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Chamonix and Les Gets 1999

Chamonix has the reputation of being one of the best spots to ride in the Alps and rightly so the combination of trails on offer make this an area to suite all fitness and skill levels.A visit to the local tourist info point will provide you with a map of the local marked trails, with a variety of distances andgrades on offer.

Making use of the extensive telecabin system around the resort will see you taken up above the valley floor, usually about 500m, from here you can ride the trails along the ridge tops and take your choice of slow technical rooty descents or fast open rocky tracks, depending upon your preference although there is plenty of time to explore all and select your favourites.

We spent three days exploring the routes available, camping alongside the river just outside the main town towards Les Houches.The first day was spent recovering from the previous day's efforts in the Cristalp with a telecabine ride to the top of the Aiguille du Midi.The following day saw us riding into town and onto the telecabins in no time.Planpraz was our first choice, taking us up to 2,000m opposite Mt Blanc, the views across the valley to the glaciers and the Aiguille are superb, we rode route 13 a black route rated 'tres difficile' which soon saw us at the bottom riding round to catch the next telecabin to 1877m at La Flegere further down the valley.

The route down starts as a steep fast descent on loose scree, just after a particularly nasty left hander you can choose to continue or bear right onto a single track, we took the single track dropping us onto a rooty switch back with the odd rocky drop off just to keep us on our toes.By the time our forearms are burning through braking we arrived at a bar perched on the side the mountain, after a stop for a couple of beers it was a short blast to the valley floor.

The next day we rode along the valley keeping parallel to the main road on an undulating marked cycle track with the odd technical bit to alleviate the boredom.We took the telecabin as far up the Col du Balme as it went, then rode the last section of wide dusty jeep track to the top were we stopped for a coffee at the cafe and the obligatory pictures sat on the border stones between France and Switzerland.The downhill from here is impressive, as fast as you can make it, taking the odd short cut which we had noticed on the way up.Jack and I rode the last section speedway style, feet out, breaking the back end out and sliding round the bends before standing on the pedals to maintain the momentum on the exit and attain enough speed for the next bend, Jack and I arrived at the bottom looking back up the hill at the dust clouds we had left behind at the same time as a couple who had started the descent at the same time in the cable car, they were astounded that we had reached the bottom just before them having watched us on the way down.

We then drove round to Les Gets and attempted the World cup downhill course, sections of which were totally unrideable for mere mortals like us.Like Chamonix there is plenty of riding to choose from, well serviced by cable cars, which seem to run throughout August, although they shut down during the week in September.Cross country routes abound with marked out trails of varying distances and difficulty, although a sharp eye needs to be maintained to make sure a route marker is not missed.