Biggest grouping of Cols in the French Alps

Sunny Portrush

Über Member
Location
Musselburgh
I was just wondering if anyone knew the best area of the French Alps to give you the biggest amount of Cols.

To point out what I mean, I stayed in Le Bourg D`Oisans last summer. There, within a relatively small area you have Alpe D`Huez, Col du Glandon, Croix de Fer, Telegraphe and the Galiber which is quite a collection.

Anyone else know of an area like that?
 

andrew_s

Guru
Location
Gloucester
Barcelonette
Bonette, Vars, Cayolle, Allos, Larche, and, if you're feeling adventurous, the Parpaillon, or maybe the Lombarde as a long 3 col ride with the Larche and Bonette.
 

Foghat

Freight-train-groove-rider
Bourg St Maurice is a very pleasant town and a good hub in the French Alps - with a handy railway station too (although I drive for maximum flexibility and to take extra gear, tools etc). The following cols and dead-end climbs are all pretty accessible from there:
  • Col de L'Iseran - huge climb from Bourg, spectacular scenery, unlit tunnels necessitate rear light
  • Villaroger - nice, quiet, narrow, shaded alternative to a reasonably long section of the busy main road on the way up to Val d'Isere and the Iseran
  • Cormet de Roselend - real top-drawer pass, with very fast southern/eastern descent section near top if a good westerly tailwind (60+mph achievable with strong wind). Watch out for the lethal Bruyneel bend on the southern descent just before the sequence of short tight hairpins below the Vallee des Chapieux mid-climb plateau section (excellent side valley off from here too, up another decent climb to La Ville des Glaciers, with great views of glaciers hanging above)
  • Col du Pre - alternative route to northern/western ascent of Cormet de Roselend, if you want extra (hard) climbing and miles
  • Col du Petit St Bernard - nearly 20 miles continuously uphill (i.e. no downhill or flat sections) from the very (i.e topographical) base at the bridge over the Isere river by the hydroelectric power station between Bourg and Seez, but less steep than many. Eastern ascent in Italy is noticeably tougher
  • Cormet d'Areches (a few gravel km at summit, wider (28+mm) tyres advised) - whole climb unrelentingly tough but very nice and has a remote feel to it. Link to Col du Pre and Cormet de Roselend for an impressive and demanding circuit
  • Col de La Madeleine - classic Tour de France pass, linking Maurienne and Isere valleys
  • Col du Joly - tremendous views of Mont Blanc during much of the ascent, but not a fully traversable col on a road bike as the surface changes to off-road at the top
  • Col des Saisies
  • Col des Aravis
  • Arc 2000 - soulless ski station at the top but a decent not-too-busy hefty dead-end climb and can link to beautiful Peisey-Nancroix valley via Arc 1800 for a good circuit
  • La Plagne - ski station dead-end, scene of the epic "that looks like Stephen Roche" Liggett-commentated Roche fightback on the finish line back in 1987
  • Val Thorens - ski station dead-end
  • Courchevel - ski station dead-end
  • Meribel - ski station dead-end
  • Peisey-Nancroix (Refuge de Rosuel) - raised, hanging valley south-west of Bourg, very scenic once you get up into it, although once had an encounter on the climb that put me in mind of the Annecy murders
  • Les Coches (Les Bauches) - dead-end above ski station on southern flank of Isere valley, south-west of Bourg
  • Plan Bois, near Les Coches - very tough (sustained steepness for 8 or more miles all the way up from Macot La Plagne) but quiet, secluded and narrow climb, and plenty of shade through wooded sections. Can link to top of Les Coches for an interesting circuit, or to La Plagne if on wider tyres (gravel sections on link)
  • Notre Dame du Pre - between Aime and Moutiers on southern flank of Isere valley
  • Valmorel - dead-end climb near Moutiers
  • Pralognan La Vanoise (Refuge Le Repoju) - dead-end climb south-east from Moutiers
  • Champagny (Refuge du Laisonnay) - dead-end climb south-east from Moutiers
If you want a very big day out and can handle going over the Iseran twice in order to get there and then home, there's also the fantastic but little known Plan du Lac near Termignon plus the easier side of the nice Col du Mont Cenis near Lansleboutrg. Keep going west down the Maurienne valley from Termignon and you come to the northern ascents of the Galibier, Croix de Fer and Glandon….or up over the Madeleine for a monster circuit back to Bourg St Maurice. Having a car makes getting to these further afield areas a lot more feasible, of course.

The new (this year) cyclists' tunnel at the Tunnel du Siaix on the road from Bourg to Moutiers now makes heading west from Bourg to the Madeleine, to the western/northern ascents of the two Cormets, and to the cluster of ski station climbs around Moutiers, a far more tolerable experience than before.

Superb cycling terrain.
 
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Foghat

Freight-train-groove-rider
Barcelonette
Bonette, Vars, Cayolle, Allos, Larche, and, if you're feeling adventurous, the Parpaillon, or maybe the Lombarde as a long 3 col ride with the Larche and Bonette.
Col des Champs too between Allos and Cayolle for a good three-col circuit from Barcelonette.

