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Grand Raid Crsitalp 1999

This is a gruelling 131K race held annually in the Swiss Alps, starting at the popular winter ski resort of Verbier finishing at Grimentz, there is also the option to ride just the final 76Ks of the race staring at Hermence.This race will take you over 6 valleys with a total altitude gain of 4,600m so it's not for the faint hearted.Three of us had travelled down to this race for the first time, Jack Dave and myself.

You can start as early as 6.15am, although you have to book a place as the number allowed to start this early are limited, with a field in the region of 4,000, book early.The rest start en mass at 7.00am, but if you are at the back of the bunch as we were you will be lucky to get across the start line by 7.30.When you do its straight into a 7K, 600m climb, just what those early morning legs need to wake them up.

An 11K downhill follows, the first part of which is spent trying to avoid all the water bottles that have either been thrown or fallen off, its all over too soon and the climbing asters again.The course so far has been a mix of wide gravel roads, some tarmac and short bits of technical single track, so all tastes are catered for.You don't need to worry about supplies on the way as there are regular feed stations distributing a variety of energy bars, half bananas, oranges and drinks.

The race is strictly governed by time cut offs, fail to meet the checkpoint by the appointed time and your race is over, the first of these cut offs is 11.00am, I reach this at 10.20, Jack having been through at 09.30, Dave doesn't know, he doesn't ride with a computer, just until someone tells him to stop.Through the 12.00 o'clock cut off at 11.30, (Jack at 10.31) and I realise that I won't be making the next checkpoint, I carry on despite my protesting knees until someone tells me that my race is run and I check my computer, I've covered 42m in 5h21m, in my first event of this kind, previously the furthest I had ridden off road had been 40m in the gentle rolling countryside on the banks of the river Wharf around Wetherby, this race provides a very different challenge.

It had been the intention that I race the second part of the course starting at Hermence, what we had not considered prior to our arrival was just how far the two start points are apart, unless you have two vehicles or an alternative way of getting to the other start it is just too far to arrange on race day, we realised this shortly after arriving and I changed my entry with no problems.

Jack went onto finish the race in 10h58m, an excellent achievement; Dave fell fowl of the 2.00 o'clock cut off.

At whatever point you finish the race the organisers lay on transport to ferry you back the start and with typical Swiss organisation everything runs like clockwork.

For those you are interested, checkout the web site on

We travelled by van, a 600m journey from Calais, in addition to fuel costs you need to add in about £50 for the French tolls and £20 for the Swiss.Flights to Geneva are available from Liverpool Luton and Gatwick with Easyjet, Verbier is about 40m from Geneva with the train costing about £40.00.