Struan (Edinburgh, Scotland)

“Monday July 10th, Col de la Colombiere. Load up kit into a van, for a 30 min transfer around Geneva into the French Alps, an industrial estate in Bonneville was the grand Depart. We had a pipe opener before coffee, in an Alpine village cafe, where the owner was from Manchester, so my best pigeon French wasn’t required. We then embarked upon the main event of the day, 18km climb to lunch at the top of the Colombiere. The groups split up and we found our own pace up this mind blowing pass that takes us between 2 gigantic peaks. Due to the temperature it was hard. The road has a count down to the top in Km markers, which is helpful yet sometimes soul destroying as you see the gradient increase. The scale of the area you are in means that although you can see the top of the pass, you are 5km from the top. As this was my first Alp, it was surreal to go past ski lifts, with cow bells ringing in my ears.

As we got further into the climb, fatigue started to tell. Quietly, the odd local cyclist would come dancing past you standing on their 6kg rib brake machine, seemingly effortlessly disappearing around the next bend. On other occasions you could hear a group below starting to catch you. Providing much need encouragement to keep going and stay ahead. To no avail, they would drift onto you wheel, a wee bit of banter later, I was dropped and back pedalling the final 3km on my own. The sun at this point was smashing down on me, and reflecting off the road and cliffs around, meaning there was very little air. Keeping my heart rate down was proving tricky.

We all reassembled at the top for lunch. The sense of achievement in everyone made for an electric atmosphere and much laughter. The 30km decent back to the industrial estate was everything one could have dreamed of and more. The width of the road and the towering peaks around you meant your sense of perspective was lost. Looking down, speeds of 80km were being registered, without any effort. The group of 9 or 10 came down in a sinuous line, evenly spaced almost choreographed.

The decent was made so special, by the effort put in to get to the top. Being dropped at the top by helicopter would have detracted, for me, 70% of the joy of depending, as I knew for every meter I went down I had earned it with going up the other side.“

Struan booked a SunVelo Cycling Holiday in Switzerland.