I don't suppose living in the Alps is that great from an Ecological perspective. Though as time goes on we are learning (actually, being slowly forced) to reduce our carbon footprint on the environment. Not many people think about this though, even with the government's attempts to help (see the DPE labels). I've written about it in the past too (An Eco-Chalet in the Alps). Despite this I did have a customer say to me recently "I'm only interested in building a new place...for eco reasons", maybe as time goes on it will happen more often? Though I'm not sure that building from scratch is that eco-friendly, despite the fact the heating bills will be less. The carbon footprint from the new materials might well outweigh the long-term benefits.

hot-house-1

I've been living in my house for 14 years and have only got around to upgrading the last remaining single glazed windows this winter. It's never been a priority for me as I'm well aware that the pay back won't happen for 20 or more years. I took the opportunity to take some infrared pictures to show the difference before and after. It was a bit of an eye opener. Not the difference the windows made but how much heat my house is giving off!

The first photo shows my house on a cold day (-7C), the ground floor is 60cm of solid (stone and rubble) construction with no insulation. The upstairs of my property was insulated when it  was renovated 30 years ago. They use hollow bricks with a small amount of mineral wool insulation stuffed between them. There is no vapour barrier and externally the walls are wood clad. The shocking thing here is the walls are 10C. The single-glazed windows are obvious on the picture and are only slightly colder (15C) than the inside temperate at the time (19C).

semi

I live in a semi-detached house. The other side of the property is a holiday home and was unoccupied at the time. The difference between the two can be seen above and is stark.

I have a few before and after photos of my house here. The first one shows the replacement front door.

 

These pair show the windows before and after.

 

back

The rear of my house has been renovated by us in the last few years. We added double glazed windows, some thermal plasterboard to the internal walls and some insulation to the floor. The room was barely habitable in the winter and now it is just fine. The heater is the same size as before! The difference is obvious on this picture. The window glass is about -4C and the walls are mostly above freezing. The weak point is the window frames.

I live next to a newly built house. It's a "kit" house which is becoming the norm around here. The structure and walls are made in a factory, the house itself is then constructed quickly on site. The difference in economy is obvious.

modern

The outside of the house is pretty much at ambient temperature (it is not letting out any heat). There is one small issue around the garage door but that is about it! I mentioned this property in a blog I wrote a few years ago about building a chalet in the Alps. I've quizzed the owners of new properties like this and the energy savings are real. They are generally heated with electricity that powers an air source heat pump. The overall energy costs for a house like this are 30% of mine. So where I pay 300€/month for the heat+light for my house they pay 100€/month for the same sized building.

This traditional framed method of construction can be seen here:

new-build

A wood frame sits on top of a concrete base. The wood frame and the wall panels are made in a factory, insulation is added on site. The concrete is insulated inside and out and clad to taste. It's an expensive and materials hungry form of construction. You can see a nice cutaway below. Stone cladding, beneath that 40cm of insulation, 40cm of concrete and some more insulation and plasterboard inside. No expense spared!

 

renovation

SIP Panels (Structural Insulated Panels)

I've mentioned these in the past. SIP's are less materials intensive (and therefore cheaper), as well or better insulated as any alternative, quicker to construct (and therefore cheaper). I've noticed a few houses being constructed with these techniques around Morzine. Mostly by the aforementioned ECSUS Design using Kingspan products. In fact they have been building a number of chalets around the Haute Savoie. In the past their chalets have been quite simple. You can see an example of this on my article "how to build your own chalet" and in the video below. This doesn't always have to be the case, as seen here .... https://www.youtube.com/chalet-build-montiond and on this new build in Morzine

 

Resources for renovations

Everyone knows that the first thing to insulate is your roof, after that you need to eliminate draughts. More often than not if you do a cost benefit calculation for making further improvements to a house the investment is such that any pay-back will be 10 years plus. Building costs in the Alps are such that the pay back can be even more. Here are a few UK specific resources that might help.

