Friday was to be the last full sun day of our stay so we decided on an ambitious plan for the day ahead. I had seen photos taken from a place called the Col de la Forclaz on the south east side of Lake Annecy, so in glorious sunshine we set out early on Tadhg and Treasa our trusty e-bikes. Believe me when I say, I would have never dreamed of attempting this on a normal road bike although many do. The first part was flat but once we turned toward the mountains the fun began.
A col in France is a mountain pass and the Col de la Forclaz sits at 1150m, that would mean over the next 8km we would be climbing almost 750m with gradients of 8-11%. Now for lots of you that probably means nothing but as an avid fan of World Tour Road Cycling I thought I knew what I was getting into to. This would be a long steep drag but I’d seen the photos and felt the prize at the end was worth the effort.
The road started out in the trees, with the Montmin river below us in the valley. We passed alpine villages and farms. We made a welcome stop at a shady bend to visit a roadside waterfall in a fairytale-like glen. The countryside was doing its very best to distract us from the pain. I won’t bore you with the blow by blow but safe to say we reached the top after about an hour and a half of an uphill struggle, with more than a couple of ‘will I make it’ or ‘should we turn around’, ‘have I bitten off more than I can chew’ crises along the way.
Upon arrival at the col itself, I found it to be like many of these touristy places, a bit over commercialised with shops and restaurants and an activity centre trying to tempt us with adrenaline filled tandem para-gliding. My first thought was ‘is this it…where are these amazing views’ and just a couple of pedal strokes later my jaw dropped and all the neon lit hubbub faded into the background. The scene laid out below us was the entirety of Lake Anncey, the bluest blue I’ve ever seen, as it curves and bends its way to the north. Truly breathtaking. When we got our breath back literally and figuratively we chose a cafe with a terrace balcony overlooking the view and watched the para-gliders as they took off from a launch area just above our position, their multicoloured canopies soaring silently only metres above us before catching the up drafts along the ridge and eventually drifting out over the lake below. The whole scene was mesmerising.
Eventually we drew ourselves away and as the saying goes ‘what goes up, must come down’. We had our own adrenaline filled adventure ahead of us as we began the steep descent on winding roads back down to the lakeside at Talloires, but not before another stop at Cascade d’Angon, where we took the marked shady path, before inching our way along narrow balcony walkways, behind a side waterfall to the main event, the precipitous drop of the Angon Waterfall. After the leg burning day I’d already had I had debated sitting this one out but I was so glad I didn’t, it was challenging terrain but well worth it.
Back in Annecy we stopped for a late lunch at a rare find, an all vegan restaurant, before the last push to home and recovery. After the effort of the day and the sense of achievement of pushing through when I wanted to give up, I was reminded of something I once read, which has stayed with me “The magic happens at the edge of your comfort zone”, today was proof of that if I ever needed it.