Roc des Alpes – La Clusaz

Ski+board Deputy Editor Rosie Barcroft heads to Lake Annecy to succumb to gravity and discover downhill mountain biking.

I’ll start this blog with a well-known joke. What’s brown and sticky? The correct answer is a stick. However, the most appropriate answer on 16 June was my trainer. I had just managed to submerge it in a bog while taking part in the Rando Roc Gourmande (a cross-country and downhill mountain bike race with the added bonus of food).

I had imagined the Roc Gourmande, part of the brand new Roc des Alpes festival in La Clusaz, France would be a leisurely potter around the mountain sampling some delicious cheese (mostly Reblochon), crusty bread and refreshing wine. I was 50 per cent right. The food was superb, but it wasn’t leisurely.

LC 1I should have known. After involving myself in events throughout the weekend and seeing mountain bikes flying through trees, hopping rocks, riders clambering up boulders and skimming through fields relaxing wasn’t what the organiser, Frédéric Salomone, had in mind. Especially when he conjured up the different routes, which appealed to over 4,000 participants.

La Clusaz provided an ideal location for the inaugural Roc des Alpes. Situated just over an hour from Geneva airport, and a stone’s throw away from Annecy, the rolling mountains, reflective lakes and musical cows (every cow had a bell attached to its neck) had me looking at house prices on the off chance I could set up residence in one of the dandelion speckled meadows.

LC 2And that was after I ended up with a muddy shoe. Luckily, I had managed to hire a Rando Mantra e-bike to help me on my way. Powering up the rocky mountains in ‘Tour’ or even ‘Sport’ mode when I felt particularly tired meant I was greeted by comments: “Vous Trichez” (I suppose I was cheating a little, but how else was I supposed to keep up with the extremely fit group?) and “Voulez-vous échanger?” (No, I didn’t think swapping would be the best idea).

But going down was another story. My disc brakes were permanently engaged as I stood on the pedals slightly behind the saddle, gripping the handlebars and gritting my teeth in defiance of the many tree roots, rocks and ruts. Only when the end was in sight did I slightly relax. Stupidly slowing up for a particularly deep bog. My balance faltered, my bike tilted and my trainer disappeared.

Still, I made it back to the village centre with one mostly clean shoe. A success. Especially when I rounded off the day with a well-deserved Panache (Shandy) in the family-run Chez Papaz restaurant. Yes I had a taxi to catch and a flight to board, but I wanted to enjoy the 36-degree temperature, brilliant blue skies and incredible atmosphere for just a little longer.

Rosie Barcroft was a guest of Lake Annecy Ski Resorts with La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, Manigod and Saint Jean de Sixt. She stayed in the four-star Hotel Beauregard.

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Chris Taine

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