Training in the Alps

A year ago was the first time I stayed in the house at Les Liotards; this year three of that original let’s-furnish-the-house-with-stuff-from-Ikea party returned with four others from Exeter Wheelers to take advantage of the clement weather and mixture of stunning roads for a week-or-so-long training camp.

With ages ranging from mid-20s to, er, 50 (me), including someone who doesn’t (yet) admit to liking hills, and a mixture of committed and experienced racers, less experienced racers, and one other (me again), it promised to be interesting to see how we sorted out our riding. The riders: Ellie and John (20s), Jon, Mark, Jamie and Arved (30s), and me. In fact, only two of the riders (Jamie and Ellie) didn’t know the area at all, all the others having stayed here before.

One of the pleasures of the place is its beauty – but this is also one of the challenges for real training too: can you take in and enjoy the scenery but still do some serious, structured training? Well, I suppose that since I ride for fun and don’t race, I can afford not to be too scientific in my approach to training (I still enjoy riding at a reasonable level of fitness and competence, and do some time trialling with the club), but I do think that a good and sufficient mix of riding at different intensities will not do most riders any harm.

For the mix of riding, the roads round here really do the work for you: if you’ve read previous posts or seen the list of routes, you’ll know what a good range of roads and routes there are, from nearly flat to big Alpine climbs. And if you take basic the six-day stats, with our individual totals ranging from about 200 to 375 miles, I suspect that we’ll all be leaving France somewhat fitter than when we arrived, despite the prodigious amounts of food (especially cheese) that have seen consumed.

Training highlights: climbs up the Col de Rousset, Col de Grimone, Col de Menée and Col de la Chaudière, which both confirmed Jamie as a prodigious climber, followed closely by Arved (and not forgetting John’s spirited chasing on Col de Rousset); Arved’s dedication to cranking out the miles at an unremitting pace and eating for two; the stunning loop of Col de Grimone, Col de la Croix Haute and Col de Menée which had differing opinions on whether training should include a lunch in a roadside café or not; and a stunning day up on the Vercors plateau: properly challenging riding in quite breathtaking surroundings.

And it’s all been helped by extremely pleasant weather: only one day with some rain (gone by lunchtime), and as long as you don’t mind lots of sunshine and temperatures in direct sun of about 40C (and air temperatures, down in the valleys, of 20-25C), there hasn’t been much to complain about. Even my first-attempt tartiflette drew no complaints.

Photos below are from the Grimone-Menée ride, and going out towards Col de la Chaudière, on a ride which split into two after the descent to Bourdeaux, both groups arriving back in Die with five minutes of each other, though one group having consumed coffee and flan as part of their training.

Routes done over the week or so include:

  • To Aouste-sur-Lye, up to Beaufort-sur-Gevanne, and back via the Col de la Croix and Col de Marignac
  • To Châtillon-en-Diois and back via the Col de Miscon
  • To the Col de Grimone and back via the Col de Menée
  • To Pont-en-Royans via Vercors, up the Gorges de la Borne, talking the short cut back at Rencurel to St Agnan-en-Vercors and back down the Col de Rousset
  • To Col de la Chaudière, and back (eastwards) by Vallée de la Roanne or (westwards) by Dieulelfit, St Bégude-le-Mazenc and Crest
  • To Valdrôme and back via Rossas and Bellegarde-en-Diois
Jon Hare nearing the Col de Grimone
L-R: me, Jon Hare and Mark Williamson at the Col de Grimone
At the start of the Col de Menée ascent, near Chichilianne
Jamie Howard ascending the amazing Gorges de la Borne
Arved Scwendel on the Vercors plateau, near St. Agnan-en-Vercors
Heading out towards the tough Col de la Chaudière


Ellie Bremer at the deserted Col de Miscon

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