Had we known that we would ride in a 35 degree furnace, battle head wind for 60km and for Joel to crash into a car 100m before the end of the ride, would we have started riding on that foggy Monday at 07:30, the 9th of May from Saas-Fee to the Grimselpass? Probably not, but that’s what an adventure is about, I guess (and that’s why I do not understand people reading the last pages of a book before actually starting to read it).
I had been thinking to ride to the Grimsel Pass for the past three years. Joel – a training partner and founder member of our Windmill Warriors Triathlon Club – and I could not have picked a better day to do this ride. It all started the evening before, with some serious carb/protein-loading with our families in front of the chalet. Joel, is a Masterchef when it comes to marinating meat and BBQing. We limited our beer consumption and went up to bed fairly early.
We started to ride with a 26km long descent from Saas-Fee (1800m) to Visp (500) before taking a right turn and started a 65km climb towards the Grimselpass (2164m). The climb was gentle at first along the river Rhone. We passed Brig and were surprised how fast the temperature was rising. It was 11 in Saas-Fee, 15 in Visp and already 23 in Brig. The first “hills” showed up after Brig. Quads were warmed up by then to tackle the first serious climb until Bellwald. 800 m elevation gain in 16km. Joel was quite surprised to hear, that this was the “easy” part of the climb. From then on his requests for short stops increased 🙂 . The real deal started after Oberwald. There is even a sign warning cyclists of the 1000m upcoming climb averaging at 7.6%. It is long and it is quite hard but the view is breathtaking and seeing for the first time from a “saddle perspective” the famous switchbacks of the Grimsel were very rewarding.
We manages those switchbacks without problems and finally arrived to the Pass after riding for 4 hours and 1800m of elevation gain. It was a perfect day to be up there. No violent winds, no snow, nearly no clouds. Just Perfect. We quickly ate something before moving to our main activity of the day: photo-shooting.
Now that the battery of my camera was empty, we could get back on the saddle and ride down. Joel acquired his downhill riding skills in The Netherlands. Going down the Grimsel was slightly out of his zone of comfort, but after training twice down from Saas-Fee to Visp he managed pretty well (although it took him a while to unclasp his hands from the drops afterwards).
We thought we had done the hardest bit, but the weather decided otherwise. The wind picked-up together with the heat and every km we rode down we faced more heat and more wind. We ended up in the valley with the watch registering 35 degrees in the shade. I believe we each drank about 3 liters for the 6h45min ride. It was thougher than expected, especially for my fellow riders who challenged a car in the last 100m before our arrival to the bus station in Visp. Joel does not know exactly what happened. I was in the front, unclipping my shoes when I heard a metallic thump about 80m behind me. I hoped for the best but feared the worst. And yes, it came out to be the worst. Joel on the ground with a bruised shoulder. But the car was bruised too! A good dent in the side door and a broken mirror. Joel 1 – Car 1.
I have a bit of a reputation back where I train in The Netherlands. “They” call me the Swiss Assassin, because I provoked a fall of 2 fellow bikers by braking in front of the group without (a lot of clear) advance warnings. I just would like to clearly state, that Joel decided to take on this car on his own free will. Namaste.