can guess how it went from there, but if you want more, try looking on the internet.

*Not actually today, it was the 8th, but that doesn’t scan quite as well.

***Yeah, I know, the scholarly jury is still out on this interpretation but it’s fairly well accepted and fits my analogy well.

Apologies to the majority of readers who ain’t from the UK and are just looking on in bemusement at Brexit.

Useful things guides. Tom gets patched up.

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    Mountain bike blog for Chamonix and the Western Alps

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