A few weeks ago I received a message from a friend form Aberdeen’s parents, Hanne and Andy (who I had never met but had spoken to and knew plenty about), saying that they would be travelling through France in April and that if they were to stop by Grenoble would I mind showing them around some of the local trails. Well of course I said yes, I was pretty sure I would be out and about riding anyway and to get to show off some of the local trails to people is always good fun. I am always saying to friends they should take advantage of the fact they have free accommodation and a friend living out in an amazing place to ride anyway!
They usually ride in the Yorkshire Dales and would say that they ride for the adventure and exploration as much as enjoying the trails, so trying to think of a route that was scenic and didn’t have too many steep technical sections or jumps in I suddenly realised, crap! all the trails I have been riding here have lots of super technical stuff in them or are super steep… The trail I ended up choosing turned out to be a good one, with only a few parts that required walking, one small crash, a lot of smiles and fun and some great weather, despite the fact that it requires cycling up to the top (and back down again) the rather intimidating cliffs of St. Eynard!
After uni in the morning I cycled up to Corenc to meet Andy and Hanne at 1pm in Corenc, which is a little way up the hill and out the city so that we didn’t have to spend time riding all through the city, arriving bang on 1pm! (I am never on time).
After spending some time faffing with the bikes, getting ready and explaining the route to the guys we set off. I think once I pointed to where we would be heading I scared them a bit, they didn’t say anything but looking up to the top of where the trail went from the car park looks an awful long way perched up on top of the cliffs and the section that I said we would be coming down does look especially steep despite the trail being quite gradual with plenty of switchbacks.
We set off up the climb up the road taking the steeper but less busy road up through the smaller villages, stopping off for a coffee at the cafe at the top of Col De Vence in the sun enjoying a good rest about half way up. We decided at this point that we would go right to the top instead of staying on the lower trails which was an option if we decided it was too far, the thoughts of the views we would get from the top were enough to persuade us to go all the way up, it was an especially clear day! And of course the loong descent back down was too good to miss out.
The first time I have ridden up this road this year and there is no snow, it is on the North side of the mountain and is mostly under cover of the trees so the snow doesn’t melt in a hurry however we have had so much hot weather recently it was completely bone dry.
I love taking people to this spot as at the top of St. Eynard you climb up through the trees so you do not really get a good view of the mountains and then the last bit of the road comes up the back of the cliffs and is blocked by a natural wall of rocks about 10m high, you can cut off this right before the top and there is a little trail which goes down through a dark tunnel and then pops out at this point which gives you a huuuuuuge panoramic view of the city and surrounding mountains which as an even greater effect as you emerge from the darkness of the tunnel.
We stopped for some food at the top as we were pretty low on energy after the huge climb (from around 450m – 1300m) and I got up close and personal with some local wildlife, the spider was really funny, it really seemed like he was watching me!
From here you can see where the trail that we finished on is, you come around from the green pasture you can just see a slice of on the very right and the trail runs along just above the road then follow the tree line down around the other green fields to the second smaller road you can see further down the hill.
As you can see from the photos the view was pretty good, often it is really hazy and you do not see far, but for a change it has been quite windy in Grenoble recently making the air quite clear. The big mountains in the back are Le Vercors which I am often riding on and the smaller one down to the right is La Bastille and Le Rachais which are a good evening blast I am often doing too.
Andy being a climber was having a good go at sussing out the rocks and seeing if he could spot and routes up the cliffs below us, he had some pretty good stories to tell about climbing around the world!
The start of the descent is just on the other side of the hill in the background here and it starts with a few stairs sets down the initial part of the cliffs before it goes into some quite technical sections and then onto the nice gradient stuff in the woods. This was the moment I had to do the old ‘the first bit is not good but it gets better I promise!’ trying to convince everyone that after our long ascent we would not have to spend the whole downhill walking!
We walked down the steps and Hanne decided to set off first after Andy explained she was the one that usually has the confidence to ride things before him and sure enough she rode off ahead and stayed on the bike for as much as I could see. Andy however, chose this point to start explaining to me all the times he had fallen off, all the times he had hurt himself, how he is usually the one that has the accident while out biking and I though ‘thanks man, this really doesn’t make me nervous about taking you down here at all’ but too late now. So I let him go off ahead and thought I would just chill out at the back and make sure no one came off, I stood a little tense and watched him ride off. Seemed ok, pretty comfortable on the bike, ok i’ll give him 30-40s and head down behind.
I came round the first corner to find Andy in a heap down the site of the track! Shiiiiiit! Exactly what I was hoping not to see. Luckily he was ok and only had a cut elbow.
We rode on and once we reached the shallower gradient of the trees it was all smiles and we had a rather enjoyable descent, despite everyones brakes making some horrendous noises!
Are we really only half-way down?! Felt like we had ridden a lot and we were still sitting high above the city! Plenty more to come…
When we got close to the bottom we had a pretty good view of where we had just been. Now it was a feeling of wow we just rode down that, it looks pretty impressive instead of intimidation.Pretty good feeling looking back up at it.
The trails through the last section are a bit more gradual and real fun riding in and out of the trees in the sun, they kind of feel like a trail centre and just have a bit of everything; jumps, tight corners, technical, skinny singletrack, twisty, steep, gradual, fast, all sorts…
All smiles at the bottom and pretty tired out once we got back to the car. Great day out.
Thanks to Andy and Hanne for the coffee and meal out afterwards!