It's 5 days of trails, across three countries, from Refugio to Refugio, culminating 180 kilometers and 11,000 meters of climbing. Long climbs, exhausting hike a bike, epic balcony trails and stupid crazy technical descents! This is Tour du Mt Blanc, this is the best Mtb adventure you will live in the Alps.
It's Wednesday morning at 5 am, I'm loading my truck and checking my stuff for the last time before turning the key. This morning I'm crossing the border to Switzerland for a five days adventure and I just cannot forget anything for this mission. I won't be carrying a lot for this one but everything I take is important. The sun is rising, promising. I join my group in Martigny Switzerland, everyone seem pretty excited about the adventure ahead. We use the train to leave the city and gain some distance but it's short and soon we are on the saddle. The first day is a transition day where we have to cover a large distance and climb four times more than what we descent. But our plan is a trip around Mt Blanc, so at some point, we have to make big progress. Even if we climb a lot there are still small downhills we can do that I know on the way up. Everyone is taking this day as it comes and tries to manage his energy.
However, Erwan from the group seems to be struggling with the rhythm and efforts. Finally, we get to the pass at +2700 meters after carrying the bike in the alpine, the lake system and more. It's also where we enter Italy, but there is no border, no customs, covid test, just the sky and the rocks. This first downhill has a very special taste, it's like the first day of riding after a long winter, we feel the relief and we appreciate that particular time. In the descent, we stop to share the stoke, enjoy the vibe and the landscape. Some slabs offer us some freeride sesh and eventually we get to our small hotel nestled in the mountains.
Day two, we live the hotel and we know. Today is a really challenging day, it's the toughest and it's only the second one. It starts with some technical trails across three passes and one last col, very iconic, very cool. Unfortunately, Erwan doesn't feel really good and he cannot go further. He will come back to his car on that day, rest and maybe come back stronger. It's weird to lose one guy but the adventure can't wait and pushes us to the next pass, the next trail. Everyone is dealing with fatigue, injury, ... but the call is stronger and we overcome it.
Half of the second day is remote, rough, hard and challenging. But the feeling of being here in the mountains, achieving the route is way bigger than any climb, so we swallow the pain and remain calm, happy and contemplating. After the pass we ride a collection of balcony trails in the Aosta valley, it's fun and stunning. The flow is back and we are all smiles before being all sweaty and suffering in the last climb to the Refugio. Classic Italian hut with a ton of history and vibes. The rest is welcome and the dinner is welcomed with enthusiasm.
Day three, we wake up with the mist. It's a big big day and it starts with a weird atmosphere. It's a good thing that my group doesn't get scared by a cloud! This third is a complicated one with three big climbs in total including two massive hike-a-bikes. But first, we get to ride up and down on stunning trails all the way to the French border. The atmosphere is unreal with the mist and light rain but it's so easy to ride under the brightest sun! as everyone knows the program there are no real hesitation at the bottom of the valley and we start the climb steadily and focused. The goal on that day is to get early to our next hut, despite the difficulties we need to stay effective and so maybe avoid the rain.
This second climb took us a few hours, including more than one hour hiking the bike. The weather is also rushing and as we get to the end of the climb the rain comes. Not a big rain, just that light one, that particular light rain to enhance the adventure feeling. The downhill is a pure big mountain trail, we surf and enjoy the beauty of the peaks in the storm. With a collection of trails and terrain, we get to the fern forest after the mineral landscape. Riding along the tumultuous river is also the sign of the end of the ride and the beginning of a hectic hike-a-bike! One hour later we finally arrive at Vero's Refugio, she is quite a character! We have a lot of time to enjoy the place, the blueberry pie and some local craft beer. Like every night we wash our clothes and check our bikes. At some point and as it was planned the storm catches us and change the atmosphere.
Day four, the sky is moody and again we will ride that day with the threat of rain. Today we start at 2400 meters high, have some proper technical trails to warm up, some big downhill, a couple of passes and another massive descent before entering into the Chamonix valley. During the first balcony techy sketchy slippery, we see a few crashes! Everyone is struggling with the wet rocks, lack of speed and exposure. In the 800 meter downhill, it's survival mode for the ones who care about slippery, me? I love it, sliding into the turns, letting my front wheel surf and get surprised by the corners. Manu rides with confidence, he has been progressing all year with our specific training, but as we go further and get more and more tired, Manu starts to make some mistakes and we see him falling, missing the trail, ... Time to stay at the back of the pack and play safe!
Entering the Cham valley with that Arandellys trail is something, not many try this trail. It's considered as a red trail, T5 in France, but it's also a +800 meter drop with exposure, crazy switchbacks, roots and rocks. Making that day a special one. After riding the northern balcony of Chamonix without Joé, we arrive in town and find our small hotel outside of the city. Joé is getting exhausted and he is taking it easy. The rain is back for a short time. We are stoked to rest and finish that special day. We take the bus in the rain to get to the best burger and cart beer spot of the valley, it's a good night. I feel relieved about the trip as tomorrow is a small and easy day, it's also the last day.
Day five, the sun is back and it's a beautiful morning. Unfortunately, Joé feels bad and is exhausted. He is joining us at the cars with the train and won't really ride today, but it's a smart decision because even if this last day is shorter and easier it remains quite technical and hard. The first thing of the day is a long climb to the end of the valley where we will find a lift for the pass, from that we are getting back to Switzerland. It's the last frontier crossing, the excitement level is high as we start that high-speed alpine trail! A beautiful and diverse downhill the Trient valley. The mountains are beautiful and we enjoy the last views on the glaciers for that last part, climbing and crossing our last mountain was long and felt endless! But what a downhill, what a trip! We rush down to Martigny and cross the city, so excited!
Arrived at the cars we find Joé safe and happy. Finishing the trip with half of the people is a strange one but it shows how things can be hard and impressive a trip like this can be. I said six at the start, but one of the guys never showed up and canceled the tour a few days before it. One has left on day two and one rode four days. Tough!
In the end, over the five days we climbed over 11 000 meters and accumulated 180 kilometers, countless passes and epic downhills, we crashed and laughed. The trip was a tough one and that is why I call it "Tour du Mt Blanc / The Challenge"! we overcame our fear and the difficulties and achieved something cool, not an impressive result, not a record, nothing incredible but the mountain experience and the human voyage was worth it. And this trip gave us souvenirs for years. Now that's probably why we train and ride random trails, it's to be ready for the epic and appreciate the special moments when they come. Because life is short.
Have a good one!
Thanks to my group Alexis, Manu, Joé and Erwan for their patience and trust. Congrats for making it!
Thanks to my partners for making this possible @urgebikeproducts
@gorewear @MarzocchiMTB @raceface @shimano @CamelBak
@beea @julbo @hutchinsontires
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