Dave and Keith’s Alpine Tour 

24th - 28th  May ’06

Joint Team Leaders 

Dave and K2   


K1, JR, Mike 

Too good for a decent story?

Absolutely no problems with anything – flights OK, left luggage fine, equipment reliable (one puncture only), accommodation excellent, no bonking, crashing, arguing, fighting, drunkenness or hangovers.  Scenery fantastic, routes well-chosen and well-navigated.  Food and drink fine. Value for money.  Marvellous, but just what am I supposed to report, especially as K2 is supplying the factual account, we also have an excellent photographic record and Dave has exabytes of Garmin data.  After many years of reporting, am I finally redundant?  Maybe I should just make it all up. 

Guide to Cycling No. 1 - Technology 

Ok, so when we started this lark 25 years ago, who envisaged Google Earth and Garmin SatNav?  Google Earth allows one to ‘fly the route’ before you go, making note of dangerous potholes and gravely roads as well as checking the en route bars for decent beer.  These data are then downloaded into a really too clever piece of oriental technology; the Garmin-led trip from the airport through Geneva was really very impressive, especially the detour through the housing complex and up the stairs.  En route the Garmin will provide your location and altitude, air temperature and humidity, your travel direction, your speed, pedal cadence, heart rate; it’ll test your eyesight and suggest when you need some food and drink – even the optimum beer to imbibe.  More advanced models will also provide the appropriate musical accompaniment (eg Road to Hell) and offer advice on improving your darts.  Many thanks to technophile Dave for his excessive route planning and Garmin programming – a great success, although I personally have nostalgic memories of the regular map stops – an opportunity for a rest and a discussion on where we have come from, where we are, where we are going and that most important question of all – why?!

Day 1 Geneva to Talloires 

  NB all  data a combination of Dave’s and my Cateye 

53 miles, 1428 m up

Time 4.7 hours

Speed 11.3 mph 

Mont Saleve was just how it looked on Google Earth – tough.  The Garmin failed to anticipate the lack of hot food at the top.  The salad was excellent with a great view of Lake Geneva, but hey! – it was still a salad.  Accommodation was again excellent but blimey – a walk to the bar!  Panic as this was not serving food, but the pizzeria, as is normal in France, comes to the rescue.


Guide to Cycling No. 2 - Climbing 

We finally have this sorted out – it’s safer to work in feet (600 metres seems fine but not when it’s converted to 2000 feet) if you wish to appreciate the pain involved.  However, we have now determined that on these typical Alpine climbs we ascend at about 10 vertical metres per minute and hence the 1000 m climb on Day 4 above Annecy will take 100 minutes cycling or, including stops, just over 2 hours; early sprints and attacks are therefore inadvisable.  We climb comfortably at about 6 mph (JR 6.1, K1 6.0, K2/Dave 5.95, Mike 5.9 or something like that) and it’s sensible to stop after 45 minutes max. to take on fuel and compare notes and generally despair.  Perversely, I must own up to quite enjoying climbs, unless they’re ridiculously steep or too soon after breakfast.  At least you gain something (potential energy) from all the effort whereas cycling on the flat just contributes to global warming by heating bodies, bikes and air.  Admittedly the potential energy is soon converted to heat on the descent but at least you have a short time to admire the views, and possibly enjoy a higher energy beer.  So…repeat after me…’climbing is good’.  That’s why we go to hilly areas of the world.  

Day 2 Talloires to Albertville

59 miles, 1912 m up

Time 5 hours

Speed 11.8 mph 

  Good spot on the pre-printed profiles – don’t go for the 700 m climb straight after breakfast; have a pleasant cycle round Lake Annecy, which is indeed flat.  Two cols, including the Aravis, that I’ve just seen televised on Le Tour.  We passed the 500 m sheer drop into a gorge with shrines to a combination of suicides and some wayward descenders – this appeared to have little lasting effect on our downhill racing trio.  We removed some gratuitous extra climbs at the end of the day, only for one 300 m jobby to be forcibly reinstated due to a road closure.  Was this really Ascension Day when we had a breakfast beer?  They’re all Ascension Days!  I suppose we really did need to time-trial the last 10K into Albertville?  Accommodation excellent at the Auberge de Costaroche and far enough from town to prevent any late night boozing – is this good or bad?  Al fresco breakfast definitely good, sun rising over the mountains etc. 

