Today’s photo is a shot of the A9 motorway in Switzerland taken from a bridge in Aigle. The sign says 27 km to Martigny and 72 km to Italy via the Grand St Bernard pass. The mountain in the distance is probably the Dent de Morcles, which rises to a height of 2,969m.
Tent tied to outside of my rucksack rather than inside it. I was up about 6 but then started checking Twitter and before I knew it it was after 8. By the time I got the tent packed away, it was near 11. I then started messing about with my equipment trying to load it more evenly. Instead of putting the tent inside my rucksack, I tied it on the outside. This made for a more stable load but all the messing about meant it was after 1 o’clock before I got away from the campsite.
Dom cycle shop in Aigle. At 1.30pm, I was stood outside this bike shop debating whether to go in and get the gears fixed or not. I had managed to get 7 gears going that morning and they seemed to be working fine. I then realized I only had 30 SFr on me and would probably need more money to get the bike fixed. If the shifter needed replacing, the shop would more than likely not have one in stock so would be unable do anything that afternoon. I later was to find out that the shifter was fine and it was just the cable that was starting to fray. A good mechanic would have identified the problem right away and replaced the cable in less than an hour. But as most of the gears were working and I didn’t have much Swiss francs, I decided to take a chance and push on to Martigny. To be fair the gears worked fine for another week or so before stopping completely when I was near Dijon. I then had to cycle 500 km on one gear to get to Paris Beauvais airport. If only I had called into this bike shop in Aigle and got the cable replaced there and then, it would have saved a lot of hassle later.
Total cycled today – 45 km Total cycled so far – 355 km. Very easy day’s cycle today and very little traffic.. I had expected a lot more traffic but there are no tolls on the motorways in Switzerland, only an annual vignette, so the main roads alongside motorways are much quieter in Switzerland than in France.
UCI HQ in Aigle. My first stop of the day was at the Union Cycliste International HQ which is located about 2 km to the west of Aigle town centre. There were very few people about but the car park was full and there were signs up saying parking was reserved for UCI permit holders between 1 o’clock and 6 o’clock that afternoon. It turns out a high level meeting was taking place that day between UCI who run world cycling and the ASO, who run the Tour de France. 6 months previously, the UCI under Brian Cookson has proposed some minor changes to the rules governing professional cycling to apply between 2017 – 2019. But for some reason, ASO had objected to these minor changes and threatened to pull their races from the UCI World Tour.
The sign on the barrier says “Parking reserved for UCI between 13.00 and 18.00 Thursday June 23rd”. ASO run not only the Tour de France but also the Vuelta d’Espana and Paris Roubaix and a lot of smaller races such as the Dauphine Libere. By withdrawing from the UCI Worldtour, it meant that any points won by cyclists in these events would no longer count towards their total for the year. Points are important for cyclists as the more points they have the better the contract they can get and also to their team as the more points a team has the more likely it is to retain Worldtour or Division 1 like status and not be relegated to Continental or Division 2 like status.
Entrance to UCI HQ. However, at the meeting today, the UCI agreed to defer any changes that affected ASO, so the meeting ended amicably and civil war was averted for the time being. I had no idea this meeting was taking place until I read an article by Shane Stokes all about it the next day. Even after reading the article twice, I am still not sure what the ASO objected to the most in Cookson’s reforms. It seems to be more about power and politics than any minor reforms and in particular, as to who has the final say as to who takes part in ASO races. Under the new rules, ASO would have to consult with UCI if they felt a rider or team had violated their rules and perhaps this was unacceptable to ASO.
Vicenzo Nibali during the 2015 Vuelta d’Espana. For example, last year on the Vuelta, ASO threw Vincenzo Nibali out of the race after he took a tow from a team car. Nibali was caught up in a crash and was trying to get back to the peloton and grabbed hold of his team car as it was going up a small hill. Had the incident not been filmed by a helicopter, he would have got away with it. Even after being filmed, most people expected him to be hit with a 10 minute penalty and maybe a small fine but nobody expected him to be thrown off the race. As Nibali is a previous winner of the Tour, Giro and Vuelta, perhaps behind the scenes members of UCI were trying to get him re-instated in the race. Perhaps, the ASO objected to UCI interference in their race over this or some other incident and this is why they threw their toys out off the pram when the UCI announced their reforms. The fact that Shane Stokes doesn’t go into detail about what exactly the ASO were upset about indicates to me that it was some behind the scenes incident that neither party wanted to divulge that was the source of this minor spat. Whatever it was, the meeting ended amicably with the UCI being put back in their box as Pat Hickey would say.
