Hit The Road
Our friends over at local Morzine magazine- Yodel- take us through the thoughts of one of their early season road rides...
It’s a funny thing, pulling on the lycra and setting out with my housemates for the first road ride of the season. We’re not in a hurry but something inside sets the body ready for a race. It is a very personal challenge and there is nowhere to hide.Route: From Morzine, up Route d’Avoriaz, down Col de la Joux Verte, returning to Morzine through Montriond.
28.3km 790m vertical climb
We ride off out of Morzine chatting merrily, with the gentle early summer sunshine on our backs. We are worlds apart from the professional race circuit with all its fanfare, tv helicopters and cheering crowds. Yet one cannot fail to acknowledge a mysterious kinship with the heroes of history that have climbed, shoulder to shoulder, along this very stretch of road.
The route is a good challenge for early season and not too long. Ascending Route d’Avoriaz we cannot get stranded in a far-flung valley and the descent of Col de la Joux Verte through Les Lindarets down to Lac Montriond is spectacular. I’m riding one of our new Boardman hire bikes with an 11/32 cassette, an exceptionally low gear ratio which is ideal for getting up these big Alpine climbs… especially after too many Mutzigs during the winter.
As the gradient begins to rise, my senses sharpen and pulse quickens, my breathing becomes heavy and focused. I know that no matter how hard it gets, there is no turning back now. The top is the only option. I am in my own world. This is my pace, my race, and that is all there is.
Nineteen hairpins and over an hour later, the road sign marking the end of the pain appears as a lucid mirage over the curved horizon. Spurred on by the broadening panorama I make a final little push and then I stop.
Exhausted. Exhilarated. Unequivocally human.
If the ascent is about fitness and raw determination, then the descent is about big hairy balls… it’s a runaway roller coaster with no rails and zero margin for error. On the drop handlebars the resistance is nothing and gravity fires me like a bullet down the tarmac oblivion. My breathing slows to a meditative pace as the bike senses every tiny bump. I tingle.
Squeezing the hyper-sensitive brakes into the first corner, careful to avoid any blemishes and white lines painted on the road, the bike holds through the turn and eases gingerly into the next straight. With far from perfect technique, each corner and every straight is a tight-rope balance between fear and control. Not to mention the car that appears out of nowhere round a blind hairpin up towards me.
By the end I am cruising, pedalling slowly. The air is warmer down here, and I experience a bizarre sense of re-entering a familiar yet foreign civilization. I feel different. I catch a sideways smile from my housemate Chris and I know that he feels it too. Thank you, mountains, for reminding me that I am alive.