Getting ready for the Raid Alpine

On  July 22 I will be flying out to Geneva to attempt the Raid Alpine. Ever since completing the Raid Pyrenean  in September 2008 I have wanted to ride the Alpine equivalent.  When looking for an organised trip I was never going to look any further than Marmot Tours who had helped make the Pyrenean trip so memorable and trouble free.

 

Am I looking forward to it?

Most of the time!

I’ve now got to the stage where I look at the itinerary and start comparing each day with a regular Sunday ride. Sadly with the exception of 3 sportives, the Sunday rides come up a bit short. It’s amazing how before any challenging cycling event the physical niggles start to show themselves and this time is no exception.In my heart of hearts I know that I will be fine and that my fitness is pretty good. I also know that I’m both lighter and probably fitter than I was before I rode the Raid Pyrenean. I rode 3 hilly sportives in May and June and went well in all of them. Since then I’ve been trying to concentrate on riding hills as economically as possible.

My other concern is the one I always have. I will only truly relax when my bike bag emerges unscathed from the baggage collection at Geneva. I’ve made changes in this

department and have bought a Polaris Bikepod to replace my rather tatty Neil Pryde bag. I’ve thoroughly googled this case and haven’t found any negative accounts or reports of damaged bikes. It will certainly be somewhat more manouevrable than the old bag. I will do a dummy run packing and unpacking the bike in the next week or so.

EasyJet

I’m flying out with EasyJet and have found their bike carriage policy to be a bit confusing. The first part of the page giving information on taking sporting goods says:

‘Sporting equipment
Each passenger is allowed a maximum hold baggage weight of 50 Kgs including any sports equipment, subject to available space. The maximum weight for any single piece of baggage is 32 kgs.
An additional non-refundable fee is charged per item per flight for the carriage of the sporting equipment as set out in the table below:

Currency Per flight (when pre-paid) Per flight (paid at the airport)
GBP 25.00 30.00

Payment of the additional fee increases your checked-in hold baggage allowance (including additional item) to a maximum weight of 32kgs.

Where your total checked-in hold baggage weighs more than 32Kgs, normal excess baggage charges as set out above shall apply in addition to the above fee.’

However  much further down the page is this coda:

‘(1) Carriage of bicycles:

  • The bicycle must be packaged in a bicycle box or bag
  • Only one bicycle per bicycle box or bag will be permitted
  • No other items can be carried in the bicycle box (i.e. clothing)
  • The handlebars must be flush with the frame
  • The pedals must be flush against the frame or removed

Passengers travelling with bicycles are recommended to check-in 2 hours prior to departure. Bicycles are subject to the sports equipment fee and exempt from any excess baggage charges relating to the weight of the bicycle.’

I contacted EasyJet  and now have an email reinforcing the fact that I am allowed the standard 20kg + up to 32kg for bike and bike box.  This was the email I received from customer services:

 Response (Marcin Janecki)

04/11/2010 10.55 AM

Dear Mr Williamson, Thank you for contacting us.

I am sorry that you have been disappointed with our baggage policy for sports equipment and I can appreciate your frustration.

As you know, all passengers are entitled to 20kg of hold baggage weight allowance. In addition, a manual handling fee of £26.00 per flight (or £18.50 per flight if pre booked online) is charged for bikes, skis, golf clubs, windsurfers, surfboards, hang-gliders and firearms, which allows passengers to carry a further 12kg. If the hold baggage and sports equipment combined weigh more than 32kg, then passengers are charged excess baggage fees of £10 per additional kilo.

Bicycles, however, are subject to the sports equipment fee but exempt from any excess baggage charges relating to the weight of the bicycle. If hold bag and bicycle weigh more than 32 kg, passengers will not have to pay excess baggage but hold bag cannot weigh more than 20 kg and a bicycle cannot weigh more than 32 kg. Please remember that total weight of the baggae cannot exceed 50 kg.

Our full baggage policies can be found in our ‘Carriers’ Regulations’ for which I have included a link below:-

http://www.easyjet.com/EN/Book/regulations.html#baggage

I do hope I have been able to answer your question fully. To update your query please reply to this email and we will be happy to assist you further.

