Day 10: Geneva/Courchevel
Now we begin France Trip Part 2: Crazy Biking Adventure! We won’t actually start biking until Sunday, but today we meet our tour group in the Geneva Airport, and head deeper into the Alps to our chalet in Courchevel.
We didn’t need to meet our Alpine Chaingang group until mid-afternoon, so we took advantage of the extra time to sleep in. We enjoyed a leisurely hotel breakfast and fixed the fancy espresso maker ourselves when it looked like there was going to be an interruption in the caffeine intake.
Since we practiced taking the train from the airport to downtown Geneva yesterday during our rental car return operation, we had no problem getting ourselves the opposite direction, back to the Geneva Airport.
At the airport, we found the Montreux Jazz Cub which was our designated meeting point at 2:30pm. We were a bit early and hung out while waiting for the others. Dave Beattie, the owner of Alpine Chaingang (and unmistakably a biker), soon arrived to greet us and help load our bags into his van’s trailer.
On the tour there are seven people. The five other participants are: Paul and Jason, two friendly gentlemen from Manchester who are seasoned cyclists and members of their local biking group called the “Northern Collective”… Martha, a triathlete and nurse from Cleveland… and Phil and Eileen, a couple from Scotland who are frequent guests on the ski trips Dave’s company runs here in the winter. Phil is a Royal Military engineering corps veteran and will be biking with us. Eileen is not biking, but may potentially be our best friend as she’ll be in the support van riding along. 🙂
The ride from Geneva to Courchevel was roughly two and a half hours, taking us back into France (our fourth border crossing in the last 24 hours, lol) and south toward Annecy and Albertville. The road became more mountainous and the temperature cooled off a bit. For the fist time on the trip, we saw some rain drops. But do not fear, from what we can gather on the weather apps, there are often rain showers on even the nicest of summer days in the Alps.
When we arrived at the chalet, Dave set up our bikes and spent about an hour helping us practice with them. Divvy bikes these are not. For starters, they are incredibly light. Also, these suckers use pedal clips. As predicted by literally everybody we talked to, both Matt and I fell over due to the clips on our first attempts (Matt made it until he attempted to turn about 30 yards away, while I made it about an inch).
With requisite impact injuries under our belts, we devised a series of mental rules to hopefully avoid the next ones. Rule 1: Remember to clip out before coming to a complete stop (or to be clear, before you even think about stopping). Rule 2: Failure to clip out is not an option.
For example, you might try to clip out and fail. Your brain will then say, “Hey, so I see that clipping out didn’t work, but that’s ok, let’s just move on to the next task of bringing this bike to a complete stop.” But your brain is an idiot and gravity is persistent. So with these concepts in mind, we managed to stay upright for the rest of our practice session.
After bike practice, we all met in the chalet common room to go over some general information for the week, and outline the specific plans for tomorrow. The more seasoned riders will start at the bottom of the Col de Petit Saint Bernard, while Matt and I will start a bit higher up. After tomorrow we will have a better idea of all of our levels so we can plan and adapt the rest of the rides.
Alpine Chaingang is a family business and Dave’s daughter Amy will be with us for the first few days as well. She’ll be our support van driver, chalet host, and chef. As far as the chef part is concerned, she already proved amazing, serving up a wonderful three-course dinner. This tour might be worth it for the accommodations and food alone.
After dinner we relaxed in the common room for a while and heard Bastille Day fireworks in the distance. Checking in for the night, we are excited to see how tomorrow plays out on the bikes.