Morzine in the French Alps is a destination which conjures up images of wintersport enthusiasts speeding down snow- covered slopes.
But I was heading there to try out some of the local cycling routes among the peaks of the Savoie Mont Blanc region surrounding Morzine.
Earlier this year, the area’s profile was enhanced by the return of the Tour de France, with Chris Froome making a spectacular descent into Morzine.
The town welcomed cycling’s iconic event in style, with red polka dots (symbolising the King of the Mountain’s jersey) decorating everything.
Even without these reminders of the event, the town is a photographer’s dream, with most of the wooden chalet-style buildings decorated with window boxes packed full of geraniums.
As I looked to the peaks that surround the town, I wondered just how well my cycling legs would cope with slopes that test the best in the world.
I needn’t have worried. In the hands of Joseph a local cycling guide who works as a ski instructor in winter, my introduction to the local cycling routes couldn’t have been more relaxed.
First stop was the bike shop where the superbly efficient technicians fitted us out with our bikes. For the technically minded, my steed was a Scott Solace, 55 Euros for the day. The skilled British technicians at the Torico bike shop adjusted them to our height, even fitting pedals and saddles for those who had brought their own. Our target for the day was the Col de L’Encrenaz, a name which had me imagining struggling through a barren, rocky land-scape.
I needn’t have worried. In reality, we rode through forests along a largely traffic-free road with plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the views. At the top of the Col sat a delightful flower-clad café restaurant where my fellow riders and I relaxed over a well-earned coffee before tackling the descent back to Morzine.
While the ride down required frequent wrist-numbing use of the bike brakes, this did at least give the excuse to stop and admire the views.
Reward for my exertions was lunch at La Chamade on one of Morzine’s pedestrianised streets where the site of a group of lycra-clad riders didn’t raise so much as eyebrow.
While we enjoyed some delicious food, the road behind us was busy with mountain bikers returning from their morning exertions at the top of the mountains.
In the summer months they take advantage of the area’s extensive lift system to get to the top of the hills before hurtling downhill.
Those looking for more relaxed break browsed shop windows or took a dip in the town’s swimming pool.
Alternatively, you could just work your way through the superb selection of eating place. At La Chamade, it was hard to drag my eyes away from the picture-perfect food before us, which included a delicious goat’s cheese tart and a selection of miniature desserts. With so many easily accessible cycling routes available, we could have tackled another one after our food. Instead we took up the offer of a taster session of yoga, in a hillside meadow. Not the sort of thing I’d have done at home, but if holidays aren’t about new experiences, what are they for?
An hour or so of gentle stretching later I felt completely chilled out, even if I did have to fight the urge to nod off completely.
Naturally, after all this healthy living we rewarded ourselves with a burger and chips washed down with some delicious beer produced on the premises at La Bec Jaune, a local microbrewery.
The following morning our guide Bruno revealed that the route he had in mind involved tackling the Col de Joux Verte. After a damp climb up through the trees on a road that reminded me of the English Lake District, apart from the height and the presence of a snowless ski station half way up.
I restored my energy levels with a lunchtime pizza followed by a brief nap back at the Hotel Le Petit Dru, temporary home to three of this year’s Tour de France teams.
If you love mountains, regardless of how you want to get up and down them, it seems there’s always something to see in this part of the world.
My rental bike was supplied by www.toricomorzine.com
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