Professional cyclist from Team IAM out training near Martigny. The Swiss national road race was due to be held in Martigny that weekend and on my way to the town, I spotted lots of cyclists out training perhaps for the race on Sunday. One such cyclist passed me by with an IAM top, which is the main professional team in Switzerland. Having missed taking Bob Jungel’s photo the week before in Luxembourg, I was determined to get a snap before he vanished from view. But as he was going so fast, I only got this shot of him in the distance and he is impossible to recognize.
Strava Flyby. The above photo of the IAM cyclist was taken at a roundabout near Saint Maurice but no-one shows up on Strava Flyby for that location. However, 2 cyclists do show up on Flyby near Collonges, about 3 km south of Saint Maurice, though neither of them are professional cyclists.
Mont Blanc Express. I had no idea you could get a train to Mont Blanc from Martigny but here at the tiny station of Verneyaz, you can board the Mont Blanc Express. Panoramic trains leave Martigny and travel from here at Verneyaz up the Trient Gorge to the Swiss border at Le Chatelard – Frontiere, which is at about 1100m in altitude. Once across the border, trains continue to climb up to about 1360m at Le Beut before travelling through a tunnel to Montruc and then descending down to Chamonix in France.
Sainte Marie viaduct on the Mont Blanc Express railway . The route of the Mont Blanc Express is very scenic with breath-taking mountain views and cascading waterfalls. The narrow gauge railway clings to the mountain side as it winds it’s way up the Trient valley to just below the Mont Blanc glacier before then descending to the picturesque ski resort of Chamonix. The distance between Martigny and Chamonix is approx. 35 km and it takes roughly 1 hour to travel by train. At 33 SFr one way, the train costs almost 1 SFr per km making it among the most expensive train routes in the world. However, in France, since 2005, it is free to travel on the section of line between Chamonix and Vallorcine and this includes the Sainte Marie viaduct shown in the photo above.
Route of the Mont Blanc Express. The first section of the Mont Blanc Express train line was opened in 1906 between Chamonix and Argentiere. The Swiss section between Verneyaz and Le Chatelard was also opened in 1906 and in 1908, the 2 lines were joined together with the construction of the almost 2 km long, Tunnel des Montets. In France, the line is a narrow gauge (1m wide) railway but in Switzerland, the line is a rack railway in places, but the track is also 1m wide. Specially adapted trains can travel on both sections of the line without passengers having to change at the border. The steepest grade in France, for over 2 km between Servoz and les Houches is at 9%, which a record for a normal track railway anywhere in the world. In Switzerland, the steepest section is around 20% where the rack and pinion system is used but trains travel most of the way using adhesion, just like a normal train.
The Mont Blanc Express is over 100 years old. The Mont Blanc Express was inaugurated in 1908 and in 2008, celebrated it’s centenary. It is very popular and some days during the peak summer season can carry over 10,000 passengers. Surprisingly, it is not as popular during the winter ski season and normally only carries an average of 1,000 passengers a day then.
Timber covered bridge across the Drance river. In La Batiaz, I came across an old style timber covered bridge. This bridge dates from 1812 though is almost certainly replaced one that is much older. It was some sight and it was so much cooler inside the bridge than outside it due to the shade from it’s roof.
Travoy at Le Pont de la Bartiaz. The bridge forms part of the Chemin des Glariers, which is an old footpath between Martigny and the Chateau of La Batiaz. There is a weight limit on the bridge of 3.5 tonne and while it is a while since I last weighed Travoy, I was sure it was fine to cross.. It looked very sturdy with timber beams which were about 500mm x 500mm or almost 2 feet deep and so well able to handle the load on Travoy.
Chateau de La Batiaz. The chateau is over a 1,000 years old and is one of the best preserved castles in Switzerland. It features battle machines such as the Trebuchet above and also items, which were used for torture including l’elongateur which was used to stretch people.
Open air cinema festival in the Roman amphitheatre in Martigny. It was after 6 when I made it to my campsite for the night at TCS Camping. Near to the campsite, there were posters up for an open air cinema festival at the Roman amphitheatre in the town, which was due to start on Sunday. I was tempted to stay for a few days and watch the Ireland France game, see the Swiss road race and then watch a movie but I would have ended up an extra 3 days behind schedule. The campsite in Martigny was advertising free electricity but they only had hexagonal type plugs that are standard in Switzerland. I could have bought an adapter at the reception for 6 SFr but as I already had a French 2 pin adapter and a 110 V 3 pin adapter, I didn’t want to get an adapter just to use for one night in Switzerland. So, instead, I just used both of my solar panels to charge my gadgets.