Mountain biking is not the only activity that is increasing in popularity in and around Verbier. In recent years, lycra-clad road cyclists have been increasing in their numbers to, taking advantage of the numerous stunning routes on offer in the Valais region. Adam Sedgwick and Jonas Sundstedt recently set up Haut Vélo, a holiday and guiding service, to show visitors what’s on offer throughout the region.
Verbier draws cycling enthusiasts from around the world – having previously hosted the Tour de France and the Tour de Suisse, the likes of Chris Froome, Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, Cadel Evans and Lance Armstrong have pedaled their way up the winding roads of the area. Within cycling distance of Verbier there is also the UCI global headquarters in Aigle, with its world class facilities including its Velodrome and BMX track. The Val de Bagnes has access to some spectacular cycling, from mountain passes climbing to France and Italy, to flat rides along the banks of the river Rhône through orchards and vineyards. Historic routes meandering through traditional alpine villages or adrenaline fuelled sweeping descents – there’s something for everyone. Passionate about cycling, Adam and Jonas decided to set up a road cycling travel company to share their experiences and the beautiful area with other cycling enthusiasts.
VL: When did you start road cycling?
JS: About 25 years ago. I had quite a few friends who did it and that was how we solved the world.
AS: In the summer of 2005, between my summer season and winter season, I thought it would be a great way to get fit for skiing. I used to head out on my old mountain bike on the local roads but I would regularly be overtaken by people many years older than me on road bikes. I thought I need one of those bikes… and I’ve never looked back!!
VL: Do you mountain bike too?
JS: Yes I used to be a mountain bike guide here in Verbier.
AS: Yes – I love the journey aspect of cross country and the challenge of technical climbs.
VL: You both work up in Verbier during the winter months, did you manage to bike at all earlier in the year?
AS: Yes absolutely, I try and ride all year. The mild winter last winter certainly helped. I also purposefully sign up to a long sportive in the early spring to give myself a target. This year it was the 275km Liege Bastogne Liege, Ardennes spring classic in Belgium.
JS: Yes, thankfully! It was a comfort during this winter, the warmest I have experienced in more than 15 years here in Verbier.
VL: Do you need all the gear to get started?
JS: No, not at all. I get the feeling people think it’s a complicated and expensive sport but it really doesn’t need to be. Just get out on a bike and ride! I recommend getting yourself a helmet, padded shorts, gloves and a puncture repair kit. Take it easy for the first month until you build confidence, but just get out and enjoy the experience.
AS: This is a question we get asked a lot by people who want to give cycling a go. So much so we are in the process of developing a course for beginners to gain experience and confidence in the basics of cycling. We’ll run sessions on how to complete simple road side repairs, what to carry when you’re out, how to set up your bike, how to ride the bike efficiently and most importantly what cakes are the best source of mid-ride nutrition…
VL: Where’s your favourite route to take beginners?
AS: That’s easy – through the stunning Swiss villages, vineyards and orchards along the banks of the river Rhône. You can also ride from Martigny along the cycle path to Lake Geneva passing the UCI headquarters and velodrome.
VL: And more experienced cyclists?
JS: When the snow clears, you can ride the big cols and passes in the area, for example the Col de Forclaz and if you have the energy, head up to Emosson dam. Other favourites are the St Bernard pass, Col de Lein, bike up to Champex Lac, Fouly or head out and take on as many of the local hills as your legs will allow!
For more information on holidays, cycle guiding and Haut Velo, go to www.hautvelo.com