Friday, 30 December 2011

Bit of a blizzard

Here's the village this afternoon. This followed a day of heavy snow and northerly winds - a day to stay indoors!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The deed is done...partially!

Well, I am now the tiniest step closer to riding The 'Ronde van Vlaanderen', Tour of Flanders sportive. That is to say that my entry has now been made. The tip of a very big iceberg! There are 3 distance options; 75km, 140km and 240km. In a fit of over enthusiasm, I have signed up for the 240km option.

Time to do some serious training now thought the cobbles may be a little hard to recreate on the turbo!


Friday, 23 December 2011

Seasons Greetings!

Hope everyone has a great time over the holiday period.

We will be having a white Christmas here in the village. The baking has been done and the mulled wine made.....

All the best for Christmas and New Year,

Guy & Helyn

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Crafty dog...

We have had loads of snow here over the last two days. No doubt about it now, it's going to be a white Christmas here at King of the Mountains. Here's a photo of our decking under a good few centimetres yesterday - there's now around a foot balanced on top of the fence and bird table.

This is great news for us as the local ski pistes on the Col d'Ornon are now open. We have already been up for a couple of cross country ski sessions and conditions are great (even if ours isn't). Out of curiosity I popped the Garmin into my back pocket today to see how long the black run was and how much height gain there is in a loop. 6km with 300 metres + height gain. I have to say it felt further and higher!

Incidentally, hanging from the bird table in the photo is one of those fat/seed balls for birds. One went missing yesterday morning and shortly after this picture was taken, this one did too. I thought the blue tits had an appetite on them until I noticed our next door neighbours dog sneaking out of the garden, licking her lips sheepishly. Apparently she has quite a taste for these, it's not her first time. I imagine she had a bit of a stomach ache last night!


Monday, 12 December 2011

Alpe d'Huez, the new catwalk!

At the end of November, Guy was asked by the local cycle shop (Cycles et Sports), if he had a a spare hour or two to go up to Alpe d'Huez with a journalist and photographer from a French cycling magazine called ' Le Cycle'.

It was a nice sunny day which was fortunate as there was lots of roadside changing to be done! A whole rail of winter clothing plus several flash bikes were taken out of the back of a van and the shoot began!

At one point Guy was given a pair of sunglasses to wear for a shot descending the Alpe, this meant taking his own prescription glasses off and making his way down on a wing and a prayer!

At the end of the shoot, he was given the full Northwave kit to take home; from hat to overshoes. Not a bad mornings work really. Here (top left) is one of the pages featuring King of the Mountains' very own pin-up, and top right, the roadside 'wardrobe'.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

The skis are out!

First cross country ski of the season under our belts!

Saturday we were at Alpe d'Huez and today at Chamrousse. Both days were sunny and bright. Lots of snow forecast here for the next few days so there should be plenty on the Col d'Ornon pistes by the end of the week and we can ski more locally.

A bit rusty to start with but a bit like riding a bike, great to be out in the fresh air getting some exercise again.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Snow time like the present!

Well, it's here and you can hear the local ski resorts sighing with relief!

Yesterday a good few centimetres fell in the local area.

It's unusual for me feel happy about the arrival of snow as I'm pretty content to ride my bike for as long as is possible (though even when not really possible I'll embark on the occasional ride that could feature on 'Frozen Planet'!). This year however I'm pretty fired up about getting out on my cross country skis and using my brand new carbon fibre poles. It's a great way to stay fit for spring and I need to with the Tour of Flanders sportive on my calendar....

Guy and I have worked out a list of cross country ski events that we would like to participate in. As a demonstration of the phrase 'time is a great healer', I am again going to attempt a race called the 'Traversee du Vercors' that I did back in 2009 (see old blog post 'Biting off more than I could chew..'), glutton for 50km worth of punishment!

So, here's the village this afternoon (photo top right); the remaining vegetables interred until spring and one of the Combe Noire gullies behind the house having already avalanched. We have our shovels ready, the fire wood is stacked, snow tyres are on the van and the down jackets are out of the loft. Next job is to wax those cross country skis....


