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June 27, 2011
I’m back here in Champéry Switzerland galavanting around the Alps satisfying my guilty pleasures. Baggy shorts, black socks, hairy legs, sausages and beer….all the deadly sins a seasoned roadie can possibly indulge.
Over the past weekend I’ve been riding a mountain bike event called the Pass’Portes du Soleil. Ten connected ski resorts and over fourteen lifts throughout the Swiss and French Alps that you traverse by tearing up the descents and sitting easy on the chairlifts. How hard can it be? Over 6000m of descending through 100km of singletrack and only a thousand meters of turning the pedals over. Piece of cake.
The Pass’Portes du Soleil is not a race or timed event. It’s basically an organised festival of mountain biking with 2000 riders appropriately staged from the various ski resorts who aim to complete the set route in a day (or throughout the weekend, whatever you choose). It officially kicks off the opening of the mountain bike season in Portes de Soleil ski region. Many of the towns, resorts and roads you’ll encounter in the area have been made famous by Tour de France mountain top finishes.
There’s no doubt that riding this type of event requires a few things to be in order:
1. A quiver of bike skills far beyond what you’d every need on Beach Road.
2. The biggest hit bike you can possibly find. 150mm on the front and 150mm on the back is barely man enough for the job.
3. An empty stomach. The amount of baguettes, cheese, meats, chocolate fondues, cakes, beer and Rivella that you’ll consume at almost every “ravitaillement” station is unimaginable. Heaven.
4. Forearms of brazen steel. Ever experienced true armpump? You haven’t until you’ve ridden an event like this.
It had been raining for days in the area and thankfully the weekend couldn’t have been more beautiful. 30 degrees and not a breath of wind helped make this event one of the highlights of my cycling life. In terms of terrain, entertainment, food and fun, it was almost identical to what I expected based on last year. Also similar to last year, I underestimated how difficult this day is. I slept like a rock last night and woke up like I just finished Paris-Roubaix.
I’m off for a road ride to shake out the armpump and to clear my guilty conscience from all this mountain biking. Here are a few photos from these past few spectacular days:
As a side note, my good friend Pat who I’m here with hosts a number of cycling tours around Bali, India and Switzerland.
Next year they have put together a 6 day SwissaFranc enduro MTB camp based in the Swiss village Champery (where we are now). The camp will take in the Pass’Porte du Soleil MTB event and other incredible off piste adventures.
They’ve enrolled local and current World Downhill Champion, Petra Wiltshire, to tune up your MTB skills and guide on the secret local trails, and boy can she ride, Petra kicked my ass all week.
Drop Pat a line if you keen to get on board for next years SwissaFranc camp.