Guide to Cycling No. 3 - descending 

Now I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert at this – I’m OK if the road is straight but hairpin bends, no thanks.  The downhill racers, K2, Dave and JR, appear to be excellent and perhaps should contribute an expert ‘Guide to Descents’.  Many of the locals did not seem so good and neither is Le Tour King of the Mountains, Michael Rasmussen, who does not appear to like leaning his bike over.  Chris Boardman suggested that this poor descending was due to his high saddle position, a reason that resonates with me, having changed the Dawes, when I was OK, to the Trek, when I am not.  So next year, the saddle will be lowered 8 inches and I’ll be a contender.  Le Tour does show the hazards of getting it wrong; a bit of grit, a wobble and the Armco barrier, that adequately stops cars, will launch the cyclist into space.  How do these guys know that the 500 m sheer drop is not the other side of that particular barrier?  Anyway our trio stayed safe and relished the downhills. 

Day 3 Albertville to Albertville 

Rest day - 74 miles, 2120 m up

Time 6.2 hours

Speed 11.9 mph 

  How good was this?  Ascending the Cornet de Roselend in the warm sunshine on roads recently cleared of snow; avoiding the fatal swim because the lake was fortunately inaccessible (I think); passing two large Germans with even larger panniers; a classic photo at the top.  In my opinion this was pretty damn good!  The main road was a pain but relatively short.  JR reminded us non-yachtees of anabatic winds that blow up valleys in the afternoon and require tired cyclists to pedal hard downhill.  Go down the valleys (katabatic) in the morning and up them (anabatic) in the afternoon.  Ludicrous sprinting at the end of the day, but for Mike – chapeaux!  Now Albertville hosted the winter Olympics so there must be an area with loads of bars and restaurants and general entertainment – it’s just not easy to find.  Everything shuts at 10 pm so it’s back to the auberge for the first recorded floodlight failure during a competitive table football game – skill counts for very little in the dark. 

Guide to Cycling No. 4 - Sprinting 

Now, climbing and descending are essential elements, unless you go somewhere boringly flat.  Conversely sprinting is entirely gratuitous, and the number of sprints seems to multiply each year.  Many years ago we were content with the stage sprint at the end of the day; subsequently a pre-lunch sprint was successfully introduced.  Now, however, there is an unlimited number of intermediate sprints to town and village road signs and, even occasionally, other road furniture.  These sprints are very hotly contested and often involve Machiavellian tactics and poor etiquette – it is certainly helpful to have sight of a map.  After a near-death-experience following a sprint with Frank about 15 years ago I am initially reluctant to get involved, but after a short while it affects you like a contagious disease and you find yourself busting a gut to claim the credit for the road sign to ‘Unchevalville’.  Why? – I suppose it’s to thwart Dave’s celebrations.  On day 3 we climbed 5200 feet from Albertville to the Cornet de Roselend and completed a total of 74 miles in some pretty hot conditions.  So the race was neutralised and we rolled into Albertville without a debilitating race – not!  I believe Mike took this stage with a strong attack about 3 miles from home and some dodgy tactics involving moving motorised vehicles.  This year’s philosophical question: ‘sprinting – why?’ 

Day 4 Albertville to Annecy

58 miles, 2118 m up

Time 5.3 hours

Speed 10.9 mph    

  Col du Frene, 950 m – no problem whatsoever, very pleasant.  The locals were out in force going up the other way with serious wind assistance.  A spot of lunch and a slow relaxed cruise into Annecy – except the absolutely gratuitous 1000+ metre climb to allow a more heroic arrival.  Garmin scores again with very impressive directions to the accommodation.  You don’t see your next door neighbour for 2 years, but you bump into a colleague by a large lake in the Alps!  It was all set up for the last night of irresponsible celebrations where JR particularly overhydrates and suffers on the last day.  We’re in the German bierkeller where they sell strong beer by the bucketful – it’s midnight and the evening is young – a long night of celebratory boozing is on offer!  Taxi! Taxi! Gotta get home – very, very sensible and much appreciated the following morning.  This year’s hypothetical question ‘What if the bar had been next door to the hotel?’ Would willpower have triumphed and common sense prevailed?  I like to think it wouldn’t.