Monday, 5 December 2011

A bit of Alpe d'Huez trivia...

Each of the 21 hairpins of Alpe d'Huez is numbered with a panel. Each panel bears the name/s of stage winners of Tours past.

So, which bend bears the name of Pierre Rolland, winner of the 2011 stage?

Bend 16.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Marmotte entries for 2012

The on-line registration for individual places in the 2012 Marmotte has already closed.

Another season over and time to catch up

Well, it's been a shamefully long time between posts, but now the 2011 season is behind us we can dust down the blog and post the odd bit of news.

Our season started in May with much higher than average temperatures for the time of year. This was bookended by some incredibly warm weather during the last week of October when our last guests left. The snow on the Galibier in July just before the Tour a bit of an anomaly though!

We had a great time during the Tour, it was thrilling to see the riders on the Alpe d'Huez again. I got the impression this year that there were more people than ever lining the route and in Bourg d'Oisans during 'Tour week'. With two days on the Galibier and the TT on our doorstep, we didn't have to go far to catch the action. I think the group of Aussies we had staying that week won't forget their trip for a while!

Not so much riding being done by Guy and I this summer due to the birth of our first child, Alice, in March. Since the season end however we have been making up for lost time. Firstly, with a trip to the south coast for Guy to take part in the Roc d'Azur mountain bike race (see photos above and left). Unable to get a spot in the main race, he found himself in a team from our local cycling club riding in a night time street race (Roc Ruelle). Several 1km circuits of 100% urban riding (including a descent of a triple flight staircase!) during half an hour in a tag-team of two. Exciting stuff! Mont Ventoux on the way home for me (photo right) during a lovely stay with Peter and Joan where we have our Alpe d'Huez/Mont Ventoux week liaison.

On our annual trip back to the UK , Guy managed to squeeze in a cross race in Durham (photo right), close to his home town. The race took place on the morning that we were leaving to catch the ferry back to France via Hull. No time for a shower after the race, just a quick wipe down and off we drove/sailed!

Our spring plan was to be me riding the Flanders sportive, and Guy, Paris Roubaix. The clash of the Roubaix sportive with the Flanders pro race means that we will now do this over consecutive years. Short straw, I'm up for Flanders first! So, it will be a winter of turbo training and some good cross country ski sessions to keep me fit (snow permitting, which is not looking good at present - maybe I should have tried in July!).

One of our most enjoyable seasons yet without a doubt.

(For more Roc d'Azur photos see:


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Alpe d'Huez Time Trial

I rode the Alpe TT on Thursday, a hot day even at 10am. It was well attended with maybe 40-50 riders taking part.

One of our guests, Glenn, very kindly attached a small camera to my bars for a time lapse photo shoot of the ride. He then spent some time editing last night and here's the end result, pretty nifty (even if I wasn't!):

It has to be said that the clip makes it look easy, if only it really was over that quickly!

Only a few more of these TT's left for summer 2011 so I'd better make my next one count...


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Downhill & FourCross French Cup at Oz en Oisans Aug 2011

An amazing spectacle as France's finest gravity racers came to the area. A brilliant spectator-friendly bit of bike viewing!


Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Alpe d'Huez to stage 2 Grand Tour stage finishes in 2012?

As the dust settles on this week's (frankly rather exciting) Tour de France stage on Alpe d'Huez, rumours are currently circulating about the inclusion of the famous climb next summer.

The Giro d'Italia organisers look set to include a stage finish for the first time there to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Fausto Coppi's inaugural win there in 1952. This seems almost certain to happen next May, according to the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Tour de France could also be coming to the Alpe next summer. This could be in the format of a mountain time trial (à la 2004) and would come reasonably early in the race (a clockwise year). Other rumoured local stage finishes are at La Toussuire and Albertville.

There you go! I am a big gossip.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

The calm before the storm...

...and it's not very calm! Yesterday late evening I rode up Alpe d'Huez to soak up a bit of pre-Tour atmosphere. There was a huge buzz of excitement that I can only presume, after the stage today, is now at fever pitch.

