Somewhere near Aigle lurks an evil cycling genius (and no, I don't mean Phat Pat...). He guards his roads and passes carefully. While he may be happy to post about riding them on the internet, don't think about coming to ride them. See, he's set cyclist traps to catch the unwary.
And if they don't get you he'll send out his minions to block the road
Possibly the odd tank too
But somehow five brave souls evaded his defences to trespass on some of the finest cycling in Europe. Having flown in from London we assembled bikes at our residence near the top of the Col des Mosses and picked up our numbers for our first ride, the Gruyere Cycling Tour a very fine sportive starting and finishing in Bulle (Strava details here).
The ride starts off with a long drag up the Jaun valley this year enlivened by 500m of impromptu cyclocross.
One of our group got a puncture and we were good Samiritans to a chap who'd forgot to bring patches or a spare inner tube and in the meantime 90% of the field went past. So we TTT-ed past the stragglers to the first, hardest and prettiest climb, the Mittelberg where I was promptly dropped - 10% plus gradients do that to people my size (190cm 85kg) when racing against skinny midgets (160cm 65 kg).
At the top the feed station offered fromage and crazy Swiss people
A madcap descent with a few sphincter-tightening moments followed before we rolled into the outskirts of Saanen - pretty.
Then it's through Gstaad, home of the super-rich (look out for Roman Polanski evading extradition) to Gsteig and onto the second climb, the Col du Pillon. It's a relatively gentle affair until the last km which brings you back into French-speaking Switzerland. I take it easy until someone overtakes me at which point I desperately try to hold their wheel, only falling back as it steepens at the end.
At the top, more food and wistful looks at the cable car which leads to some of the finest skiing I did last season.
Oh well, it's summer, so time to descend to Les Diablerets a wondrous twisting descent where the motorcycle outriders (did I mention them?) struggle to stay ahead of the cyclists. A bit of valley road then it's the last climb, the Col des Mosses. It is the opposite of the Pillon: it starts of hard then slackens off and as you reach the top you realise you can put it in the big ring and gun it.
Just over the climb we pass our chalet and resist the temptation to stop off for beer before plummeting down the descent. It's fast and leads to a 25km run in to Bulle along the valley road. The slight down ward gradient is offset by the stiff headwind but it's still fast, fast, fast.
Our group picks up stragglers and before we know it we have a group of about 20 strung out along the road with the stronger riders swapping turns on the front. Quads burning and adrenalin pumping we charge into Bulle. The group shatters on a slight rise and reduces to 6 or so riders. 4 Brits, a Yank and an Aussie. I can't muster a sprint and roll over the line at the back of the group. Knackered.
Next day we probably should have done a recovery ride. Instead we decided to go climb bagging (part 1, part 2). The original plan had been to descend to Aigle then climb up to Lac de l'Hongrin via Yvorne. But sadly the Swiss army was practicing with its penknives so a change of plan was afoot. We still started by heading down to Aigle a wonderful descent starting in the alpine pastures of Les Mosses, through woods and then into the vineyards of Aigle.
Or main aim was the Col de la Croix but we decided to get there by a roundabout route. In Aigle we took a sharp left, past a mushroom farm and started climbing on a small road through Verschiex. There were more vineyards.
A cute little cog railway.
And about a km of gravel climb
And then we popped out into Alpine meadows.
A sharp descent brought us to the foot of the Col de la Croix, a beast of an Hors Categorie climb if you do it from the bottom as we did.
We stopped briefly in Villars to refuel on coke, sweets and ice cream
Then it was up, up, up to the col itself.
The descent to Diablerets was fast and a wee bit scary but was rewarded with a big plate of rosti which sat heavily in the stomach as we took on the last climb back to Les Mosses via Vöettes. This is a lovely route on tiny roads through alpine farmsteads which misses out a good chunk of main road on the Col des Mosses. Plus the views are spectacular.
Then it was home and the proper recovery could begin.
Last day and time for a quick ride in the morning before returning to Geneva to fly home. This turned out to be a bit of a recce for future riding, descending a climb that's now on my list but which maps suggested might have long gravel sections. It didn't. First step was to cycle along the road above Lac de l'Hongrin a beautiful reservoir generating hydro power
Shortly after the dam the road starts descending, pops through a rough rock tunnel and begins following the course of the Hongrin gorge. At times the roads are a little rough.
But somewhere near Alieres the tarmac improves and you pop out into another spectacular, picturesque Swiss valley.
After that, it's a simple matter of descending to Montbovon before climbing the Col des Mosses from its northern side. A very pleasant climb in two distinct steps and no stretches above 8% or so - it features pretty regularly in the Tour du Romandie and has even been in the Tour de France a few times.
Col des Mosses climbed, it was back to the chalet to pack the bike and head to the airport. An excellent way to spend a long weekend: good company, good riding and 6,500 odd metres of climbing.