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-energy-efficiency/energy-efficient-windows

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/home-insulation/solid-wall

This is an interesting product for helping to insulate an older home. It's an aerated plaster. An amazing idea from Switzerland but I fear it might be expensive.

http://www.fixit.ch/aerogel/?w=daemmputz 

 

 

 

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LE GRAND CERF
LES CARROZ

An authentic alpine village resort, situated under an hour from Geneva airport, Les Carroz forms part of the magnificent Grand Massif ski area with its 265km of slopes. Skiing has been taking place in Les Carroz since 1936 !! And since then, the resort has never stopped evolving. Big changes are on their way and a fresh wind is already blowing, maintaining the charm and authenticity of the resort at the same time. The key words are : comfort, accessibility, security, integration and diversification.

image7

Totem, a subsidiary of Ebenis, the designer of the Le Grand Cerf project, has completely understood all of this and put everything in place so that their new development falls perfectly in line with this concept. To this end, it has surrounded itself with experienced and passionate local partners in order to fulfill the necessary criteria required to achieve a residence of exception.

Alpine Property understands perfectly the Les Carroz market and the requirements of its clients. It is therefore with great excitement that we wish to inform you immediately of the marketing launch of the new apartments of this magnificent high quality residence which will be at the height of all your expectations for resort accommodation :

  • Respectful of ecological and insulation demands;
  • Well thought out living spaces ;
  • A welcoming and modern design ;
  • And above all……above all, the rarest and most sought after criteria : breathtaking views as well as ski in / ski out.

There are 40 apartments from 43m2 to 131m2 distributed between 6 small blocks, ranging from 262,000€ to 1,002,000€ !!!
All sold with, as a minimum, an underground parking space and a ski locker.
Options for some apartments include a fireplace or even a jacuzzi.

Lifts enable you to reach each level effortlessly and, most importantly, to have direct access quickly onto the Timalets slope where a green run gives you access in less than a minute to the main lift for access to all of Les Carroz and the Grand Massif ski area.

More information about the Grand Cerf development in Les Carroz can be found on the Alpine Property website.

image6
"Luxury, tranquillity and exquisiteness"
Comfort, views and direct access skiing

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I'd been hearing lots of opinion about the skiing at Avoriaz over the last week. Most people will know that the Northern Alps is really struggling for snow at the moment. So it was a surprise to hear:

"Incredible, I could not believe how good it was"

"Really quiet and loads of runs open"

"I don't know how they've done it"

avoriaz

I went up at the weekend to see for myself. It was all true and very impressive. I skied in Linderets and was sure there must have been over 1m of base on the pistes, all the way back to the carpark. In fact the run back to the carpark at Ardent was the best, I went down it at 11am, totally alone and still skiing the "groomers". I spoke with one of the restaurant owners and asked where all the water was coming from. "Pumped up from Lac de Montriond during the day" was the response.

It's not the first time that I've been to Avoriaz and been blown away by the work up there. It really does give an impression of being the perfect ski destination. It's not perfect at the moment but it's certainly not at all bad.

It made me wonder who is behind this slick operation. I know it's the Compagnie des Alpes, I've heard the name enough but what or who are they?

The most relevant points seem to be the fact they own

Les Arcs, Peisey-Vallandry, La Plagne, Tignes, Val d’Isère, Les Menuires, Méribel, Les 2 Alpes, Serre Chevalier, and all of the Grand Massif (Flaine etc).

They are the main shareholders in Chamonix (37.5%) and Megève and have minority interests in  Avoriaz (20%), Valmorel et La Rosière (Sofival)

That's all quite a mouthful. Basically they are the biggest player in the ski business worldwide. 30% of the worlds ski area revenue goes through them.

That's not all, they also have an interest in the summer. They have the Astérix Parc, Futuroscope, France Miniature and the 4 Walibi Parcs

Overall they turnover about 700m€, with almost 5000 employees. As far as I can tell from this years 98 page annual report Avoriaz accounted for 37m€ of that and 6m€ in profit.

Further information is available here.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compagnie_des_Alpes

You'll see that the Compagnie des Alpes is part of  Caisse des dépôts et consignations.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caisse_des_d%C3%A9p%C3%B4ts_et_consignations

This is a bank owned by the French state. Not something I think there is an equivalent of in the Anglo-saxon world. But certainly an interesting circular relationship between the ski industry and the French nation.