Normally the biggest party is on bend 7, known as 'Dutch Corner' and it did not disappoint; DJ, beer, barbecues, fancy dress and singing. Other areas were pretty lively too and it would seem that some are trying to create a few 'Luxembourg Corners' along the route.

This is just one photo from my evening ride, for more see:

Roll on tomorrow for another gripping stage and to hopefully catch sight of 'Polka Dot Man' again on bend 7!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

King of the Mountains T shirts now available

They are here!

King of the Mountains/Alpe d'Huez T-shirts are now available as pictured and a powder pink, ladies fit version too. American Apparel, 100% cotton, S, M or L.

The design may be familiar to you; we have worked with Twin Six in the States whose design this is and they have produced a limited batch of their popular Alpe d'Huez T-shirts especially for us with our logo on the sleeve.

Selling for EUR 20 from us here at the chalet or EUR 25 packed and posted to the UK. Mail us if you want them mailed elsewhere and we'll let you know postage costs.

Drop us an E-mail with your order if you fancy one of the coolest T-shirts available since 'Frankie Says Relax' hit the catwalk!

We'll post a few pictures of us modelling them in and around the Alps. Could also be some potential for a little competition/photo album too of 'where did you wear yours?'.....

Friday, 24 June 2011

Alpe d'Huez time trials 2011

Well, the first summer TT up Alpe d'Huez happened yesterday morning under some grim weather. Well done Richard, Frank & Helyn for getting out there and riding. Weather looking great now though - big high pressure area moving in.....

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Kilometre markers on the col d'Ornon

Good news. The Tourist Office has installed marker posts like this one on most of the climbs in the area - the ones on the col d'Ornon are not every kilometre, but they give you stats on the whole climb as well as the gradient for the next km - all in all, good news.


PS: This will scupper my rumours that "the driveway" to our house is actually "mostly flat".....
PPS: "The driveway" was a moniker given for the col d'Ornon by Mark Canaider last summer- a particularly affable Australian guest....

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Leopard Trek on the Galibier

The Col du Galibier is now fully open.

Yesterday Dan rode from here via the Lautaret to the Galibier summit in bright sunshine, a good training ride for him as he is taking part in the Marmotte in July. He noticed some very well turned out riders who he soon recognised and Andy Schleck plus a a few other members of the Leopard Trek team, obviously a recce for the Tour. Small world!
Thanks for the photo Dan.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Photo of the day!

Is back by popular demand!

As per last season, every day we will post a photograph in our on-line album (link on home page of our website and below). The photograph will be of that day and cover some event or other in the 2011 season of King of the Mountains, sometimes exciting, sometimes mundane (it can't always be sun and cycling, sometimes there's cooking and ironing to be done!).

We opened the album yesterday (official start of our season) with the mundane; a photo of the new tool board in the workshop. We once had a helicopter mechanic staying here who said that if a tool was missing from their workshop board the chopper was not allowed to fly. We'll not be employing such a strict 'no tool, no ride' policy here but it should make finding those alan keys a lot quicker!

Let the photos commence!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

More deck than the QE2

The deck is finally finished and it's big! Guy had some help from a couple of neighbours for a final push and yesterday the last board was laid. If Guy ever fancies a change of career I may suggest Quantity Surveyor as at the end of the job there was only half a board to spare!

Perfect timing as yesterday was one of the hottest days we've known here in the month of May. The thermometer in the sun registered 38'C at 2 o'clock!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Galibier news...


The Galibier is open from the Bourg d'Oisans/Lautaret side to the tunnel beneath the summit. The Valloire side is not yet 100% clear.

Camping without the canvas

We have recently returned from a 3 night stay at a campsite, a sort of 'honeymoon'! We chose a spot a little south of here; Chatillon en Diois. Given that we only had 3 nights we chose to travel light so left without the tent, stove, table, chairs and all the other bits of kit we normally take camping and 'cheated' by staying in a little mobile home on the site. We were about the only people there as it was so early in their season, the weather however was as you would expect later in the summer, around 25'C + each day.

