It is the season of the road cycling Grand Tours. Hundreds of the world’s best cyclists compare their strength and endurance day after day making huge distances and climbing great mountains. Their inspiring performance should not only pin you in front of the TV but also make you follow their example and make your own Grand Cycling Tour. Here is the story of my Grand Tour in Switzerland. The first part was about the Alps, now it is followed by the Jura and the Lake Geneva, the final episode will be the crossing of the 2005 m (6578 ft) high Simplon pass to Italy.
I have to admit there is a bit of a chronological mess in this story necessitated by the geographical order. The tour in the Alps were at the end July 2015 followed by the Simplon pass after a few days, from there I travelled home a returned to Switzerland two weeks later. I hope you don’t mind this little trick. So a few weeks later I arrived with another night train to Zürich, and this time I started to the opposite direction, towards Basel. The sky was cloudy, the temperature was ideal and the road across northern Switzerland was relative flat, full of forest and of course the road surface was perfect. The first shower stroke me around Baden. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but soon I had to stop and hide under a roof, because it was not about just getting a little wet. But summer showers come and go and a couple of minutes later I was on my bike again. I had a good average speed and within 3 hours from the start I arrived to Basel, which is about 80 km (50 mi) from Zürich. I spent about an hour in Basel by looking around and having lunch. The turn of the river Rhine was especially beautiful from the height of the old town bordered by high hillsides and disappearing to the distance of France. The weather was calm, it started to rain again only when I started to climb the first heights of the Jura. First I had to climb on a 1000 m (3280 ft) high plateau, where I cycled about 30 km (19 mi) between the fresh scent of the pine forests then up another 300 m (985 ft) to climb across a saddle, from where a great view opened on the French side of the Jura. At this point I was really cold. It was strange how this tour was just the opposite of the last one not only by the side of the country but also by the weather. I took on my arm and leg warmers and also my raincoat with the hood a long ago, not really against the rain but rather agains the cold, but the real problem was the cold water sprinkled by the tires on my Achilles. I was not happy but I wasn’t much worried as I was already past the hardest part and I started to descend to the Lac de Neuchatel, where I my girlfriend – who also had her part of cycling 70 km (44 mi) from Lausanne to Neuchatel – was waiting for me with a coach surfing place already arranged, so we had a dinner and a good night sleep after the hard and freezing day at a very kind Libanese man. She’s really the best.
In the Morning we started off from Neuchatel comfortably as we planned to make only a 100 km (63 mi) on that day and spend the rest of the time with visiting Bern on the half-way. In a few hours we arrived to Bern where we spent a couple of hours with looking around, eating and resting. The weather was kind to us that day, so we could enjoy the city built on hillsides like the seats in a stadium. We started again in the late afternoon and cycled towards Fribourg in the cool evening. Since my girlfriend is a real runner, not just an enthusiastic amateur like me, there was no chance that she would miss a training. About 15 km (9 mi) from the city we stopped, so she can run the rest of the distance as a training, while I was cycling with two bikes and carrying both our backpacks. I’m not sure which one of us got more tired on this section. In Fribourg she already arranged another couch surfing host for us, a very nice Swiss girl who cooked for us and talked a lot about her journeys around the world. The warm food, warm bed, warm tea was just what we needed for the day that was waiting for us. It was already raining, and blowing and freezing right when we started, it was raining, blowing and freezing also when we got lost in Fribourg and it was raining, blowing and freezing outside as we warmed ourselves in a petrol station to get ourselves together for the ride.
It was already around noon when we finally started to the right direction towards Lausanne on the hilly land between the Jura and the Alps. Kata’s morale was really in the bottom no matter how I tried to cheer her up (mostly I got her even more angry), but since she is really not used to giving up anything, she refused all my intentions to help and she rode forward glumly. The 865 m (2837 Ft) high mountain between us and Lausanne did not make the situation easier, but the closer we got to the end, the more determined she got, so when we finally roach the top and started to rush down to the Lake Geneva, she was already quite delighted. I wasn’t much content either as the cold of the last day made my achilles inflamed so it felt like a rusty part that would need some oiling. So finally we arrived wet and tired but happy to Lausanne, we finished the hardest etap of the tour together and there was flat and food waiting for us.
After a day of resting and enjoying Lausanne I decided to go around the Lake Geneva. It is a 166 km (104 mi) long route on a relative flat terrain crossing some of the greatest cities in the area like Montreaux, Évian and Geneva. I started early in the morning in the direction of the rising sun and passed the picturesque Château de Chillon, the castle that seems to be floating on the lake. Soon I crossed Montreux-Vevey, where the statue of Freddy Mercury stands close to the headquarters of Nesté, and Villeneuve that might be sound familiar from the name of the famous Formula 1 driver. Shortly after I passed the eastern cusp of the lake I crossed the border and entered France at the legs of the Mont Blanc. It is funny how the road represents its country, somehow I immediately knew I was in France even if there was no recognizable border check at all. The road was narrow and the jammed vehicles made this section uncomfortable, but soon enough I was riding again on the spectacular lakeside enjoying its panorama in the cool shadow of the great mountains. After passing the luxirious city of Évian-les-Bains – famous of its mineral water – I arrived to the resort of Thonon-les-Bains and had some rest. The rest of the south coast was on an open plain, which was less exciting than before so I focused on the cycling a little too. Two weeks ago I already visited Geneva, so this time I didn’t spend that much time there this time, but it is a nice place to rest always, and I am very fond of the water jet, which in my opinion the cleverest monument of the world. There was still about 60 km (38 mi) to go, but I was not much tired and the weather was perfect. I didn’t rush, I tried to enjoy the landscape of hills and vineyards on the last section riding to east again with the setting sun in my back.
Lake Geneva is truly an amazing place of Switzerland with its mediterranean atmosphere and fabulous cities, a perfect place for cycling and even an ideal length for a long day ride.
If you didn’t read the first episode of the tour click here.