Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Suisse Normande 2016 - Barrage busters

Suisse Normande 2016

On the night of the 8th September Greg, Simon, Chris and I took the over night ferry to Caen for this year’s mountain biking road trip, back to Suisse Normande.

Day 1, Friday 9th September, Grimbosq.

After a hearty breakfast we rolled of the ferry and we decided to head straight to the house where we stay in Le Billot to drop of our non-riding kit and grab a decent cup of coffee. As its day one we head to Grimbosq forest for a fun day of riding and to ease ourselves in to it.
Grimbosq forest is at the most northern point of Suisse Normade with the closest major town being Thury-Harcourt just south to it. We unload the van and head of in to the forest; it is at this point Simon has the first crash of the tour riding on something not even remotely gnarly! We ride to the trail head and there are loads French school children everywhere all on their bikes, this is our kind off school!
On the first singletrack run down Greg takes the lead with me tucking in behind, we have both forward and rear facing cameras running, or at least we think we did….  We cross over the gully to ride the top single track with a fast run then a 2nd filming run ending by dropping down to the old train bridge for photo’s and to take in the scenery.

From here we pick up the RED route 7 and follow it on the west side of the Orne with a couple of lovely decants and not so lovely climbs. We cross back over the river at Goupillieres and we stop on the bridge, I notice a poppy wreath on the bridge so I stop to read the plaque. It reads, “In memory of Ernie Blincow and his companions who liberated this bridge on 8th August  1944”, I love finding things like this and then looking up the story behind it, read about Ernie Blincow here.

From the bridge we climb up to the Grimbosq village then back in to the forest for a long, gentle climb back to the van. That evening we chilled out in glorious sunshine in the garden with a BBQ.

click to link
Day 2, Saturday 10th September, the big ride.

Each trip we like to do a big ride, here we don’t follow just one route, but we link several together and ride between to major towns. We have actually done the Thury-Harcout to Clecy and back to Thury before, but it’s a great ride and I pretty much do it map free.

Starting in Thury-Harcout we park under the trees by the Ruine Du Chateau De Thury-Harcourt and join RED 4 heading south, this starts with a ride through town and a gentle climb to get some elevation. As you drop back down in to the next valley you have the choice of Black 11 or Red 10, Greg was in the lead and completely missed the black so RED 10 it was. Still a complete killer of a climb and it keeps going to you are back on top of the gorge, from here it’s a fast, flat-ish track all the way to the paraglider launch area. We stop for some photo’s and Greg has to exercise some demons and jump of the raised area and this time he even stays on!

Greg fly's!
From here we hook in to a BLACK decent that turns in to a GR run that lasts for ages and is massive fun. At the bottom we cross the river to Clecy for pizza at one of the many restaurants’s that line the Orne.

In the afternoon we have a gentle start following GREEN 17. We bump in to a couple of French kids whom tell us about a 'barrage' on the trail, we carry on and the path is covered with an old tree blocking the trail. Invoking the spirit of Ernie we ride straight over it and liberate the path! We also spot an old disused mill on the river near Saint-Remy and dream up several uses for it, i'll just leave that there.

Old disused Mill near Saint-Remy, Craft Beer anyone?
After the green we join Blue 14 and then the Liaison along the western edge of the river. Now things get hard as we join RED 4 all the way back to Thury. The climb is brutal, 1st gear and in the sunshine with no rest, you think you have done it when you get to St-Martin de-Sallen but it’s another climb all the way up to the Chapelle St-Joseph. After the climb the downhill is pretty scary, not scary like a super tough Alpine run, but scary in a rutted, rooty, steep with barb wire fence kinda way. There is one gentler climb before the awesome gully with massive boulders downhill that takes you back to Thury. Unfortunately my phones battery quit so I missed the last segment of ride on Strava and the last downhill… The evening was spent with a simple dinner of baguette, cheese and wine!

Day 3, Sunday 11th September, Clecy and home.

It was our last day but we didn’t have to be on the ferry until the afternoon, so we cleaned the house, packed the van and headed to Clecy to ride over the gorge. Clecy is the capitol of the region and an amazing hub for an outdoor life, offering hiking, cycling, kayaking, paragliding and via ferrata.
We park by the river and head of on RED 16, this crosses the river at Le Bo and climbs up to the top of the gorge, however we should of jumped on the black halfway up the climb but carried on climbing on the red. At this point it looked like we were going away from the gorge and with no map to check we thought we would participate in some off-piste hike-a-bike to get back to where we should have been, once back on the track we get on the top of the gorge. This route is just brilliant and takes you along the top via a swopping trail embedded with rocks and roots with a final decent through a boulder strewn path that even includes a decent jump!

Greg and Simon
Back at Clecy I treat everyone to an ice cream from one of the many bars along the river and we re-pack the van pretty contented.

We head back to Ouisterham to catch the ferry all in great spirits after a great weekend away, we even won the Brittany Ferries pub quiz on the way!

It was a shame that Paul didn’t make the trip this year; after all he was the one that introduced us to the area in the first place. But even so, we all agreed that we loved riding here and we will definitely be back!


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