The Caisse des Depots is probably worth a book on it's own. "Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and its subsidiaries constitute a public group in the service of the country’s general interest and economic development. The Group fulfils missions of general interest in support of public policies implemented by the French State and by local authorities, and it can carry out competitive activities."

 

 

 

 

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3 years ago I wrote what I had hoped would be the first part of a blog on how to start a chalet business in the Alps. It was in response to an upturn in enquiries for that type of property. As usual I got sidetracked and never wrote pt 2. I never felt the need. My blogs are always written in reaction to something and the enquiries tailed off. It turned out that the upturn in interest was short lived.

fermehautschoseaux_2

The image above is Ferme Hauts Choseaux, 7 bedrooms, 595,000€

The subject came up again last week as I was contacted by a researcher from ITV . She is doing a feasibility study for doing a program that will follow a "life changer" that wants to run a chalet. She needed to know how many of these enquiries we get, per year. To give them an idea of how long they will have to wait for a suitable person to become available.

I explained that we now get a more diverse range of life changers. People wanting to work from home, work from Geneva, people offering services to the local community. It's more than just people wanting to run a chalet. It's funny because that is exactly what I was advising in part 1! This new wave are looking for a family home, generally a more modest property than the traditional catered chalet and almost certainly in one of the cheaper outlying villages. The centre of the resorts are too costly for anyone other than those looking for a business opportunity.

I sent the question out to some of our agents. One of them pointed out that there are some brakes on the whole business plan. The ski client is more demanding than 10 years ago. Their accommodation has to be in the right place, the standard they demand has gone up, home cooking isn't the thing anymore, it's all chefs, sauna's and luxury. Put all this together and you need a lot more money available to buy something that is up to the standard. This is the first thing that has made the process much harder.

I'm not saying that there is less demand. There isn't, there is still plenty of demand for catered holidays. It's just that the demographic of the skier on a catered chalet holiday has changed. They are no longer the ones that want to run a small chalet business. Those skiers are now staying in self-catering properties and from their point of view a rental business somehow seems less accessible.

I did a straw poll amongst our agents, here are some quotes.

"I can think of one or two this year, but none that have actually taken the plunge, it seems like that those thinking about it were considering the catered chalet option as one of a variety of "career" options. I think plenty of people still have the desire to come and live here, just that not many of them want to run catered chalets (or they realise there isn't the market). And people are (trying) to be a bit more original! Working from home, sports coaching, life coaching, transport, tradesmen, property development and even "professional" jobs like doctors, architects etc."

"Many of the catered chalet owners in my area are actually trying to sell. My experience with clients is very similar to the other agents."

"I agree, and actually all the 'life-changers' I know are also moving out of the chalet business....."

If after reading this you are still looking for something that might work as a catered chalet option then take a look at our website. The "sweet spot" for this type of enquiry is a chalet with 5 or more bedrooms, priced between 450,000 and 700,000 euros. We currently have 10 for sale, 3 of which are on a ski bus route.

 

 

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There was an important meeting in Les Carroz last night (24/11/16). We had thought it was about the proposed developments (more on this below) but it was actually about the PLU. The PLU is certainly important but only really to land owners.

So I thought I'd take this opportunity to list the proposed projects for Les Carroz. This list is distinct from pt 1. Pt 1 was about recently completed projects, this list is for the future.

les-carroz

  • Pictured above the new pedestrianised centre with improved traffic flow (tbc)
  • State of the art medical centre (this has started);
  • A new 400m2 tourist office (tbc);
  • New leisure facility as an extension to that which exists already (pool and wellness complex, sports hall, tennis courts and accrobranche (GoApe) comprising a 9-hole golf course along with VTT trails and summer walks. This can be adapted in the winter for cross country skiing, biathlon and snow shoeing (tbc);
  • The Funiflaine (tbc). According to the local newspaper the proposal is still very much supported but a new feasibility study is being undertaken, with a new route.

funiflaine-3
The Funiflaine is an ambitious plan to connect the motorway with the skiing at Flaine. The estimated cost is 84m€, mostly from the state.  The idea is 3 fold.

