BY KIRSTEN HOWELLS
For the last three years I’ve spent the first week of June with some of my fab fellow #TeamTCUK athletes in the French Alps. We’re all mad about that three-in-one sport, triathlon, and descending on the beautiful alpine town of Morzine is now an annual training camp that none of us ever wants to miss – I honestly think we’ll still be doing this when we’re 70!
Hosted by the brilliant Buzz Performance, we couldn’t ask for better support and coaching from former professional triathletes Amelia & Joe Pearson who have become firm friends and always embrace our crazy ideas of training rides – more on that later! When you’re in a different country and you fancy an interval swim session in Lake Geneva or cycling several Cols in one day, you need people you can trust and rely upon. Amelia & Joe are those people – they know all the climbs, all the swims, all the run routes because they’ve done them all themselves. Their knowledge is invaluable and, best of all, they love to join us on our team adventures.
So, this year’s camp, what did we get up to? Well, let’s start with our accommodation. The 240-year old Ferme a Mamychalet was our base for the week and it was absolutely spot on. Comfy beds, ensuite bathrooms, a bike room for all our cycling and run kit, hot tub, sauna, not one but two lounges to chill out in after a hard day’s training and a central location just 10 minutes walk from Coup de Coeur, our favourite bar in Morzine. Perfect.
Next up I have to mention the food simply because it’s always a highlight of our trip – a three-course meal with wine and beer every night, what more could you wish for? And there’s no washing up, bonus! Pippa was our chef for the week and on our very first morning I knew she was going to smash it after she impressed Bogsey with her Hollandaise sauce. Believe me, if you get praise from Bogsey for something that he doesn’t even like, you really have made it in the culinary world.
Every morning we had a choice of fresh croissants, eggs done various ways, pancakes, homemade porridge, fruit, yogurt and fresh bread to fuel us. For lunch, more fresh bread (we got through 40 baguettes, 20 packs of butter and 120 eggs during the week!), local cheese and ham, salad and a freshly baked cake or cookies. And then, every day topped off with an amazing three-course meal which featured everything from a fish curry to pulled pork, roast duck, lamb meatballs and sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce. One evening Pippa was worried she’d cooked too much. Pocket-rocket, Jo Sutton, was on hand to reassure her: “no problem Pippa, we’ll get through all that” she said. Jo knows us all so well: empty plates all round.
And now to the BEST part of the whole week: the training sessions. Every night we would discuss plans for the following day so we all knew what to expect and plan for. On our first morning we cycled up to the ski resort of Avoriaz and grabbed a coffee in the sun at the top. After lunch we had a coached swim session in the pool in Morzine and then headed out on a trail run along the river.
Day two was spent in the saddle, my favourite place to be! A tough but very rewarding 90km group ride taking in three famous cols, all of which we’d done in previous years but we did them in reverse this time. Stacks of stunning alpine villages along the way, breath-taking views, zero potholes, smiles and banter all round. Not a day for the sprinters though was it Smithy? Having said that, he did pass Joe about 200m from the top of Col de la Ramaz. Joe was stopped at the time though…
A 5 mile trail run up to Lac Montriand before breakfast kicked off day three. We then piled into the mini-bus and drove over to Lake Geneva for an interval open water swim session in crystal clear waters. Just perfect. We were entertained during the journey with an entire rendition of The Greatest Showman. Cheers Jo!
Back on the bikes for day four and a truly epic 75km ride over to Annecy taking in a brand new climb for all of us – the Montèe du Salève. The ascent through the woods was a real highlight – I love cycling under trees – and the view over Geneva from half way up nearly made me fall off my bike. It was so good Coach Matt cycled back down to get a photo! The descent was incredible too. From a misty, eerie summit to a lush green, warm valley – flying down the side of a mountain on two wheels is guaranteed to make you feel alive. We ended the day with a splash in the warm waters of Lake Annecy. Fridays don’t really get much better.
Not sure who hatched the idea but, still buzzing from our Annecy adventure, we decided that our last day would see us ride the famous Joux Plane from Morzine, grab a coffee in Samoëns and then head back to Morzine via the Joux Plane. We aptly named the 52km, 2101m total ascent route, the Deux Plane. It’s set to become legendary in alpine cycling circles. Watch this space.
As if there wasn’t enough ascent right there, several of the gang went on to ride another 10km and smash up Mont Caly (it’s definitely not flat!) finishing with a 10km brick run at altitude. Crackers. All I could manage was a 2km brick shuffle from the chalet. We ended the day with a group recovery swim session in the pool. Bike, run, swim Saturday. Doesn’t really matter which way round you do it in the Alps, you’re always going to have a smile on your face.
I was lucky enough to squeeze an extra ride in on Sunday morning before we left. My absolute favourite climb up the Joux Verte to Avoriaz. It’s one of those climbs that has everything: multiple hairpins, trees, meadows, smooth road surface, steep bits, flat bits and a crazy goat village in the middle of it all. I got stuck behind a herd of cows on my second ever time on the Joux Verte. Shortly after that, Hobbsie had a suicidal goat throw itself in front of his bike. Never a dull moment in the Alps!
If you love cycling. If you love running. If you love swimming. If you love triathlon. If you love the great outdoors. You will love a Buzz Performance and #TeamTCUK training camp. And, if you don’t, I will eat my cycling helmet. See you in June 2019, and, fingers crossed, every June for the next 30 years!
P.S. The ‘lanterne rouge’ is mine so hands off!