On day one, we rode the tried and tested route up to the Croix-de-Coeur, climbing in pleasantly breaking sunshine. After a brief downhill into Tzoumas, we coasted across the hillside towards Nendaz, and then ventured back up the trails to the Croix de Coeur near Savoleres. These turned out to be 'blow-out steep', and certainly taught Big Andy a lesson in gravity. After a re-group at the Croix-de-Coeur (necessitated by Buster's detour), we sauntered around the hillside to Ruinettes towards lunch. Click here for a spectacular panorama (190kb) looking back down towards Verbier. To get to Ruinettes, we first we had to negotiate the tunnel in between, which is narrow, pitch black and has bikers and walkers going in both directions. After a standard bikers lunch of spag bol (alternative: ham sandwich and chips), we made a last small climb with full bellies to the Cabane de Mont Fort (MadMiler tip: avoid the eat/climb combination if you can). After a brief downhill, and having swapped mobile messages all morning, we finally met up with Nic on our way back down to Ruinettes, and retraced our steps with him back to Verbier via the Croix-de-Coeur. Emerging from the tunnel, it started pouring with rain in the inimitable way it does in the alps, such that we were soaked through by the time we got back to the hotel, and Nic had worn out a new set of brake pads down to the metal. We looked so delapidated that the management (and I use that word loosely) at Les Touristes even stretched to afternoon coffee. Chris (unwittingly) supplied the cakes.
The Mauvoisin dam is at the end of the Val de Bagnes, the valley below Verbier. So, we began the day with an 800m descent, and then climbed slowly up the valley floor back up to an altitude of 2000m. This was almost a roadie day, much maligned by Jens whose biking philosophy is "if it ain't bumpy, it ain't fun". The road was a steady grind, which started in sunshine but climbed upwards towards deepening rain clouds. By the time we had reached the restaurant at the foot of the dam, it was getting cooler and darker, but the MadMilers plodded on regardless. As you can see by another panorama (193kb) here, the climb was worth the view. Our original intention had been to circuit the lake, but worsening weather (and more importantly, growing hunger) cut our ride short. We spent most of the downpour inside the restaurant tucking into spag bol, but nevertheless were caught out by a shower on the frigid route home. Half way down the valley, we re-grouped and attended to Andrew S.'s head wounds. Alex's used the pause to good effect, using superior map reading skills to craft a short-cut across the valley, and so cutting out most of the final climb back to Verbier. This was a first for the MadMilers: a short cut which is actually shorter than the original plan (usually they don't lead anywhere). A short climb on gravel roads (how Jens rejoiced!) led us back into Vieux Verbier, and, later, a well deserved team pizza.
Our last day was a dedicated downhill day. After climbing up to Savoleres at 2400m, we joined the official Swiss MTB downhill run. This was similar to the course which had scared us witless last year, except that they had cut most of the courners off and so made the easy bits the hard bits. They had also thrown in a few 'unrideable' bits to make it extra special. Luckily, we had stocked up on body armour in Garda, also allowing (nay - demanding) our copyrighted Zen-Ninja pose as seen here. We had so much fun on the downhill that Simon, Chris and I bought passes and caught the lift back to Attelas at 2800m. From here, after enjoying the spectacular view, we downhilled to Ruinettes along very fast, very gravelly roads. We cut of the beaten track this time, and chose some walkers trails to get back down to Verbier, which really added to the fun. So much fun, in fact, that we had to have another go.
The MadMilers were back in Verbier and the alps again soon, for the Cristalp!