Guy rode some great mountain bike trails and I explored on the road bike. The area is a lot more arid than our little part of the Alps; lots of vineyards, pine trees, basking lizards and dry river beds. I was surprised then to find myself in an incredibly lush, green valley, a dead end road signposted for 'Cirque d'Archiane'. I was curious to see what the 'cirque' was all about - a circus? a circle of rocks like Stonehenge?

The road was only 5km long and after 3km it soon became apparent that the 'cirque' was on a bigger scale than I had imagined. It referred to the surrounding mountains that formed a giant amphitheatre, horseshoe around the valley road. It was incredible, quite dwarfing and made it hard to not veer off the tarmac for looking up at the towering rock formations (the photos do not convey the true scale or beauty). The culmination of the road was a tiny hamlet with lots of perfect picnic spots, waterfalls and walking trails, a place to return without the bike one day.

Back to the house now and the terrace/decking project which is nearly finished. Guy is out there as I type with a kindly neighbour who has come to lend a hand. Guy enjoyed the fruits of his labour yesterday when he downed tools and enjoyed his lunch in the sun!

False Alarm!

Apologies to those who got excited yesterday after we posted that the Galibier was open. It seems the council were just testing their electronic signage. We'll post again when it really has been opened - no more crying 'wolf'. Sorry.

Friday, 6 May 2011

What's New? An update....

Quite a lot has occurred since our last 'What's New?' post on 12th March. For a start, 3 days after that post went up we had a baby, Alice, the newest staff member at King of the Mountains! We are now also married (on the same day as the Royal wedding though a slightly more understated affair!).

This summer we will be joined by Ian in June and in July and August by Job, who will be helping us out with our transfers and driving, hopefully freeing us both up for tag-team child care and riding.

The terrace/decking is moving ahead at a pace now and most of the wood was delivered to finish the job yesterday, a feat in itself for the HGV driver with our narrow streets! We have a little 'feature' planned which will be a small pontoon area over the stream, should be a nice little spot for relaxing. Time to plant up the window boxes soon too.

This year our timing chips (Timtoo: ) will not only work for the Alpe d'Huez climb, but a host of other local cols and climbs in the area including our very own Col d'Ornon. As yet no sign of the transceivers going up but it's early days yet, will keep you posted.

As mentioned in our previous blog, the Col de la Croix de Fer is now open, the Glandon and Galibier remain closed but we will post an announcement as soon as this situation changes.

The news on the King of the Mountains T-shirts is that we are hoping for a delivery before the end of May. Will pop up a post and some photos when they are available.

Only 20 days to the 'Challenge Vercors' sportive and 49 days to the first Alpe d'Huez time trial. Can't wait!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Col de La Croix de Fer Open for 2011

in April! Who'd have thought.....

Best get our anti-gravity shoes on...

Guy & Helyn

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Armchair Athletes!

Last Saturday Guy rode up the first 12 bends of Alpe d'Huez to Ribot. He did not stop due to tiredness, mechanical failure nor bad weather (it is unseasonably warm here at present and Saturday was no exception, around 30'C), his premature stop was for sausages! Our friends were having a pre-summer season barbecue and what a feast we had whilst occasionally looking from the sunny terrace at other riders continuing on to the top.

Sunday we were a tiny bit more active with me taking a ride in the valley and Guy riding from Bourg d'Oisans up to Villard Notre Dame and then across the forestry track (and negotiating the remains of 3 avalanches) to Villard Reymond. If anyone has done this they will know that there are 2 very, very dark and unlit tunnels both with bends in them. To get through these you have to have confidence and ignore the drips, potholes and bats and just continue to ride as in no time you see 'the light at the end of the tunnel' and once more have a point of reference and your bearings. Normal bike lights offer little vision (only really powerful mountain bike lights do the trick). If, like me, at any stage you get spooked by the pitch black and put a foot down, it is really hard to get going again for fear of riding into the tunnel wall!