Yours sincerely,

Marcin Janecki
Customer Service Representative

The paperwork will go with me! A strict reading of the regulations would suggest that I could end up paying excess charges if I put extra stuff (clothing etc) in the bike box so I will be careful there.

The Raid Alpine Route

This is the itinerary courtesy of Marmot Tours.

raid-alpine-profile

‘Day 1: Transfer Day

Meet with your leaders at Geneva airport for the transfer to the start hotel.   Here you have time to assemble your bikes, or try out the hire bikes before we have a briefing at 6pm followed by a good dinner.

Day 2: Thonon Les Bains to Praz sur Arly (114kms with 2743m ascent)

Warm up day (of sorts!).  We leave the tranquil shores of Lake Geneva with a lovely 10km warm up at least, before you hit the start of the first col, the Col des Moises (1118m).  With this one under your belt and one ‘tampon’ already done, you are officially en route of the Raid Alpine!   There is quite a bit of navigation today but the route takes you through some lovely pine forests and over the foothills of the Alps before hitting the smaller of the ‘big boys’ with the Col de la Ramaz (1557m) and then the climb to the ski station of Megeve at 1107m, towards the end of the day.

Day 3: Praz sur Arly to Tignes La Reculaz (105 kms and 3079m ascent)

A beautiful days riding today, visiting some of the most well known areas of the Alps in both winter and summer.  We have a meagre 2km warm up from the hotel before we start on the lovely Col de Saisies (1,633m) with a great descent to the pretty town of Beaufort.  Our next climbs come one after the other, starting with the Col du Pre (1740m), with a quick descent before climbing back up to Cormet de Roselend (1968m).  Oooof!  But, then you get a 26km descent before you start on the mighty Col d’Iseran but only as far as Tignes La Reculaz (just before Val d’Isere), where we stop for a well earned rest!!!!

Day 4: Tignes La Reculaz  to Cesana Torinese (127kms and 2620m ascent)

We only have the last 17kms of the Col de L’Iseran (2764m) to do today (easy!), before another whopping descent of 31kms!  A quick nip up (600m of climbing) the Col de Mont Cenis (2,081m) and then another lovely descent, this time taking you across the Italian border into the town of Susa.  We head uphill from here (though not steeply) for approx 35kms to our end destination for the day, the small town of Cesana Torinese, just below Sestriere, which was home to the 2006 winter Olympics.

[The offical route was amended a few years ago to avoid this section of main road from Susa to Cesana Torinese. The amended route takes you over the col de Finistre and the col de Sestriere, however the final 8km of the col de Finistre is unsurfaced and is unsuitable for road bikes (!), hence we have opted to stick to the original route, but taking in the obligitory ‘control’ by riding up the Col de Sestriere from the east]

Day 5: Cesana Torinese to Vars, plus Col de Sestriere (105.5kms, 3004m ascent)

We sneak in the Col de Sestriere (2035m) for a ‘tampon’ before returning to Cesana Torinese and continuing back into France with a 500m climb up the Col de Montgenevre and then a quick 14km descent before the start of the infamous Col d’Izoard (2361m), with its monuments to Fausto Coppo and Louison Bobet.   Not content with this epic 19km climb from Briancon, we also face the first half of the Col de Vars today, though only a 9km climb. It is a lovely route with great views and classic Alpine meadows.  Sainte Marie de Vars is a classic ski resort and will offer us a good nights rest before our 5th day on the bike tomorrow!

Day 6: Vars to Beuil (132kms, 3142m ascent)

We continue our way up the Col de Vars with a 350m climb to the top, over 7kms, as a fairly gently ‘warm up’!   Today has some beautiful riding ahead with a great descent for approx 20kms after the Vars.  From Jausiers, we start the ascent of our highest col, in fact of the highest col in Europe, the Cime de la Bonette (2802m).   Though it will be a tough one in terms of the length of the climb (23kms), it is a fairly steady gradient, and thanks to this col, you get your incredible 53km descent from the top, down to St Saveur de Tinee!  Just one more little Col  – Col de la Couillole (1678m)before we stop for the night in the lovely town of Beuil.

