Cold wet and miserable on Semnoz

Date: 1st July 2023
Ride No. 64
Grade: 7/10
Location: Annecy


Segment ID:16641187
My Time: 1:33:17





To know the good you need to know the bad

I have had some great days on my Tour de France so far, but of course to know the good you need to experience the not so good, and I did today on Semnoz out of Annecy.

Originally, I planned to ride this on Friday, but the all-day rain made that a rest day.

The Saturday forecast showed much improvement. A sunny day with the possibility of a light shower at 4pm. 

The early morning sun had lit up the campsite and before venturing off, I did some kit washing so it could dry during the day.

Fuelled by an enormous bowl of porridge, I headed for Annecy and Semnoz.

Annecy, as I discovered, is a well-heeled part of France, which the underground car park confirmed.

It was immaculately clean and even played Mozart. How nice.

With the Brompton unfolded and ready to go, I started the short ride to the start of the climb.

My information was that it was a beautiful climb of 16.7Km rated 7/10 climb and with magnificent views across the lakes and mountains. Certainly, ticks a lot of boxes.

After 1Km I was out of the busy town and into the forest.



A dream becomes a nightmare.

The temperature was distinctly cooler than it had been of late, which was a welcome change after many recent climbs.

After 3Km, light spots of rain sporadically fell.

No problem, I thought. In fact, it seemed quite pleasant.

At 6Km the rain became heavier.

At 8Km the rain eased, and I thought great, that’s over with.

After pushing up an 11% rise, there was a short 4% plateau where white cloud drifted across the road.

As I rode further up the climb, the thin white cloud now became thicker and wet.

I was now riding in the cloud, and it was raining and cold.

My varifocal sunglasses were now redundant as the rain took away what little clear vision I had.

Now at least I could see out of focus clearly.

The expected dream of a climb had now become a nightmare.

I was now thinking the unthinkable. Turn back and return another day.

I knew I was well over halfway up the climb, but not exactly how far.

I looked at the Garmin to check the distance left etc. but it was no good.

The rain covered screen and the lack of glasses meant I wouldn’t have been able to read it, anyway.

I pedalled on.


You can only get wet once

A French lady rider further up the climb was sheltering under a tree.

My philosophy is you can only get wet once, but I guess she was taking some comfort.

I was now getting colder, but I kept on believing that things would improve once I reached the top.

The Garmin now joined in the fun by repeatedly losing signal, only to instruct me to make a U turn when it reconnected.

Again, I pressed on. There was only one road, and I was on it.


Where’d he go?

With the thicker cloud came a silence. The cloud, however, did not muffle the sound of a car engine racing up behind me.

Within seconds, a grey Porsche without lights flew past me, and within 20 metres, it was invisible.

Only two cars out of 9 that went past me were using lights. Nightmare.

I am not sure how effective my flashing lights were, but I was glad that I had them.

A final cold wet push up a 9% gradient and it was the Semnoz summit.

Oddly, I was the only cyclist at the top, so just a photo of the faultless Brompton was possible.

No beautiful views over the town or across the lake, just wet cloud.

I unfurled my descending jacket and made my way down.


Shaking all over

My descent was a very cautious affair.

The road was trying to roll you at over 50Kph, but my faith in Swiss Stop pads reigned that in. (They are the best I think).

I was now beginning to shiver uncontrollably as the chill wind of the descent hot me.

Even my steering was shaking. 

Just rolling was taking faster than I wanted to go so there was no need to pedal, but 5Km from the bottom I spun.

My left knee, which had been straight for most of the descent, was reluctant to bend with the cold.

I hoped that the rain would have cleared, and the temperature increased on my descent, but it wasn’t until the final 1Km that it did.

Like a drowned shivering rat, I arrived in the underground car park where it was warm and dry. 


Suspect behaviour

Thankfully, it was quiet and so, with as much discretion as I could muster; I changed out of my cold, wet cycling kit.

Above the car park was a shopping mall, so a warm coffee and something to eat was my ambition. 

Next to the restaurant was a toilet with a hand dryer.

To any observers, I must have cut a suspect figure as I held my hands under an age trying to get some colour back in them.

After draining out all the heat from a large coffee with my hands, I made the drive back to my campsite.

The clothes I had washed and hung to dry earlier in the day were, of course, dry.

No rain, marvellous.