The Glory of the Tour
SRAM and Zipp ambassador, Anja Kallenbach, is a frequent haunt along the alpine roads of Europe. She's not only an impressive rider, she's a super-fan of the sport. As she often does, Anja pre-road another upcoming race route, Stage 10 at this year's Tour de France. The stage covers 158.5km and goes from Annecy to Le Grand Bornand. Anja made the video above chronicling her ride and wrote a detailed description of the entire experience below.
Words by Anja Kallenbach
Images by ak21photography
Never in my life have I seen so many brand new black, smooth roads on a 159km ride! That can mean only one thing, the Tour de France is coming soon! And the Tour is coming back to my backyard mountains! Here in Haute Savoie I’ve done almost all of my races and a lot of my training. I really know these mountains very well. But the Tour arrives once again to surprise me with a new route combination. I wanted to feel it myself, how the 10th stage from Annecy to Grand Bornand is like.
So, I started my ride at sunrise (5:30am) beside the lake of Annecy! It started with a nice warm-up rolling alongside the deep blue lake surrounded by mountains.
Once you get to Talloires, you start climbing, so chose my super light Zipp 202 wheels and selected a 40-tooth chainring and an 11-36 cassette for my SRAM Force 1 drivetrain. The first climb, the Col de Buffy, is not difficult and you get a nice view of the lake. The second climb is the Croix Fry, which is 11km long with an average gradient of 7%, something to enjoy.
I loved the descent, which didn’t have any really sharp corners; plus, I could enjoy the brand new pavement! But that’s where the fun ended. I had never ridden the Plateau de Glière from this side, but I know the narrow steep road is full of holes from cars during the winter months. And, what a wonder, no slalom around potholes today! The road now winds up like a sinuous black snake. All new! But, it is one steep ramp after the other. Luckily, almost all of it is in the forest, so it wasn’t too hot. Also, the roads were fully ready for the Tour, with fans painting pictures of bikes and paper roses, so the real tour-like feeling pushed me to climb faster! But, just when you think you made it to the top, it is not over yet.
Beyond the summit, you turn and then suddenly the brand new black road ends. There are 2km of gravel waiting for you! Having recently ridden the Strade Bianche route, my bike and I were already gravel-proofed this year with SRAM 1x and 28mm Zipp Tangente Course tires. After a few meters, you are already covered with white dust. After a little technical slippery descent, there is a long, steep climb to do.
It feels really good to return to pavement again. The mountains in the distance showed off their beauty with a huge rainbow crown hovering above them. When you leave the town of Cluse, over a little bridge, you finally turn and see it coming... the steep seemingly endless ramp at the beginning of Romme sur Cluse! The first kilometers are sheltered by the rocks. No air passes through there. It is always hot, and now with its deep black new roads, it’s even hotter! My legs were hurting like hell, after the long, flat kilometers. Sweat was running down my face like a fountain. It covering the top tube of my bike with layers of salt! When I was a professional rider with good legs, I would attack here, as long as the others are still searching for their rhythm. I just couldn´t find mine and had to stop after the first two kilometers feeling completely exhausted, knowing that here with the grade reaching 10%, it won’t get easier. But I just didn´t want to let this beast of a mountain win, soI pushed myself forward for every meter, just thinking of the idyllic water fountain waiting for me at the top on the other side of the village. Unfortunately, the riders in the race will not have the time to stop here, but I enjoyed putting the clear cold water all over my head!
After this section, there is a short technical descent, too short to really let you recover, so just breaking your rhythm. I was super concentrated, because normally the curves here are very dangerous, as they are always full of gravel as well as bigger stones lying in the road. But for the pros at the Tour, they cleaned the road!
The first kilometer of the Colombière is not so steep, but your legs hurt after the short descent. But then they are also all 9% and the last two kilometers are the steepest at over 10%. Here the Colombierère really breaks you mentally, when you are already so tired, because the road is completely straight here and surrounded by rocks that make it feel as hot as a desert.
The descent then down to Grand Bornand isn’t technical and you can enjoy the fast ride provided by the newly paved road. The finish here is the same as my favorite race, The Grand Bo. After a left turn, the last kilometer goes slightly up again, which really hurts at the end of a race! I can´t wait to see who will raise his arms here on July 17th! Whoever it is, I’ll sympathize with his pain, triumph, and exhaustion, as I have also raised my arms here in victory at The Grand Bo in exactly the same place!