Very high cols of Izoard, Granon and Agnel also within sensible range if able to drive-ride.
 
OP
Sunny Portrush

Sunny Portrush

Über Member
Location
Musselburgh
Foghat - that is excellent info indeed. I had stayed in Bourg D`Oisans last year for a couple of days (family in tow lol). I did Alpe d`Huez and was going to do Croix de la Fer but it was 38 degrees and I thought I was gonna melt so gave up.

I quite like the idea of staying in La Chambre so I can do the Madeleine and Col du Glandon.

However, I would be hiring a bike, the gearing on my own is ideal for the Alps! I think I can hire a bike in Bourg St Maurice but nothing appears to be available in La Chambre.

I do like the idea of tackling the Iseran!
 

Foghat

Freight-train-groove-rider
The Croix de Fer is definitely worth having another go at....an epic climb. Note that there's a pretty unwelcome climb in the western descent (or a welcome/unwelcome descent in the western ascent, depending on how you look at it) due to re-routeing of the road around a major landslide in the mid/late-1980s. Glandon/Croix de Fer is a nice circuit from La Chambre.

La Chambre - not much going on there and always seems a bit dead when I've cycled through, so not surprised you haven't found bike hire. In comparison, Bourg St Maurice is a busy, active town with plenty of facilities. The intriguingly-engineered Lacets de Montvernier climb is very close by La Chambre, though, adding interest.

Thoroughly recommend the Iseran, especially from the southern 'easier' and quieter side you'd presumably be approaching from if staying in La Chambre. Would be a big day out from there, also cycling past all the old Maurienne military forts near Modane, unless you drive-ride it, perhaps starting from Lanslebourg or Termignon instead.

There's quite a few less well known climbs in and around the Maurienne valley - @Shut Up Legs is your man for those, though:
French Alps 2019
 

Foghat

Freight-train-groove-rider
Bourg St Maurice is a very pleasant town and a good hub in the French Alps - with a handy railway station too (although I drive for maximum flexibility and to take extra gear, tools etc). The following cols and dead-end climbs are all pretty accessible from there:

  • Courchevel - ski station dead-end
  • Meribel - ski station dead-end
Since posting the list of climbs accessible from Bourg St Maurice, I've become aware of a new climb that was scheduled for debuting at this year's Tour de France, namely the Col de La Loze.

This has been created by upgrading an unmade track over the ridge between the ski stations of Meribel and Courchevel, resulting in a road pass 2,304m high, which is pretty high for the area. So Meribel and Courchevel are no longer dead-ends as road bike climbs....if you have the legs to go 800m and 500m higher respectively from those ski resorts.

Looks like a really impressive climb in a great setting - it's a shame that this year's race may not happen, and I may not get down to Bourg in 2020.
 
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theloafer

Legendary Member
Location
newton aycliffe
I do like the idea of tackling the Iseran!
this was taken mid July...:cold::cold: we had to put all spare clothing on ...just be prepared :okay:
1586005289815.png
 

Foghat

Freight-train-groove-rider
Blimey - no stickers on the col signs.....! I ain't not never seen that before on the Iseran…..well not that I can remember anyway.

One day when I was on the summit, 2017 I think, it was 20 degrees C at the top - pretty rare in my experience. So about 40C down in Bourg St Maurice. Last year my Garmin measured about 41C or 42C in the shade in the Isère valley the day before the Tour tackled the Galibier. 😅 Then all hell broke loose with apocalyptic storms, flash floods, monster hail, mudslides, blocked roads and shortened Tour stages.
 

avecReynolds531

Über Member
Location
East Kent coast
I've stayed in the Chambery area twice and highly recommend it.

There's climbing every direction you look - there may not be the same concentration, or altitude, of cols made famous by the TDF, although you still have these, which have all been used in the TDF:

1. The Chartreuse trilogy of Granier, Cucheron and Porte (Charly Gaul in 1958) to the south. Make sure to do the Col du Coq (a brilliant and tough climb) in place of doubling the Col de Porte.

2. The Col de l'Epine and then.... the Mont du Chat to the west - the most difficult 8km on a bike I've been through - the west side final 8k averaging 10.9% (many long sections of 14%).

3. Le Semnoz & Col de Forclaz de Montmin in the Annecy area to the north west.

4. Col de Grand Colombier ( 4 ways to the summit) to the north.

5. Mont Revard to the east.

6. It was also possible to do the Telegraphe, Galibier and Alp d'Huez in one day: via a Chambery train to St-Michel-du-Maurienne, then finishing at Grenoble, for another train back to Chambery. That's a long day out, with a leisurely lunch, but a day you'll never forget.

Many more non TDF cols all around - Col du Marocaz from the south side was a highlight.

Annecy is fabulous, Chambery lovely without the same level of tourists. Both have superb cycle routes.