  1. To cut down on traffic through Les Carroz
  2. To make getting to Flaine more "sustainable" or better for the environment. It's a reasonable idea. This will save 28km of winding driving. This takes 40min on a good day. It can take many hours on a snowy Saturday in the ski season. The lift should take half that time. Currently 250,000 holiday makers and 2oo,000 day trippers make the trip by car. They'd like all these people to go on the lift!
  3. With the convenience and a big car park it's likely to divert day trippers from going up the motorway to Megeve, St Gervais and Chamonix. This isn't one of the stated aims. It's an obvious plus for the Grand Massif though.

The most recent route that had been proposed was  via Le Lays (just below Les Carroz) and then up to Flaine. I guess this was mainly to keep the commune of Les Carroz on board.

A potential revision has been suggested that would be to go straight from Magland to Flaine. And for a separate lift to be built connecting the entrance to Les Carroz (at Le Lays) to the Grand Massif via the Les Carroz slopes.

funiflaine-2

The original plan is in red and the new plan in black. The motorway is on the left and Flaine on the right.

Watch this space - we'll keep you informed on any further developments!

 

 

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In fact, Les Carroz is pushing ahead with so many projects I'll have to write two posts on this.

L'Oasis - Cool Zone

This might be old news for some. In fact many resorts are introducing themed areas like this (The Stash - Avoriaz) and they prove very popular indeed with the youth. In fact you can buy a pass in Avoriaz that just covers the Stash as for some it's the only place they want to go.  For L'Oasis we have

A boardercross
Snowpark with more than 30 modules for all levels (jumps, kicks, rails, etc)
Ski Slalom slope
Video zone with 7 cameras that will make a film of your descent...plus wifi so you can share it there and then!
DJ & music (obviously)
Speed test slope

cool-zone-loasis

A new free beginners area on "Figaro" with a new moving carpet. These are great, there is one in Les Gets too, they often lack publicity. But if you are a beginner then paying for a lift pass is overkill for your first few days so these areas offer great value. Of course the resort will make their money back when you get hooked!

A new toboggan run. All the resorts are having to build these in for safety's sake. Another great (cheap) way to kill time with the younger kids.

Loads of work to the slopes. More snow-making...widening of the Marmottes piste, L'Arete too.

A new 6-seater from Les Carroz 1500 to the Tete des Saix that replaces the two old 2 seaters!! (Gentianes and Airon).

At the télécabine...thanks to their popularity you can now pre-book the heated ski lockers and they've added 4 more info screens.

The really big news is being announced tomorrow (Thursday 24/11/16). You can read what happened here.

 

 

 

 

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Or Brexit and buying Property in the Alps.

I was asked on most days in the weeks following June/23rd what I thought the effect the Brexit vote would have on the property market in the Alps. Back then, it was too early to say. It might still be too early now. It's tempting to say "Brexit! What Brexit?" as the reality is nothing concrete has happened yet. To save your time (and reduce boredom) you can have my main conclusion first"

The main result of the Brexit vote so far has been to weaken the value of sterling. Weak sterling reduces demand for properties in the Alps.

So if it's all down to the exchange rate, it might we worth a look at the graph.

brexit

BUT, and this is often forgotten, in a period of uncertainty the sellers are more likely to agree to an offer AND buyers don't feel under pressure to compete against other buyers. So all in all properties are still being bought and sold.

The current property market in the Alpes is more complicated than just Brexit and involves more or less of the following

  1. Trump. This looks positive for our market in the short term.
  2. The world economy (a retreat from Government bonds ref). This could be positive, see below.
  3. The upcoming French election ref. This will reduce activity on the French side of our business.
  4. Brexit. Dunno...

Trump.

Suddenly Brexit doesn't seem so nuts. In context with the US and possibly now much of Europe it can be seen more clearly. Le Brexit was barely understood in France, but now it might be part of a pattern. It's upset half of the US, which has seen an upturn in interest in European property from the Americans  already.

The World Economy.

The short term effect of the Trump victory seems to have led to a sell off of government bonds (due to the likelihood of interest rate rises), much of this cash is heading into equities (the FTSE and US indexes are both up), in our experience when they become overvalued, money often heads our way. 

The upcoming French elections.

