Have you ever thought that cycling in the Alps would be a lot more appealing if it did not require quite so much effort? The idea of tootling around Nendaz village on two wheels in the summer sounds wonderful … until you remember all those steep roads. High up the mountains, the tracks are already a huge magnet for mountain-bikers who are fit enough to enjoy them. Alas, not everyone has the stamina to compete in the Grand Raid.
Here is news for cycling softies: there are now e-bikes for hire to use around the roads in the resort AND e-mountain bikes which can be taken on many mountain tracks. Both of these give extra electric oomph to your pedal power: cycle normally when you want and switch on the extra power when you need it.
Nendaz Tourism has an excellent mountain bike brochure with details of all the tracks. These include the Printse Tour and the well known Mont Fort tour (see below) as well as 8 other marked tracks plus routes that have been adapted for electric bikes. This means that cycling is no longer just for the fanatically fit. There is no excuse for the feeble.
This Swiss Mountain Bike Race Marathon is not for wimps. It is possibly the longest mountain bike race in the world starting in Verbier and ending 125 km later in Grimentz after passing through Nendaz, Hérémence and Evolène. You can start at Nendaz if you want a shorter race but it is still not easy. Nendaz to Grimentz makes for a demanding 93 km and a whopping elevation of 5,800m. This year's will be the 28th edition of the marathon race which will be held on 18 and 19 August 2017. About 5,000 enthusiasts are expected to compete in a number of categories, including men, women, junior and teams over a variety of distances.
You can download the registration form and loads of technical advice from the organisers at www.grand-raid.ch . Or you may be inspired to try all or some of the route some other time.
The Tour du Mont Fort is a mountain bike trail which comes in two varieties: (quite) easy and difficult. In both cases, the circuit takes you round Nendaz – Verbier – La Tzoumaz in a high mountain touring trip which should satisfy the most exacting rider.
Given that the Easy Rider tour, the shortest circuit, demands a 48km cycle across mountain terrain, this is not for complete novices. However, after some training on short, local trails, it is within the pedal power of active individuals and families with children over the age of 12. The secret of this version is that cyclists can use lifts for all of the difficult climbs and that way you only need to pedal for about two-thirds of the total circuit. More important than technical ability is the timetable for the lift system. The key dates for everyone wanting to do the tour are July and August plus the first 3 weekends in September.
So how much uphill and how much downhill do you actually cycle? The total circuit is 48.6km and the total climb that you have to negotiate is 511m. The distance for uphill riding is 6km. That leaves a lot of downhill riding for a total descent of 3,256m. It sounds super-easy but remember that this has to be done at altitude and also on dirt and gravel trails.
The rewards are, of course, spectacular. For perhaps 4 or 5 hours of cycling, you will get one jaw-dropping panorama after another. You will see the Tracouet lake, the Tortin glacier and coming down the Col de Gentianes you will have a wonderful view of the Massif du Mont Blanc. With this sort of scenic distraction, the 4 lift rides, the various stops at restaurants and picnic spots en route, you need to allow a full day for the trip. Prepare to start early to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the ride.
You can hire all the gear, including bikes, in Nendaz and you ought to do a bit of homework to prepare yourself for the outing too. There is an excellent file to download here which gives a map and a profile of the tour.
Rock hard riders will want to do the Pro tour. This is for fit, experienced riders as there are no lifts used except the gondola at Col de Gentianes as that is the only way to return toTortin to complete the circuit. The full route to follow is: Haute-Nendaz – Aloué – La Dzora - Prarion – Balavaux – Tracouet - Sofleu - Siviez – Tortin –Gentianes gondola - Col des Gentianes - La Chaux – Les Ruinettes – Verbier BikePark - Verbier – Les Planards – Savoleyres – Les Etablons – La Tzoumaz - Le Drotsé – Les Crettaux – Haute-Nendaz. If your legs are not up to this level of punishment, there are a few shortcuts.
The total distance of the Pro Rider tour is 68.3km and while the descent of this gruelling version of the circuit is almost identical to the Easy Rider at 3,277m the huge difference is the climb which is involved: a staggering 2,429m. This makes it ideal for serious athletes who want to train for seriousraces such as the Grand Raid.
Further information on the Pro Rider tour is available here to download. Remember to check the timetable of the Gentianes lift before setting off and start early enough to complete the whole circuit. You could spend over 6 hours in the saddle so make sure that you allow plenty of time to enjoy the views. That’s why you are doing it, isn’t it?