www.singletrackworld.com James Astbury and his dad Peter rode the GR5 trail this summer from Geneva to Nice – in itself quite an achievement. When you then consider that they rode completely selfsupported, with camping gear, it’s doubly impressive. Then mix in the fact that James was 15 at the time and it’s enough to make most of us feel like we wasted our school holidays at that age...
Words by James Photos by Peter Bolke
It’s –2 degrees and snowing as we gain the summit. The wind is blowing hard and we’re in one layer of Lycra. We hide behind a bleak looking, snowblasted, summit caféé that looks like it’s only open in the summer – but guess what? This IS the summer, it’s the ninth of August on the Col de Iseran (the second highest road pass in Europe). A man appears from a solitary car on the summit road – attaches a microphone and proceeds to conduct an interview with my dad for Radio France. “What brings you two riders to drive your bikes up this high mountain in such bad weather?” At this point, I leave old Chris Bonington to fill the guy in on our mission to cross the Alps via the GR5 from Geneva to Nice and slope off to put on knee warmers and a wind top ready for the descending – this is going to be cold! The descent took 30 minutes of hairpin after hairpin with a 10kg rucksack on my back, Goretex flapping, the altitude counting down on the GPS and a chill factor of –3 million degrees. It was more like a freefall parachute jump. When it did finally level off and I tried to change gear, both mechs had iced up.
Getting specific This all came about earlier in the summer. With six weeks of school holidays looming up and my seriously pimped Orange 5 all trail-ready in the garage – all I had needed was a plan to get in some quality riding... I’ve been to the Alps a few times on mountain bike holidays and had come across the red and white GR5 waymarkings around Morzine and Chamonix. But it wasn’t until I discovered that the GR5 trail is unbroken between Geneva and the Nice and runs right through the Alps from north to south that it had my full attention. Having persuaded