Once both home we sat down to watch the final few kilometres of Paris Roubaix on the TV. We missed most of the big crashes and offs but the ripped kit and muddy streaks on a good proportion of the riders told the tale. What an incredibly exciting finish. I love the idea that at the start of the race Van Summeren probably never dreamed that he would ride into the velodrome alone and finish the winner. 'Cinderella story' as they say.

For an amazingly shot and very atmospheric view of the 2011 PR, check out this YouTube clip:

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Marmotte places available

Our friends at AlpCycles have some Entry Only places available for the 2011 Marmotte Sportive.

The details are as follows:

  • Guaranteed Entry in 2nd Wave
  • Timing chip (10 euros deposit back after event)
  • Event insurance
  • Administration
  • £60 GBP
If you wish to take advantage of this, please contact either Shelley or Ade directly at: enquiries@alpcycles.comLink

Saturday, 12 March 2011

What's New?

Winter conditions here in the village normally mean that from December to early April we are unable to get a vehicle down the snow-blocked street to our house. Owing to the lack of snow and sunny weather this year, access has been possible for a couple of months now. This makes life - and more to the point, deliveries - so much easier.

So, in answer to 'What's New?'; we have recently been able to get a brand new, comfy L-shaped sofa installed in the living room. Although most visitors favour sitting in the saddle whilst here, there is always the Tour to follow on TV, not to mention our huge collection of cycling DVDs (some new titles there too for the 2011 season - thanks to Kirt in San Fransisco largely!). We will be giving the sofa a good trial run on your behalf during April for the Tour of Flanders and the Paris Roubaix!

Other recent deliveries include lots of timber, metal and concrete to finally tidy up our garden. We have always been a bit ashamed of our 'lawn' - it is probably 20% grass and 80% rock! So, in the true spirit of 'Groundforce', we are about to take advantage of the snow-free conditions and commence with a decking project. This should give you a much more pleasant area to enjoy post-ride drinks, outdoor bike building/mainteance and generally soaking up the splashing stream and mountain views at the back of the house.

Also this year, by popular demand, we have produced some posters which include some lovely images of Alpe d'Huez (see picture). It doesn't look nearly as tough in 2D!

As mentioned in our blog post back in January, we have a new(to us!) minibus too. An upgrade with turbo and much needed air-conditioning for those balmy summer Alpine days.

Other developments in the village include the naming of the village streets, which has never officially been done before (it is hinted that our road will be called 'Rue des Jardins' - a bit more positive than the parallel street; 'Rue des Avalanches'!).

Watch this space too for King of the Mountains T-shirt news, we'll keep you posted....

Early season riding

Only a week or so until spring officially starts and then the clocks change, we can't wait (even if it does mean losing an hour in bed)!

This winter has been kind to cyclists but a cruel one for skiers.

We have experienced very little snowfall in the area this year. This bodes well for the early opening/snow clearing of the roads to the higher cols in the Oisans (such as the Galibier, Croix de Fer and Glandon). We anticipate mid-May openings of most of these - as usual we will keep you posted on this blog as and when this happens. We still have some vacancies here for the late spring bank holiday (30th May) if you fancy blowing out the cobwebs and being some of the first riders to reach those high summits in 2011!

The 'peloton', normally seen on the valley roads in April, have been out in force pedalling since early February. The warm sun and snow free roads have meant that each week they seem to shed another layer of Lycra and are able to ride a little higher. Since the Alpe d'Huez road leads to a major ski resort it is always clear of snow. At present it is not only clear but lovely and warm once the midday sun has been on it for a while, consequently we have seen lots of riders climbing up amongst the weekend ski traffic.

Guy rode a lovely 75km loop with a couple of our neighbours last weekend. The circuit was behind the house here in the 'Trieves' area. Situated just that bit further south and lower in altitude, the weather was glorious, around 18'C. A bit of a 'last hurrah' for Yves (pictured right) as the following day he was booked in for an operation on his knee/cruciate ligament - that's the spirit!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Easy Listening

'On Your Bike', a great series of 10 programmes covering the history of the bicycle on Radio 4. Episode 5 tomorrow.

