This weekend saw one of the biggest biking event of its kind in the Alps take place; an event where 400kg of cheese is consumed over two days, by the 15,000 people it attracts…. so obviously, I was there. Here is my blog about the event for Rutland Cycling
This year was also a special year as it’s the tenth anniversary of the Pass’Portes du Soleil. The classic circuit is a tour of the Portes du Soleil, featuring about 80 km / 50 miles of riding, with the aid of 15 ski-lifts to make sure there is very little climbing- just 6000m of fantastic downhill!
This was something I’d really not experienced before, having done all my biking in the UK, I’ve been used to endless uphill slogs, with not much downhill as a reward.
Based at the Hotel Tremplin in Chatel, we had easy access to the lift station, Pre La Joux, where many of the bike companies (over 150 brands are represented at the event) had stands so you could try their bikes out on the trails. There were also MTB pro demos, including the ‘Dirt Show’, featuring an enormous 6 metre freestyle ramp!
I’m kitted out with a bike from LaPierre, which was an absolute pleasure to ride after my own £500 piece of junk. However, my guide for the day, Steven Ponting from network of MCF MTB schools in the Portes du Soleil, told me it was better to learn on ‘pieces of junk’ as you can’t get away with making mistakes.
Wandering around the stands, I bumped into a friend of mine who now lives in the biking mecca of Morzine and has done the ride several times before. As I headed off, she told me not to let the boys intimidate me as is usually the case when they are decked out in all the padding you could possibly get on a body.
Steven and another french guide, Damien Chaudione, took us off on a section of the trail to learn some skills. We had to navigate through several unexpected patches of neve, giving them an opportunity to teach us how to ride with one foot on the bike, bottom behind seat with other, uphill foot, hovering for balance…. a useful trick for mud and snow!
We then are taught how to corner and handle berns properly on some green trails- something I’d not quite mastered before, but -revelation- today it finally clicked- probably because there are so many more opportunities to practice.
We also had a go at some front wheel lifts around the Chaux Fleurie area, before heading for food at Les Linclarets. Before we started the ride, we were given armbands which allow us to eat at any of the food stops.
Each area had stands with their own local specialty, and here didn’t disappoint. Tartiflette is just what you need after a full mornings mountain biking and there was also chacuterie, more cheese, chocolate, fruit, energy bars….and wine and beer. This was a real treat,unusual for mountain biking where I’m used to soggy sandwiches. So we sat in the sunshine and ate as a brass band played and watched the bikers come and go. I did feel more ready for a sleep, than the downhills afterward however!
We carried on that afternoon to the highest point, Pointe de Mossette, heading on some very chilly chairlifts. These took me a while to get the knack of – having to roll the bike onto its back wheel and slot it into the chair lift in front, seating ourselves, one at a time, in the chair behind….
We continued to blast through endless downhills, on a mix of technical single track, firetrack and more neve, until we finally called it quits at about 6:30pm. After a full day of technique coaching and riding about 40km of downhill, we headed down to another food stop for some raclette ( a much needed top up of cheese.)
Sadly the next day it was absolutely chucking it down ( ok, normal UK biking conditions) but I used it as an excuse to head back to Chamonix for some much needed rest before the BIG event of the weekend……
Prices for lessons from the MCF MTB schools in the Portes du Soleil cost 40€/hour for a private lesson. 120€ for half a day private lesson (3 hours) for one or several people; 35€ for a 3-hour group lesson (max. 8 people of similar level).