Guide: Mr Mark
Support Rider: John Raistrick

I was really looking forward to this tour as it was my first time running it and having now completed it all I can say is I LOVE it!!!!

My ride up to Folkestone was thankfully uneventful – the journey from Cornwall can be horrendous as Felix and myself discovered 2 years ago on the Norway tour! I met up with John R – our support rider for the trip, who arrived not long after me looking slightly flustered because his car broke down that afternoon blocking his bike in the garage…

An evening spent eating Nepalese food in a restaurant in Hythe gave us ample opportunity to catch up and prepare for the start of the tour set to kick off the next morning. Stop24 Services just off the M20 is an ideal place to meet up with clients before we make our way to the tunnel as its only a few minutes away. I usually arrive before everyone else but when I got there all of our Magellanites were there raring to go!

Lots of smiles and a bit of banter was thrown around mainly because Ray was the only one not on a BMW GSA! He rides a ZZ1400 and is quick on it too. A quick brief later and we were off to the tunnel and our 0820 train.

No delays and we were very quickly on the French motorway system riding as a group to the first coffee stop. The weather was awesome, hot sunshine a nice breeze what more could we ask for?

The end of day one finds us arriving at the Hotel les Tuileries which is situated on the edge of the Lorraine Regional Park. Mr Robert was there to meet us and within a short time we were eating a lovely meal and drinking a cool beer. Robert, John and myself have already toured together a year ago on the Croatia trip so we had lots to catch up on!

Day two begins with a visit to the Ossuary at Verdun which is always emotional. The soldiers buried in the field in front of the Ossuary and the remains of those entombed in the Ossuary were known as the ‘men of mud’ because of the atrocious conditions in which they fought. It’s sometimes too easy to forget what these brave men gave up for us. Leaving Verdun we head south east across the wide expanse of France towards the German border and our overnight hotel in Baden Baden. Although extremely busy the hotel staff looked after us well by serving us our evening meal and the odd beer or two…

The following day saw more sunshine, dry roads and the B500 to look forward to, so I took the opportunity to get ahead of the group to film them on this iconic road. The B500 didn’t disappoint and although it was a Monday it was incredibly quiet which suited us fine. Tonight’s hotel is in Oberammergau at the lovely Hotel Kopi Ghani but to get there we had to endure an hour of the most extreme weather I have ever ridden in. It started with a few spots of rain and before we had chance to pull over, we were engulfed in a major storm with thunder and lightning. The wind and rain was so bad we had plastic tables and chairs overtaking us as they floated down the road. Water as deep as 20cm was pouring down the road and temporary speed signs were being blown over onto parked cars – it was positively biblical!!

Arriving at the hotel a bit wet we were quickly dried and off for our evening meal.

Day four and we are off to the wonderful Saalbach and the Hotel Glemmtalerhof which would be our base for the next two days.The town was in major preparations for a downhill mountain bike completion which sees part of the course being built around the buildings and hotels in the town with the finish of the race including a jump over the river in front of our hotel finishing up on a stage on the first floor… Should we have a go on our bikes?

Day five presents a hard choice. Either we ride to Berchtesgaden (Hitler’s summer residence), EisRiesenWelt (these are the world’s largest ice caves) or the Grossglockner Pass. Decisions, decisions. Well not really as JJ had already set his heart on riding the pass, Ray was chomping at the bit to ride it as well so John and I were happy to tag on.

Three weeks earlier I had ridden the pass and at the top there were 4m high snow walls but today on a bright and sunny day it had all melted leaving the roads bone dry.The Grossglockner attracts all sorts of vehicles to its fast roads and tight hairpin bends but today the road was peppered with Austrian tractors all making their way (very slowly) to the Bikers Point at the summit.

The ride to the glacier was just as good and after a slow drink of coffee and a huge piece of cake we made our way back up and over the pass back to Saalbach.

The next day came and we were off to Valbella in Switzerland and another cracking hotel called Hotel Dieschen. Our normal hotel was unfortunately flooded earlier this year and was not able to take us but the Hotel Dieschen certainly did us all proud with fantastic food catering for all tastes and brilliant staff, it was a lovely experience to stay there.

Leaving the following day in somewhat cloudy weather, we head off to Obergoms where we can prepare for our Five Passes ride out day. That doesn’t mean we don’t ride any passes today because we ride the Furka and Grimsel passes just for starters. With the weather brightening, the ride up and over these passes is truly awesome.

Following another great night in another great hotel (Magellan are really good at finding great hotels) we all head out to ride five alpine passes in one day. It’s a bit of a fib really because we ride eight! We start with the Grimsel Pass which just keeps climbing and giving views that are breathtaking, then when you are just getting settled we start to climb the Sustenpass with its amazing views of glaciers and really pointy mountains!!

Then it’s onto a coffee stop at the top of the Oberalpass before riding back down and heading towards the Furka Pass.

Passing the front door of our hotel and quick left turn and we are riding one of Switzerland’s hidden gems which is the Neufenen Pass which is not on many people’s radar, this pass is unbelievable and so quiet. Now with all that behind us, what can beat it? The Gottard pass is again missed by many and I may be able to see why as its cobbled right to the top, but it’s well worth doing! By now the rain had started but that couldn’t wipe the stupid smile covering my face as I rode around switchbacks tighter than anything I have ridden before. I’m sat here writing this with a huge smile across my face so wide the my wife thinks I’m watching daft videos on YouTube! I was overwhelmed but the sheer beauty of this road and I was at the time the only one on it (that could have had something to do with the rain but who cares).

Arriving back at the hotel it’s like all of us have had smiles as wide as Plymouth Sound stitched in to our faces. Words were not required the smiles were enough…

Reluctantly leaving the following day we again ride the Grimsel Pass and within minutes my face is aching again. Tonights destination is a real Magellan favourite – Rouge Gazon, high in the Vosges mountains. Today we shared the roads with hundreds of people waiting for the Tour De France to pass by, which was only 3 days away. Mr Robert would be leaving us tomorrow so tonight was our ‘last’ night as a group which was sad but also exciting as we all planned our next trips together.

The following day we all leave together but quickly separate to go our different ways. Mr Robert to catch a ferry back to the UK in two days time while the rest of us head towards another hidden gem Chalons-en-Champagne. The hotel is on the main square with a huge choice of restaurants surrounding us, so off we went to celebrate our last night together.

The final day and we are meandering up through France to the tunnel and the end of our trip but even this is still a great days riding before we reach the tunnel and head off home.

So that’s it the Alps tour done, alpine passes ridden, spectacular views absorbed, hundreds of miles covered and if you want to know more then book up now! Right that’s me finished, I’m off to the doctors to see if he can do anything about this perpetual smile…

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