This always leads to a hiatus in interest from French buyers, in the same way we experienced a big drop in enquiries just before the Brexit vote.

Brexit.

We don't know, no one knows. Hard Brexit / Soft Brexit. We assume the second, but who knows? The reality is that non-EU citizens have always been able to buy property in France without issue. That won't change. We have had some enquiries from people wanting to flee the UK to Europe. Not a flood, but some.

So the bottom line is there has been a reduction in interest. Not comparable to the period after the banking crisis but a reduction non the less. That is probably linked to the exchange rate.

My favorite thought is to remind myself. That despite the uncertainty and turmoil, the mountains will always be here, Summer, Winter, Spring or Autumn and that they are hard to beat.

c-de-c

 

 

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Renovation round-up in St Jean d'Aulps & Vallée

Renovation projects are increasingly difficult to come by in the Alps. The more “Grand Design” farmhouse restorations that are completed, the fewer there are left for the rest of us to do the same!  If there are not many old barns left, an alternative project is to transform an out-dated hotel or holiday centre into apartments for resale or rental. Investors with cash in the bank earning little or no interest can see better returns on investing their money in this type of project.

The attraction of a renovation project is two-fold: You can create a unique property tailor-made to suit you, and then you can make a profit on the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put in! The profit can either be in the form of a one-off lump sum when you sell (cashing in the value added), or as a rental income, particularly apt if you’ve created more than one apartment with your refurbishment project.

Here’s a quick round-up of the different types of renovation projects on offer in the Vallée d’Aulps:

 

 

fermedelamoussiere_4

Ferme de la Moussière d’en Haut:
This old farmhouse is ski-in, ski out, and would probably be best suited for conversion into a single family home. The structure is in great condition, so no worries about big remedial works! Full details on this link https://alpine-property.com/saint-jean-daulps/ferme-de-la-moussiere-den-haut/2991

 

renovlecret_2

Rénovation le Crêt:
This project is ideal if you want to self-build, but you can’t be bothered with the headache of all the paperwork or the slog through the mud of putting in the foundations. All the messy hard work is done, leaving you to do the fun stuff! Full details on this link https://alpine-property.com/seytroux/renovation-le-cret/2853

 

maisonlacharrette_3

Maison la Charrette:
With an already-habitable 3 bedroom apartment, this property is ideal for someone looking to “live-in” whilst doing the property up themselves. This property is very large, and would lend itself well to being divided up into a handful of apartments. Full details on this link https://alpine-property.com/saint-jean-daulps/maison-la-charrette/2987

 

grandsclos_2

Les Grands Clos:
This is another enormous property, with two habitable 3 bedroom apartments, and space for a few more in the huge barn! There’s lots of flexibility with this property, and more space than you can shake a stick at! It’s in a really pretty location too, with great views from every angle. Full details on this link https://alpine-property.com/saint-jean-daulps/les-grands-clos/2617

Don’t hesitate to contact us for more info on any of these properties, or for more info on realising your renovation dreams!

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Looking for road bike routes around Morzine?
Road ride routes from Les Gets?
Road riding from St Jean d'Aulps?

All the road bike routes in and around Morzine and Les Gets I am going to describe work equally well from these 3 towns. There are probably 20 main rides to choose from, all of which can be reversed plus an infinite number of variations, so there is no excuse to repeat the same rides over and over!

If you are new to road riding or new to the area and a bit nervous I suggest you don't head straight for the big name cols. You'll enjoy them more if you work up to them.

I have my own personal ranking system. I start with no cols and in a good year work through the ranking until I reach the Sportives at the end of June. Then usually I have had enough by mid-July and spend the rest of the summer in the pool! 2016 is turning out no different!

The main roads in the area are quite busy. Not as bad as in Chamonix or Megeve but still pretty unpleasant, especially in July and August. Most of the rides will avoid them if possible.

As far as map reading goes I suggest getting a modern bike GPS (I have a Garmin 520) and downloading the routes from Strava onto that. If you'd prefer not to use this technology then print out the maps and prepare to stop a lot! Though saying that the "Full Cols" rides have very easy navigation. The timings are the estimates from Strava. You might be faster or slower!

27/JULY...This is a work in progress, I've done 5 and will keep on adding....

