The Morzine Haut-Chablais was chosen as the London Dynamo Club Sportive for 2016. With over forty club members taking part, it felt a bit like a school trip except with the difference that everyone had the means and freedom to do whatever they wanted, whether that be going on ridiculously long rides, staying up until the early hours or drinking too much génépi.
Lillian and I had made our arrangements late in the day so we were not staying with most of the other Dynamos in the Hotel Le Sporting. This was a hothouse of competing suggestions for pre- and post-race rides which ranged from the sensible to the epic. As Lillian and I were both focussed on obtaining a good result in the sportive, her in the Mediofondo (90km, with 2350m ascent) and myself in the Granfondo (142km, 4000m) we were in the ‘sensible’ camp.
We were also lucky in being able to go for a ride up to Avoriaz on Friday (when the featured image for this post was taken) which meant we felt we could take it easy on Saturday. Unfortunately for most of the Dynamos, their bikes were being transported out in a trailer driven by Dudley Samuels, the organiser of the trip, which arrived half a day late on Friday evening. They had to spend a sunny afternoon sitting in the hotel garden drinking beer and coming up with theories about what could be causing yet another delay in the ETA of the trailer.
There was therefore lots of pent-up energy on Saturday. Tim, sportive secretary for the club, has had the objective of riding as much as possible during the annual three/four day trip. For example, the day after the sportive he did a solo ride around Lake Geneva from Morzine which was 245km long and took him 9 hours! More importantly for some of the club riders who did not know of Tim’s reputation and the damage it could do to their legs, he led a group around the Granfondo course in reverse on Saturday… not good for those who wanted fresh legs for the race.
Race day, Sunday 19 June, started with low cloud but no rain. There were only a few hundred people doing the sportive (180 in the Mediofondo and 229 in the Granfondo), so the atmosphere at the start was relaxed. Most of the Dynamos were near the front but behind the riders with top hundred start numbers who were in a separate front pen.
The Grandfondo started at 8am. We had to ride hard as the bunch climbed out of Morzine to be near the front on the descent to Montriond and the start of the first proper climb, the Col de Joux Verte (850m of ascent).
The pace was reasonable up to the Lac de Montriond. On a clear day this is a beautiful place for a coffee and an ice cream as shown in the picture below which was taken on our gentle spin and coffee ride on Saturday.
I knew the road would steepen and narrow here so I made my way to the front and as the angle increased the quicker riders started to flow past me. A Dynamo who I did not know went by. I had heard there was a strong climber, Dan, on the trip and I assumed, correctly, that was him. Ray, another good climber, went by and at that point I decided to drop off the back as I knew that if I tried to stick with the group I risked blowing up later in the ride.
I ended up riding the rest of the climb with Mike, who I had ridden with for a large chunk of the Granfondo Stelvio last year, and Ben, a strong ex-rower.
We passed through Les Lindarets, the ‘village of the goats’, in the cloud.
No goats were around that early but to show they do exist here is a photo from a ride on Friday.
We caught some of the riders ahead and crested the climb in a group of about fifteen. A cold and damp descent to Morzine followed. I was only wearing a gilet and short gloves and got cold but not terminally so. Also most people were descending sensibly given the wet conditions.
We picked up Ray at the bottom of the descent and as the group hit the next climb, the Col de l’Encrenaz (480m) it started to rain heavily. Thankfully we were generating enough heat to stay warm. The first Dynamo we passed was Jolyon who had been left in the start pen with a broken shifter cable. As chance would have it, someone who owned a cycling chalet offered to help and replaced it for him, allowing Jolyon to skip the first climb and (unofficially) join the course on the Encrenaz.
A short descent followed, where we were blinded by the rain whilst travelling at speed down a narrow road with deep puddles covering potholes. At this point Ray said that his aim had shifted from doing well to just surviving! As we reached the bottom of this road we were confronted by a convoy of Porsche 911 drivers coming in the opposite direction which gave some of the riders further back a scare. Quite why they had chosen a nearly single-track mountain lane for their road-trip I do not know.
The Col de la Ramaz (430m) followed. Ben was distanced by the skinny climber-types on the 10+% ramps but as we started descending the group came together again. I managed to be the first down this descent which made it a lot more enjoyable. The weather had started to improve with some patches of blue sky appearing but the road was still wet and the potential fall over the cliffs below the road fatal. I was pleased that no-one tried to overtake me and we all descended at a fast but safe pace.
The group stuck together up three further climbs, the climb to Plaine Joux (420m), the Col de Terramont (300m) and the short climb to La Vernaz (150m). Ben was a powerhouse on the gentler descents and a good guy to have in the group. More generally with there being four of us all from the same club most of the other group members seemed content to sit in and let us do the work. See Ben and Ray below on the climb up the Col de Terramont.
Mike set a fast pace and made us suffer higher up that climb.
On the penultimate col, the Col du Grand Taillet (480m) two guys took off, one supported by a team car that roared after him leaving behind a cloud of black diesel fumes for us to ride through. This was too much for Ray who went on the attack, and I am pleased to say eventually overtook him. Mike and I tried to stick with Ray and ended up distancing Ben and the group.
By the final ascent, the Col du Corbier (440m), both of us were tired. I had been able to ride the other climbs at around 90% of FTP but now it was a struggle to even hold 80%. I ended up pulling ahead of Mike and riding the last 10km or so solo. As I reached the final 5km section which climbed gently up the valley to the finish in Saint-Jean d’Aulps some strength returned to my legs. Strange how that happens – the power of the mind.
The post race food was good enough, as shown by some of the wet and cold Mediofondo riders below.
I was very pleased with my ride, coming 32nd with a time of 5 hours 46 minutes. The cooler weather meant we did not need to stop at the food and water stations. Ray was 26th and Dan, the best Dynamo 14th. The winner finished in 5.03! Mike came 33rd and Ben 36th. The next Dynamo in was Tor Collins who was third woman overall and second in her age group which was a great result particularly as she managed to beat the French Ladies Masters champion.
Lillian had a fantastic ride in the Mediofondo, winning the women’s race and coming in as 2nd Dynamo (after Alex B.) and 42nd overall in 4.07. She had an impressive intensity of 88% of FTP for a four-hour ride.
More significantly she managed to turn her long-term phobia of descending into an advantage taking time out of her one of her rivals on the wet descents and even managing to get a Strava QOM for one.
Claire, came third in her age category in the Mediofondo resulting in prizes for three Dynamettes.
Everyone had their own adventures to tell that evening fuelled by beer and prosecco and helped by the addition of the bottles of wine and génépi that Tim generously presented to Dan, Tor and Lillian… which makes Tim’s 245km ride the next day even more impressive!