Day 7 : Beuil to Antibes (149kms, 2051m ascent)

Don’t worry if your legs don’t work first thing today – the route starts with an epic 22km descent through the Gorges de Cian, which are impressive to say the least.   From here you climb up the small Col de St Raphael (876m), followed by some fabulous cross country riding on an undulating gradient.  The last main col of the trip is the Col de Bleine (1439m), which is followed by a well earned 27km descent into  St Vallier de Thiey.  The coast is in sight here. Head on over the Col du Pilon 786m (which you will hardly notice).  Then there is a true downhill bias as you head into suburban Cote d’Azur.  It’s a bit of a shock to enter such populated areas after the tranquillity of the route, but also there is a definite ‘holiday’ feel about the place!  We take you on the quietest but least complicated (we hope!), route into Antibes and to the coast where you end your epic journey.  Our hotel for the night is on the sea front of Cagnes sur Mer, just up the coast from Antibes. It is the perfect place to dipping your toes (probably all of you in fact!) in the Med, enjoy a seafood dinner and partake in a few celebratory beverages!

Day 8 : Transfer Day

Lift from the hotel to Nice Airport (20 mins transfer).

In reality I can’t wait to get going!

 I am particularly looking forward to getting to the top of the Cime de la Bonette. I remember seeing footage of the climb when watching the Tour de France and thinking it was a place I wanted to go to one day. Now to return to the task of whittling down my packing list to the bare essentials!

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About lakescyclist

I'm a cyclist and a lover of landscapes. I've walked, climbed and tried most ways to explore the varied upland landscapes of Britain, and latterly the continent.
This entry was posted in European Rides. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Getting ready for the Raid Alpine

  1. TimH says:

    Hello Lakescyclist,
    Looks like we are on the same trip, looking forward to it too, although a little apprehensive!!

    Tim

    • lakescyclist says:

      Hi Tim,
      I think apprehension is healthy. I’m struggling at the moment with a tight hamstring so am also feeling a bit that way. If you haven’t been on a trip with Marmot Tours before, you will be really impressed by how good they are. When I rode the Raid Pyrenean with them, there was a really wide range of abilities and pretty well everyone got round.
      This will be my first time for riding in the Alps so I’m struggling to keep the excitement at sensible levels.
      Look forward to meeting you on the trip.
      Nick

  2. Timh says:

    Nick,

    The same as you, Raid Pyrenean 2009 with Cathy & James and I agree they are impressive!
    I was lucky enough to have a week in June in the Alps, based in St Andre. We did a 3 day excursion, which took in the Col de Allos, Cime de la Bonette, Col de la Couillole (seperate days) and the Col de Champs!
    I didn’t realise until after that I would be climbing two of them again, so soon!!
    The mountains are incredible and the scenery mind blowing!

    Hope the hamstring loosens up soon, massages and ice baths!

    Tim

  3. So how did it go? im going out there and doing it with them 2 weeks this Saturday, I shall look forward to reading your review and any recommendations to do with clothing etc

    Regards

    Mat

  4. lakescyclist says:

    Haven’t had time to gather my thoughts yet. Blog to follow. In short, we had challenging weather with a lot of cold wet conditions. The group that followed us a day later had it much drier so it is the luck of the draw. Great trip with wonderful climbs and descents. Going on my experience, I would take clothes to cover all eventualities from freezing conditions to hot sunshine. The descents are really cold when temperatures are low and it’s raining. I finished the descent from the Cime de la Bonette in 7 layers, and if more had been available I would have worn them. It’s possible to change clothing for the descents because the vans are usually in attendance. Despite the weather it was a wonderful trip, and I’m sure you will have a great time. The 3* hotel in Cesane Torinese is something to look forward to!
    Have a great trip!

    • Thanks for the advice, I shall forward some of my clubmates your response and your blog if you manage to write it up before we go away, 2 weeks today we will have done our first day

      Regards

      Mat

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