No cols
Tour of the Villages, 36km, 820m
Bioge and back via La Vernaz, 46km, 780m
Terramont and Jambaz, 37km, 710m
Mine d'Or and Lac Montriond, 26km, 700m

Half cols
Corbier and Grand Taillet 43km, 1100m
Grand Taillet, Plateau de Gavot and Evian
Encrenaz and back via Les Gets
Megevette circuit
Col de Feu/Moises/Cou

Full cols
Joux Plane
Avoriaz
Ramaz

1.5 cols
Encrenaz + Ramaz
Vallee Verte Col + Ramaz
Megevette + Joux Plane
2 countries
Tour of the lac

2 cols
Ramaz + Joux Plane
Ramaz or Joux Plane + Avoriaz

Sportives

Morzine-Montriond short Sportive (1.5 cols)
Morzine-Montiond long Sportive (2.5 cols)
Avoriaz + Corbier + Megevette + Joux Plane

Rides with Kids

Lac Mine d'Or
Ramaz and back!
Rhone Valley cycle route
Round Lac Annecy

Road riding in Morzine with No Cols

These are perfect leg stretchers or early season rides. They enable you to get in some time in the saddle without having to slog over the cols. I do a few variations of these to kick off my season.


Tour of the Villages 36km, 820m, 1hr46m

 

all the villages
Strava Route https://www.strava.com/routes/5761871

Includes Morzine, Montriond, Essert La Pierre, St Jean d'Aulps, Le Biot, Seytroux, St Jean d'Aulps and Essert Romand. Remember to take the back roads through St Jean d'Aulps in both directions, it keeps you off the main road and means you get to ride past the Abbaye too. You can cut the ride short any time you want and ride home on the valley road.

Coffee - Morzine, and 50% of the time Le Biot and Seytroux

Water - Le Biot, Essert la Pierre, St Jean d'Aulps and Morzine!

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Bioge and back via La Vernaz 46km, 780m, 2h15m

 

bioge and back
Strava route https://www.strava.com/routes/5761999

You can add or subtract as much of the main road as you like, the more villages you add the harder it gets! The route described here has is a happy medium. The climb from Bioge had to La Vernaz is lovely and quiet. If the road between Jotty and Bioge is closed for rock clearing (normally in June) then forget it.

Coffee - Morzine, Jotty (best place on this ride) and 50% of the time Le Biot and Seytroux

Water - St Jean d'Aulps, Le Biot, Essert la Pierre but the best spot will be Jotty.

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Terramont and Jambaz, 37km, 710m, 1h50m

 

Terramont and Jambaz

Strava route https://www.strava.com/routes/5762204

This route can be ridden from St Jean d'Aulps (add 20km) or Morzine (add 36km) but to keep off the main road many people drive down to Jotty and leave from there. This gives access to the Vallee Verte and many many variations. It's quiet and the hills aren't too long, quite possibly some of the best riding in the whole area.

Coffee - Jotty, Vailly, Lullin (best option) and Bellevaux,

Water - Lullin, Vailly
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Lac Mines d'Or and Lac Montriond, 26km, 700m, 1h15m

mine d'or and montriond

 

Strava route https://www.strava.com/routes/5762361

This route visits two of the most picturesque spots in the area. Both rides are "up and back" which aesthetically many will have an issue with. They do however offer the advantage that if the going gets too tough, you can just turn around and free wheel home. The last bit of the climb to Lac Mines d'Or is steep, much steeper than the climbs on the famous cols nearby. So if you manage it OK, you'll not have to deal with anything worse!

Water - available at both the lakes.

Coffee - available at both the lakes, according to the season.

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Road riding in Morzine with half Cols

Before heading out on a full col why not try a half one first? There is no point in getting upset and tired...


Corbier and Grand Taillet, 43km, 1100m, 2h15m

Corbier and Grand Taillet

https://www.strava.com/routes/5762572

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Should I ride in the Etape du Tour?

