Gravel grinding events have been around for a long time in the US but with the growth of the gravel genre in Europe, expect to see more and more over here. When the opportunity presented itself for Podia to go and ride one such event in the French Alps, we grabbed it with both hands.
This was the inaugural La Résistance ride and probably one of the first of these ‘Gravel-Fondos’ here in Europe. Conceived as an homage to the men and women of La Résistance and their last stand on the Glieres Pateau during the Second World War, the route took in some of the most incredible terrain to cycle in the world.
The ride itself came after a few days spent with Ondřej from Chimpanzee Bar in the Czech Republic. Trains, roadtrips and riding in the Chimpanzee home turf were the perfect warm up for what awaited us by Lake Annecy in France.
The start and finish of the event was located in a picturesque village called Talloires, next to the lake which offered the perfect chance for a pre, during and post ride swim if one so desired.
With the event having such a close connection to the war heroes passed and present, the majority of the early part of the ride was spent with La Résistance Ambassador Jaco van Gass, a para-athlete and member of Team GB. After listening to his inspiring stories and helping to make the event that little more poignant, views became too amazing not to stop and Jaco settled into his climbing pace, while unknowingly playing the role of model for some of our images.
The first and longest (but certainly not the toughest) climb of the day was the Col de L’Arpettaz. A nice quiet climb with small roads and increasingly wonderful views. We had a chance to rest and refuel before what was about to come; the ‘pièce de résistance’, the Route de la Soif.
One long 15km gravel section that winds its way past the rocky mountain faces of Les Aiguilles du Mont and La Goenne, while Mont Blanc becomes more visible in the distance with each turn. This was not the part of the event to get a good Strava segment placing. This was a road that needed to be savored, like a connoisseur enjoying one of finest wines in the world.
All too soon it had finished and we were slapped on our faces by the brutal Col des Glieres, a harsh reminder of how hard this ride was. An average of 11% on the relatively short 6.2km hides the facts. Sections rising to 27% meant this was a climb to destroy the legs. Just as well that another beautiful gravel section waited for us after the feed stop.
With the engine running on empty after rolling and tricky technical sections we arrived back into Talloires where the La Résistance after party was being prepared.
The parties name La Guinguette gave away it’s historical context. Leg recovery would be aided by dancing the night away to the live swing band with the village locals and their obsession with Lindy Hop.
The guys did a wonderful job putting together the first La Résistance with an atmosphere that was unlike many other similar bike events. Without doubt this event will get better and better – we can’t wait for 2017!