26 Jul 2016

Lads on Tour

WORDS & PHOTOS x Zach Faulkner

I pull out my phone to check the time; it’s 2:38am!

My group has settled into the evening’s festivities and the ride I signed on for is kicking off in only 6 hours and 22 minutes. I’m due to meet at 9am at Bike Morzine, France, to start off the day’s adventure over to Switzerland. As the clock strikes 3am I climb into bed and begin to conjure up excuses why I can’t make it.

8am, my alarm goes off – far too early for my liking – and I stare at the ceiling taking stock of my state of being. Surprisingly, I feel fine. Chamois buttered, pack brimming with water, food, and camera gear, I roll down the street in search a hardy breakfast of pain au chocolate and espresso.

A few turns of allen keys, texts, and phone calls later, we are in the Super Morzine gondola. The crew of two-wheeled enthusiasts consists of myself, Jon Stout, Jamie Tilbury, Russ Paver, Guy Gibbs, and Dave Zee. It is basically a reunion of friends who used to do this sort of thing nearly every day in Queenstown, NZ during the off season.

Dropping into the first rocky descent from Avoriaz down to Lindarets, Russ says, ‘Let’s not have any flat tires just yet lads, go easy’. Then, just minutes later, Stout manages to get the first of the group’s six flats. Atop the border between France and Switzerland, this would become the day’s theme.

Brakes burning, squealing, and generally just not working by the time we reach the bottom of the run, we pit-stop at a small farm/snack shack. The view from picnic area is out of an oil painting.

Climbing, and pushing, we summit to the start of the Col de Cou to Champery; astride the Swiss/French border; a vague dirt ribbon that fades over an exposed ridge line, down into the valley on the far side. This is going to be a good one; that much is apparent.

After negotiating some snow crossings we slowly pass semi-disgruntled hikers, take photos, and immediately drop into countless switchbacks through loose shale and rain ruts. It’s wild; we’re stoked, with huge grins and fist-bumps abundant at the bottom.

Champery is the last point of interest. We seek brief refuge in the shade of the lone food store still open during the odd regional siesta time from 2pm to 4pm. Carbs ingested, and blood sugar levels evened out, we are up and catching the tram to the top of the monstrous mountain.

The final leg of our day was supposed to be a couple of simple fire road descents and lift rides back to Morzine; Murphy’s Law worked like a charm though. Two more flats reared their obnoxious heads (Russ and I go #2 and #3 for a total of 6). I opt to ride the flat tire to the bottom and all the way back to Lindarets; Russ cops a tube from a passer-by.

We hop on the last lift back up to Avoriaz. All that awaits us is a steady, gravity-fed cruise back down to Morzine.

The day is complete.

A day out with mates, enjoying the freedom of two wheels, and the amazing terrain that can be accessed with the aid of chairlifts and an adventurous spirit; this is what it’s all about.

Next time though, I’m packing more tubes.