Just listened to the first episode and chuckled to hear that a top range bike would have once set you back about £20. Add a couple of zeros onto that these days!

Happy listening!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Desert Snow Tri Cross

I opened my winter tiathlon account on Sunday in the Chartreuse at a race grandly known as the Desert Snow Tri Cross - due to it's venue at a tiny resort called the Desert d'Entremont, right on top of the Chartreuse plateau. Due to a lack of snow at that altitude, the organisers tweaked the route a bit, resulting in:

4.5km cross country run
6.5km cross country ski
1.5km cross country run
11km mountain bike

I don't run much any more as it always gives me a bit of a bad back, but given that the run was meant to ne on snow, I went for it.

This is how it went:
Run 1: all OK - not much snow but all very pretty
Ski: all well - hilly and a bit icy but good fun
Run 2: all OK - a bit stiff-legged, but very pretty
MTB: a bit of a drag - well, a push and a carry really. Lots of deep heavy slush made almost all of the course unrideable. This bit ended up taking over half of the whole event time!

All in, I loved the format and will do others, hopefully with a bit more snow! Guy

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Foulee Blanche 2011

More cross country ski race action again today, the Foulee Blanche in the Vercors, close to Grenoble. As you may know, we have had a bit of a dearth of snow of late. However, the organisers over there managed to move the race route about and make a bit of snow with the canons too, leaving us with a great course in the end.

The weather was very cold (-10'C in the morning) but with no wind and a bit of sunshine bursting through.

So far this year, I have done a long race and a hilly race, but I was yet to do a long and hilly race, which this was.

It all turned out great - 7 friends took part and all got round great. It was tough, but manageble and Helyn and Colette provided a mighty post-race feast too!

Bring on the next race!


PS: I hope you don't mind my gratuitous tractor image, but she is a beauty, isn't she? I like to imagine you could drive it to the North Pole if you had enough diesel. It might mean towing an oil tanker across ice of varying thicknesses, but I reckon she'd be game for that.....

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ski Racing Season

As some of you know, winters here are pretty harsh, with snow descending upon the village in November or December and hanging around until March. This is a good opportunity for us to take a break from the bikes and get ski-ing. Oddly enough, I used to come to the Alps more often to ski downhill when I lived in London than I do now. The new passion is for a different type of ski-ing - one with skinny skis and the same clothes you would wear to ride your bike in winter - cross country ski-ing. This sport changed face slightly in the early nineties from the "classic" / langlauf style to the more modern "skating" style - which just happens to be the perfect crossover sport for an "out of work" cyclist.

The col d'Ornon is a great training area - 25km of pistes just 2km from the door so winter lunch times see us ski-ing round these trails and trying to improve our rusty fitness and scrappy technique. Alpe d'Huez also have good trails but they just take a bit longer to get to.

The logical progression for us was to do a few races. The usual form is a course of between 20 and 42km (marathon distance), over a variety of bumps, lumps and technical sections. We love it.

The first race of the season was a marathon, but over a flat course at the head of the Maurienne valley - the Marathon de Bessans. We headed off early - 5 of us in total - 3 racing and 2 taking in the local pistes at their own pace. It was great - despite warm weather preceding the event, the organisers had prepared a great course and we all got round in reasonable shape. To give you an idea of speed and distance, a flat 42km event is won in jut over 1hr 35. We all got round about an hour slower than that but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next up was the Traversee de Chartreuse - a shorter but tougher event - only 17km this time but with a 7km climb to finish at Charmant Som - brutal it was, with only myself along for this one. The post-race meal was a particularly welcome crozets (pasta squares) and sausage feast. Yum. The day was warm and the organisers did so well to put a race on at all.

The next event is the Foulee Blanche this weekend in Autrans in the Vercors, with several of us taking part - Matt & Colette Swift, Martin (dark horse) Heusse and Ed Nicoll (local Vercors hero and ex Olympic XC skier) as well as myself. I will report back afterwards - this one is both long and hilly so I am a tiny bit scared....

Thanks for reading.