The 17-19 May France Cycling Camp took place in Chavornay in France, near Culoz and the start of the famous mountain “le Grand Colombier”. The camp was attended by many different athletes preparing for various events in the summer: Etape du Tour, Marmotte Valais, Alpe d’HuZes and even an Ironman triathlon. I planned route that would train the hills mostly, but due to the poor weather forecast, there was a little bit less hill climbing to avoid the cold and the rain. In the end we had a brilliant weekend, here is how it went !
Prologue : Thursday 16th May
It was a beautiful day, actually the best we had ! Sunny and about 22 degrees, perfect for cycling ! That day it was only myself and Arturo, who is preparing for Ironman Vittoria in Spain.
From Chavornay we headed towards Cézeyrieux, before climbing up to Saint Martin de Bavel and reaching the picturesque little village of Virieu-le-Grand.
From Virieu, there is a great climb that goes all the way up to Thélizieu. The climb isn’t a major difficulty and it offers great views of the area. Perhaps one of my favourite climbs in the area !
We descended back towards Artemare, before going back up to Virieu-le-Petit (the small Virieu!) and headed home for a well deserved rest.
After dinner, the other participants started to arrive, and we shared a nice bottle of wine altogether on the beautiful terrasse of our villa. There was a lot of anticipation about the weather, so we would have to be smart in our planning !
Day 1 : Friday 19th May
The weather forecast for today was supposed to be the nicest of the whole weekend, so we decided to do the “big ride” on the first day. It didn’t disappoint !
From Chavornay we rode all the way to the “Lit au Roi”, a beautiful little lake on the side of the Via Rhona, a bike path that actually takes you from Geneva to the Mediterranean sea ! We passed through the picturesque village of Chanaz, climbed up the other side towards the Lac du Bourget, and headed for the Abbaye de Hautecombe, an abbey which is almost 1000 years old ! We started to get a little rain, so it was safe to head back for the major difficulty of the day : Le Grand Colombier.
We climbed the Grand Colombier from Culoz, which is the most scenic route up out of the possible four. The lacets du Grand Colombier keep on amazing me, what an amazing route and what an amazing view on the Rhone valley and the Lac du Bourget, simply amazing. Once we reached above 1000m elevation, it started to be very cold and windy. Probably close to zero degree ! Once everybody got to the top, it was a very quick descent. We could barely feel our feet and hands, the weather was poor but the road was dry.
Once in the Valromey, we warmed up a little but felt it was time to head home to our villa, where a nice sauna would provide heat and comfort !
On the menu tonight, we prepared for starters some sweet potato toasts with avocado and onion. For mains we cooked some beetroot gnocchis, with spinach and sardines. For dessert it was a chia pudding with a mango coulis. Miam !
STATS : 97km / +1800m
Day 2 : Saturday 18th May
It was supposed to rain all day, but somehow the weather gods were on our side and we had a gap until about 2pm, so we made the most of it ! The main difficulty of the day was the Col de la Biche (east side), a very challenging climb that has been used on the Tour de France, Tour de l’Ain and other stage races.
We headed to Culoz, and the group separated in two. One group went straight to Gignez and the Col de la Biche, while the other group with more experienced riders climbed again the famous Lacets du Grand Colombier to add extra spice for the day! The switchbacks were all in the fog, sadly no view. But once we got above the clouds, it was surprisingly warm. We all made an error of putting too many clothes on, after yesterday’s experience, and we paid for it ! I was sweating heavily, and it became quite challenging !
The Col de la Biche is really a b%*ch 🙂 It starts very very steep from the get go, and then becomes this very constant and regular climb, for a good 10km. The views at the top are amazing, very rewarding. We all had a decent time going up, some more than others but we could feel it in our tired legs !
After the descent to Lochieu, the group separated again. One group went home and another carried on and we toured the Valromey from Hotonnes to Artermare, through Champagne-en-Valromey and the beautiful little village of Vieu.
Stats : 85km / +2400m
Day 3 : Sunday 19th May
The day was supposed to be written off due to the really poor weather, but once we woke up it wasn’t raining ! We took our chances and had about a 3 hour gap between the rains ! We headed back to Virieu-le-Grand for my new favourite climb up to Thélizieu, before going back on the other side and touring around the Valromey valley on the west side, before going through Champagne-en-Valromey and on the east side of the valley to Virieu-le-Petit.
Due to the shorter stage, we attacked all the hills, trying to make PBs on the Strava segements (yes, there is always a little competition). Joel was flying up those hills, and even managed a top 10 !
All in all, we were glad to be out cycling and staying dry !
Stats : 69km / +1400m
All in all, we rode about 251km with 5’600m elevation, in a total of almost 13 hours of cycling.
Fantastic weekend and brilliant training bloc for all the athletes, who will return home with amazing memories, new friends, and a perfect preparation for their summer events.
Best mechanical luck to all athletes in your respective events, and see you soon !