Anja Kallenbach is back in the Alps. She tells us, how it feels and what the Pro riders can expect on the 23rd of July at the Tour de France.
Spring is here, and I have been waiting for so long to go back to the Alpes. I found the perfect ride.
On July 23 the Tour de France will pass through my second home, the Haute Savoie, where I do all my races. So, I already know the mountains of this stage well, although I didn´t do them in this order before. My boyfriend has been so nice to follow me with the car and shoot some beautiful photos too.
As the Tour’s Stage 20 will also do, I started my day in Megève, a nice village in summer (in winter it is very crowded and expensive). The the day started nice and easy with a gentle descent. The first mountain is the Aravis. The climb is about 12km long with a 5 percent average gradient. It starts in the valley beside waterfalls and then offers higher an incredible view to the Mont Blanc – simply beautiful! My FOCUS Cayo makes climbing so much easier. You just have to watch out for some huge holes on the road. Here I was first time happy about my new Zipp Tangente 28mm tires, which makes it really more confortable to ride on rough roads.
The descend to Grand Bornand is not long or difficult. Then starts directly the famous Colombière. The climb is 700m over 12km. Though it’s not steep, you have a great view on the lovely village of Grand Bornand and the mountains beside. But then I passed an alarming red sign that read, “Closed.” I got my jacked from the car and tried my luck with the bike. First it was possible to continue with the bike, but then the road was covered with snow, so I had no other choice than to carry my bike for almost 1km. My boyfriend unfortunately had to drive all the way through the valley. But afterward I knew I could enjoy a great descend. The first kilometers have almost no curves, so this was a fast descend. Since I have my Cayo Disc, I enjoy descending more. The brakes needed almost no hand power to have the full braking control. The wet roads from melting snow didn’t change the performances. Once in the flat valley, I lost my way several times until I finally found by boyfriend with his car.
With almost no mountain riding so far this year because of weather, I started to ask myself if I would be able to finish the day’s ride. I knew very well, that the hard times ahead – the Ramaz has some steep parts and the Joux Plane is simply hard. But first I had this valley to finish with a little climb at the end. I stopped to get a sandwich from the car – much better than eating bars all day!
THE ADVENTURE STARTS
With new power I arrived at the foot of the Ramaz. The road is not too steep. You pass flowers and little wood houses, and the view to the valley and the Mole on the other side is great. But when you see the tunnels coming, the challenge starts. The sign on the road says it: next kilometer 11%.In France, every kilometer is a sign which tells you your altitude, how many kilometers to go, and the gradient of the next kilometer. The day was hot. You are happy to pass the tunnels with their shadow to escape the sun. I suffered, but fortunately I had my 40T chainring and the 11-36T cassette… and, for the first time that day, I used my 36 cog. Leaving the last tunnel, I knew the hardest part of this 14km climb was done. The last 4km are not so hard. Then came another red “Closed” sign!
There was simply no road any more. I think they are making a new one for the Tour. But, hey, I have a versatile FOCUS with 28mm Zipp Tangente tires, so I was ready to have fun on the gravel, mud, and puddles.. I easily finished even the descent on the gravel road.
FIGHT FOR REWARDS
The Joux Plane starts at the village of Samoens. It is amazingly beautiful here. The Tour de France racers will not have the time, but I stopped at "Tiffany’s" to have one of their amazing fruitcakes. Then it was back to reality – the Joux Plane starts without any kindliness. You leave the village and the road starts with 11 percent gradient. Your leg hurt immediately. There are 2 or 3 kilometers in the middle that are a little bit easier, but on average it is a very hard 12km with 9 percent average gradient. I am sure this will be the place for an epic fight on July 23.
On this day, 6km before the summit nothing more seemed possible. I was ‘empty’ and tired and had cramps, which I normally don’t have. But I was not about to give up. A short picnic stop brought new energy so I could attack the last kilometers of the day. The finish was really impressive with tons of snow. I felt like a winner passing my personal finish line today, the summit of the Joux Plane! I wanted to attack the descend to Morzine, but here my journey ended. The road was closed because of avalanche risks. This was a serious reason to stop. But I know this descend well. It is a very difficult and technical one. The road is not in a good condition (that will perhaps change for the Tour). I have won the race La Morzine one time thanks to this descend. So I hope you will have the time to come to France this year to experience this year’s huge Tour de France Etape on your own!