Guide to Cycling No. 5 – A short physics lesson

The Garmin recommends a Ricard and a banana after 35.2 km but appears to have problems computing the calories used; it appears to ignore the calories required for going uphill, which in the Alps may be of some importance.  Reluctantly due to lack of incident I’m forced to revert to the day job.   Now, pay attention boys and girls – it’s time for a short physics lesson.

My bike and I weigh (for pedants, has a mass of) 93 kg (that’s 60 kg for me and 33 kg for the bike).

We go uphill at 6 mph (that’s 3 m/s between friends)

We also climb at 10 m vertical per minute.

We can calculate the three components of power output required:

Rolling resistance is stuff-all, say 0.01 x 930 = 9.3 N

This requires a power output of  9.3 x 3 = 28 W

Air resistance at 3 m/s is pathetic as well, say 0.5 x 0.95 x 1.2 x 0.45 x 32 = 2.3 N

This requires a power output of 2.3 x 3 = 7 W

Climbing logically is the problem – hauling 93 kg (0.93 kN) up at 10 m per minute requires a power output of  0.93 x 10/60 = 155 W.

Hence the total power output required is 190 W

This is 0.190 kJ per second or 684  kJ per hour.

Now let me introduce a useful constant (K1’s Number); a really useful assumption is that the body is 24% efficient and combining this with the conversion 1 kCal = 4.2 kJ gives the input in kCal is the same as the power output in kJ.  K1’s Number = 1

Hence climbing requires a fuel input of 684 kCal per hour.  Now reach into the back pocket of your anorak and calculate the appropriate combination of Pelforth Brun and Bananas.  3.1 Pelforth and 2.3 bananas seems reasonable, if a touch conservative – however, JR, our recent appointment to the important position of Team Nutritionist, will provide more accurate data.

Now you’re getting into this, we may as well repeat the calculations for riding on the flat, at say 20 mph (9 m/s between friends)

Rolling resistance is stuff-all, say 0.01 x 930 = 9.3 N

This requires a power output of  9.3 x 9 = 84 W

Air resistance at 9 m/s is more serious 0.5 x 0.95 x 1.2 x 0.45 x 92 = 20.8 N

This requires a power output of 20.8 x 9 = 187 W

Climbing is no problem – a power output of 0 W is required

Hence the total power output required is 271 W

Applying the K1 constant this requires 976 kCal per hour (4.1 Pelforth : 2.7 banana recommended – however, if you take a tow in the peloton you can skip the bananas and focus on beer).

The TV coverage of Le Tour this year was graced by loads of this technical stuff.  Apparently Floyd Landis’s max. power output has recently increased from 900 W to 1200 W (that’ll be the testosterone then!) and Chris Boardman had a maximum of 1000 W, slightly less than the women track sprinters.  The male track sprinters can manage 1800 W – now that sounds impressive.

I think the conclusion for us recreational cyclists is that you can adhere to the Desperate Dan diet of cow pie and buckets of beer and still lose weight.

Day 5 Annecy to Geneva

61 miles

Time 4.2 hours

Speed 14.5 mph

Now this really was a super day after an uncertain start departing Annecy.  The route included a couple of spectacular gorges including one on the Rhone.  A bridge closure caused an unfortunate detour but at least we found a restaurant open on a Sunday – by no means a certainty in France.  Even the run-in to the airport through Geneva was relatively pleasant – I really cannot think of anything to whinge about!

Guide to Cycling No. 6 – Recovery

After any cycle tour it is important that the rider recovers properly with the specified amount of rest, food and, most important of all, rehydration.  Illicit substances and blood transfusions are a possibility for the more serious cyclist.




305 miles, 8660 m up (1 Everest between friends)

Time 25.4 hours

Speed 12.0 mph

Weather – absolutely excellent sandwiched between two very poor weeks!


So where do we go now?  Can we really expect to improve on this one ?




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