Sunday, October 18, 2009

Verbier a Verbier trip might be in order just to turn the pedals a bit. I'd never been there although had heard a lot about it through Pitts, Reid, Howe. So I hooked up with Ben O'Halloran who has a one bedroom apartment there in a chalet on the slopes of Verbier. Ben by the way is a shoe in for a new Ranch member. He has all the qualities of the Ranch. Steady guy. Awesome cyclist.
The idea was to pop out to the swiss alps for a couple days and get some kilometers in. Little did we expect temps below zero and snow.
Friday night, we leave form Paris, fly to Geneva and arrive on the french side since Noshow couldn't locate his passport before leaving. Ben has the car rental taken care of in about a minute and as soon as Noshow's bike arrives we hit the road with Swiss efficiency. Up to Verbier in about 1hr 45. We have a beer, shoot the breeze and crash. Had been a long week.
Sat, 7am. Wake up groggy, look out window...
Hmmm, looks overcast and chilly. Maybe we'll mtn bike instead. One quick tour around town and with no rental stores open we decide to road bike it. Luckily the weather clears and we go for a 3 hour tour across the valley up a beautiful difficult climb to a glimmering alpine lake,
back across the valley and back up the Verbier climb. As the snow flurries began about 1 km into the climb Ben was having none of it and efficiently dropped Noshow and pedaled away like one of the Schleck brothers up the climb, Noshow grinded along cursing himself for not bringing his bike with a triple, weighing 90 kilos and for being out of shape and miserable. It was a long tough slog in a windy snow flurried atmosphere. Awesome. By the time he made it to the top Ben was waiting for him shivering as he had been waiting a good 20 minutes at least.
A spin back to his apartment and we shower up. Both being pretty psyched with accomplishment we decide to take a drive to the Monastery of the Saint Bernard Pass for a look. Snowstorm, 7 below zero. Looked great. Didn't stay long. A quick drive back home and head to Chez Rider Howe for dinner.
What a treat. He and Natalie had stopped and picked up a Raclette for all of us so we all shared a meal of melted cheese, dried meats, a great salad and good red wine all shared with great conversation. Just a wonderful couple hours.
Back to Ben's, pass out and awake to a beautiful, crisp sunny alpine morning. Little did I realize how crisp it really was.
We had found a mountian bike rental place the day before so had sorted a rental for Noshow.
By 9:30ish we are on the road with a lovely loop planned out for the morning. We had no idea what lay in store.
A lazy coast down the mountain onto an access road and we begin to climb. And climb. And climb.
After about 30 minutes we go into a cloud and the road becomes covered with snow. And the temperature drops to zero or below. Hmm, this is getting miserable. Ok, well we just have to keep going up. So we go and go and go until we have to walk the bikes because the snow is too slippery with the gradient of the slope. Noshow begins to have funny vision due to the high altitude so need to slow a little. Ben says he feels like he needs to eat a banana. Ok. Let's take a photo.
It's cold. Wet skin from the climb. Well below zero. Hmm, where do we need to get to?
Traverse the mountain.. Let's go. So we go. And after about 30 more minutes stop when we move back into the sun again. I see Ben take out his blackberry and start typing away. I have no idea how because I had no feeling in my hands. Ben, What are you doing? Response: I just sent Howe a text message that said the following: "Order 2 hot chocolates right now. I'm serious." We can see the restaurant down the valley where they are waiting for us. Just a few more km to go. So we descend into a brisk wind and end up at a lovely restaurant where met Rider Howe and family and two hot chocolates. It was a lovely sight. A fantastic lunch on the mountainside with the Howe family (Pliget and Lizzie included) and we coast back into Verbier with feelings of success and accomplishment. It was 3 hours of difficult riding conditions but we grinned, beared it, and are the better for it. I'd do it again, although maybe not tomorrow.
Altogether an awe inspiring weekend. And Benedict O'Halloran was to thank. Thank you Ben.