Sunday, August 11, 2013

Riding around Lake Annecy

Second part of my Alpine summer holiday was based a Lake Annecy which is simply a beautiful location and this year was the venue for the final and decisive mountain stage in the Tour de France. So I took the opportunity to check out the last climb of the last real stage.

The Semnoz
On the west bank of Lake Annecy a disused railway line has been turned into a bike track and it is just brilliant to ride on as the main road is a bit busy for cycling.  From the campsite it was 9k up towards Annecy before turning onto the climb, so a nice spin out to get properly warmed up.  No sooner than I had left the camp site and a couple of fast guys sweep past so I jumped on.  Don't want to miss a good ride.

In the Tour the riders started out from Annecy and proceeded south before turning west and looping round the Semnoz going over some other climbs before approaching the Semnoz from the north.  I started the climb from the east and it joins up with the Tour route half way up.  From lakeside to summit is was over 17km.  It was definitely a climb of two halves - the first half being easier with a range of gradients and some shallow parts at 3-5% which made for some fast riding, but it was the relentless second half at 8's & 9%'s that picked. Climbing mostly on the northern slope there was a lot of shade which made it less grueling.  In the last couple of k's you come out of the tree line and then there are some really testing ramps before the Tour finish line opposite a hotel and car park.

The actual summit is another couple of hundred metres further on. The descent on the other side is great - starts out a bit sketchy with some sharp bends and dodgy road surface conditions, but there was a fair bit of freshly surfaced road. In all the ride took a couple of hours with about 1hr10 of climbing.

Cod de la Forclaz
On the east side of the lake and approached from the south this climb was much more brutal than I had expected, but so stunning in so many ways.  The profile gives a clue with that tricky middle section, but the recovery phase sets you up for a nice run in to the summit - though it did ramp up at the top.
The view from the cafe at the top though was simply stunning.