Cycling tours are one of our specialties. This is the story of our 2018 end of season trip, set only a few hours from Morzine in the Swiss Alps. Two thirds of the Buzz team and some Buzz regulars took a cycling tour to Switzerland for arguably one of the most epic days you can do on a bike in the Alps. Nufenen pass, Gotthard Pass, Furka pass and Grimsel Pass – all done in one day. It was a biggie, and spectacular on a whole new level, even by Buzz’s standards.
Setting out from the little town of Obergoms at 8.30am on Sunday 24th September in the damp, we rolled down the main the valley to the bottom of climb one of four; Nufenen. The 14km pass eked its way upwards between several jagged peaks, all of which were snow covered. The day was cold but the 8.5% gradient helped counter that. The sky was overcast and mist shrouded several of the peaks, making it a dramatic start to the day. Atop Nufenen Pass, at 2478m, we regrouped at the restaurant, Matt and Russ having climbed slightly faster than Joe and myself. Re-layering quickly – it was single figures temperature wise – we began the 22km descent towards Airolo. The road was wide and the wind was reasonably low, however instead of a continuous sheet of tarmac, the road was constructed out of blocks of concrete. This made for a slightly bumpy ride down, but you can’t complain too much about 22km downhill.
From the Italian speaking Swiss town of Airolo we immediately began climbing Gotthard pass, or Passo del San Gottardo (the Italian name, in case you were wondering). A 13km climb with a more forgiving 7% gradient. The pass snaked its way up the hill side – this time the peaks not snow capped – and wove its way around main road which hosted convoys of Porshe, Corvettes and all manner of other super cars and super bikes. Our road, the old road, was cobbled for the last six kilometres. and in sections of the first six. The cobbles added to the experience and were certainly a novelty (though 6km of cobbles was more than enough, as they did make things a bit harder). At the summit, we enjoyed a German Bratwurst served by an Italian speaking man, who was charging Swiss prices – cultural melting pot!
Descending about 3km of cobbles before we were thankfully back on tarmac, we made our way towards the base of Furka Pass. By this point we had completed about 3 hours of riding and it was high time for a coffee. From the coffee stop we guessed where the climb might lead, not realising the scale of our next pass, but it was a good thing we stopped for a coffee. On the way up we passed a golf course and many a motorist, but not surprisingly we didn’t see many other cyclists – the hills were snow topped and the temperature low, but the skies were blue and the views unbelievable. With about five kilometres to go Matt, Joe and I were feeling the hurt. Russ had left us early on and had been riding just as strong all day. The last few kilometres were a challenge and I’ve never been so pleased to encounter a large empty café, staffed by two Nepalese women. The cake was amazing! As was the cookie and nut-tart thing. Or maybe I was just hungry. The Col sign and café were situated on a large bend in the road, on a plateaux, so we couldn’t see what lay ahead.
We got rolling again, and after a few minutes of coasting on the flat, we reached the edge of the mountain and saw the valley below. What we saw has got to be the most stunning view I’ve witnessed here at Buzz. Two roads rose up either side of the valley from their meeting point on the valley floor, one to the right, and one directly below us and to the left. There were more switchbacks than you could count, the roads stretching on for kilometres, to a back drop of what seemed like the entire Swiss Alps and wispy white clouds in an otherwise blue sky. The Hotel Belvedere sat on the first switch back of the descent down to our right. The was road was stunning enough to make its way into a bond film. Further over to the right behind the hotel was the remains of glacier, and the amazing landscape it had carved into the mountain side. The road was unbelievably smooth, flowing and not overly technical, and we were pushing 80km per hour in a few sections. But what was so amazing about it was that you could see the epic road that lay ahead of you, and what you had just descended. It made you fall in love with road cycling again at every corner.
The switchback road up the other side of the valley was Grimsel Pass, our final ascent of the day. Only 6km, but with a head wind on every other switch back. At the top we regrouped for the final time, ready for the downwards home stretched, exuberated by the days amazing ride. The descent home was fast and again the pristine Swiss roads made even the slight damp very manageable. All in we covered nearly 120km and climbed 3500m. Each of these incredible passes ended where another began. You really couldn’t want for a better day on a bike. And perhaps the best part is that we were back in Morzine by 9.30pm that evening.
Why cycle indoors?
Indoor cycling in the Alps is not a common thing. But in the bike crazy town of Morzine, it is no surprise that cycling classes with us are so popular. In particular over the winter months, when the roads are (hopefully!) snowy, and locals spend their time nurturing their winter…Continue reading...
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Tour de France 2019
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