A question thousands ask themselves every October. The answer is probably "yes", I'll explain why here. The Etape du Tour and the Tour du France are organised by the same people. ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), ASO organises a dozen or so huge events (Paris-Roubaix, Critérium du Dauphiné and the Vuelta amongst others).

profile

They partially release the route for the Tour du France for the forthcoming year in October. The stage that will be used for the Etape is announced on the same day.  Generally they choose the "Queen stage", the hardest day on the tour. If you are interested then you probably have a month or so to sign up. In 2015 the 15,000 places where all allocated by the end of December.

route

There are lots of reasons not to sign up. I guess that's the same with any big sporting event. It is easy to think of excuses not to go.

  • I'm not fit enough.
  • It's too big, you've heard of terrible queues and holdups.
  • It's dangerous, you are surrounded by thousands of wannabe bike racers who probably aren't safe in a group.
  • The logistics and expense are too much.

Not being fit enough is probably the weakest reason not to go and the best reason to give it a try. True, it is a hard day out. Generally not harder than any other Grand Fondo in the world though. Between 120km and 170km and with between 2,000m and 4,000m of climbing. The winners often complete the course in 4hrs and the last arrivals in around 10hrs. There are various "cut offs" along the course where the organisers will insist you stop if you are riding too slowly.

mavic mutual support

In general this equates to an average speed of 14km/hr. It is definitely not an event that you should consider turning up at and "having a go" without doing the training. Thousands of people realise this every year. Of the two Etape's I have taken part in 25% did not turn up in 2016 and 30% in 2012. I suspect they will have realised they had bitten off more than they can chew!

sign up no queues

The fact that this has 15,000 people entering is a daunting. I have done plenty of Gran Fondo's and normally the participants are measured in the hundreds and not the thousands. I have heard all sorts of rumours about being forced to walk because of heavy traffic, massive queues getting to the event, holdups because of crashes. I've been fearful of these things myself. In the two Etape du Tour's I have entered I have not come across anything like this.

competitors wall

The organisation has always been exceptional. You would imagine there might be issues but I have not seen them. I'm sure they exist but they are the exception rather than the rule. The start is staggered. The fastest riders set off first (7am) and then tranches of 1000 will set off every 7.5 min from then on until almost 9am. When you enter they will ask you for an estimated time to complete the event. They will try and use this to put you in the relevant "pen". If you put "I just want to finish" they'll put you at the back. If you desperately want to ride with a friend and you find yourself split up then don't stress, there is some discretion at the start.

start etape du tour

Cycling comes with dangers. Cycling over the Alps or Pyrenees comes with extra hazards. The long steep and twisting descents add issues. The weather often plays its part too. In my experience you'll have to deal with all sorts of cold and rain whilst training and on the day will be faced with a heat wave. There are crashes and if you are involved they will hurt. I'm pretty sure most of the crashes are caused due to user error though, not other riders. Not all but most. If you don't want to "mix it up" with the boy racers it's easy to back off and find some space.

descent on the etape

Remember the whole road is closed so you have twice as much tarmac to play with compared to normal. You will see plenty of crashes and lots of medical staff helping out. But then there are thousands of riders and thousands of chances to fall off. The guys in the Tour de France crash much more often than people taking part in these events!

climbing the colombiere

I think the entry fee was about 100€. For this you get closed roads, an incredibly well organised event, a nice medal (if you finish), a hat or a t-shirt or something like that. In 2016 a rucksack of sorts. 3 feeding and watering stations and 4 extra water stops. There is even sports drink available if that is what you are in to. At the start there is coffee and Madeleine cake and a pasta party at the finish. Saying that I have never been able to face eating at the finish.  The smaller events cost less but are not better value. They do tend to be circuits though which makes your own personal logistics much easier to organise.

joux plane

The fact that most Etape's are "point to point" does add a big logistical issue. The organisers do arrange plenty of buses on the day and the days before too. Saying that a support car and a willing driver would help immensely. There are plenty of large organisations that will sort things out for you too. Ranging from a weeks holiday, rental bikes, top spec hotels, exclusive support during the ride for up to $5k or camping at the start and riding back after (there are plenty that do that!).

 

james alpine property

I've not spoken to anyone who has not been immensely impressed with the Etape de Tour. The organisation, the route and the atmosphere. So stop thinking of reasons not to do it and get on and ride!

 

 

Posted on by Gareth Jefferies


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