The Cycling Challenge website has a lot of knowledge and inspiration for this topic.

Le Cycle magazine in France also recommend Albertville as a base.
 

Shut Up Legs

Down Under Member
I was just wondering if anyone knew the best area of the French Alps to give you the biggest amount of Cols.

To point out what I mean, I stayed in Le Bourg D`Oisans last summer. There, within a relatively small area you have Alpe D`Huez, Col du Glandon, Croix de Fer, Telegraphe and the Galiber which is quite a collection.

Anyone else know of an area like that?
The Vallée de la Maurienne has one of the largest groupings of cols in the Alps. I stayed near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in July last year, and there were so many cols to visit. I didn't ride up to them all, thanks to le rhume and le mal de gorge :rolleyes:, but I visited many over 2.5 weeks. Hopefully once the coronakerfuffle is over, we can resume visiting wonderful cycling places such as that beautiful valley. :wub:
 

Fab Foodie

hanging-on in quiet desperation ...
Bourg St Maurice is a very pleasant town and a good hub in the French Alps - with a handy railway station too (although I drive for maximum flexibility and to take extra gear, tools etc). The following cols and dead-end climbs are all pretty accessible from there:
  • Col de L'Iseran - huge climb from Bourg, spectacular scenery, unlit tunnels necessitate rear light
  • Villaroger - nice, quiet, narrow, shaded alternative to a reasonably long section of the busy main road on the way up to Val d'Isere and the Iseran
  • Cormet de Roselend - real top-drawer pass, with very fast southern/eastern descent section near top if a good westerly tailwind (60+mph achievable with strong wind). Watch out for the lethal Bruyneel bend on the southern descent just before the sequence of short tight hairpins below the Vallee des Chapieux mid-climb plateau section (excellent side valley off from here too, up another decent climb to La Ville des Glaciers, with great views of glaciers hanging above)
  • Col du Pre - alternative route to northern/western ascent of Cormet de Roselend, if you want extra (hard) climbing and miles
  • Col du Petit St Bernard - nearly 20 miles continuously uphill (i.e. no downhill or flat sections) from the very (i.e topographical) base at the bridge over the Isere river by the hydroelectric power station between Bourg and Seez, but less steep than many. Eastern ascent in Italy is noticeably tougher
  • Cormet d'Areches (a few gravel km at summit, wider (28+mm) tyres advised) - whole climb unrelentingly tough but very nice and has a remote feel to it. Link to Col du Pre and Cormet de Roselend for an impressive and demanding circuit
  • Col de La Madeleine - classic Tour de France pass, linking Maurienne and Isere valleys
  • Col du Joly - tremendous views of Mont Blanc during much of the ascent, but not a fully traversable col on a road bike as the surface changes to off-road at the top
  • Col des Saisies
  • Col des Aravis
  • Arc 2000 - soulless ski station at the top but a decent not-too-busy hefty dead-end climb and can link to beautiful Peisey-Nancroix valley via Arc 1800 for a good circuit
  • La Plagne - ski station dead-end, scene of the epic "that looks like Stephen Roche" Liggett-commentated Roche fightback on the finish line back in 1987
  • Val Thorens - ski station dead-end
  • Courchevel - ski station dead-end
  • Meribel - ski station dead-end
  • Peisey-Nancroix (Refuge de Rosuel) - raised, hanging valley south-west of Bourg, very scenic once you get up into it, although once had an encounter on the climb that put me in mind of the Annecy murders
  • Les Coches (Les Bauches) - dead-end above ski station on southern flank of Isere valley, south-west of Bourg
  • Plan Bois, near Les Coches - very tough (sustained steepness for 8 or more miles all the way up from Macot La Plagne) but quiet, secluded and narrow climb, and plenty of shade through wooded sections. Can link to top of Les Coches for an interesting circuit, or to La Plagne if on wider tyres (gravel sections on link)
  • Notre Dame du Pre - between Aime and Moutiers on southern flank of Isere valley
  • Valmorel - dead-end climb near Moutiers
  • Pralognan La Vanoise (Refuge Le Repoju) - dead-end climb south-east from Moutiers
  • Champagny (Refuge du Laisonnay) - dead-end climb south-east from Moutiers
If you want a very big day out and can handle going over the Iseran twice in order to get there and then home, there's also the fantastic but little known Plan du Lac near Termignon plus the easier side of the nice Col du Mont Cenis near Lansleboutrg. Keep going west down the Maurienne valley from Termignon and you come to the northern ascents of the Galibier, Croix de Fer and Glandon….or up over the Madeleine for a monster circuit back to Bourg St Maurice. Having a car makes getting to these further afield areas a lot more feasible, of course.

The new (this year) cyclists' tunnel at the Tunnel du Siaix on the road from Bourg to Moutiers now makes heading west from Bourg to the Madeleine, to the western/northern ascents of the two Cormets, and to the cluster of ski station climbs around Moutiers, a far more tolerable experience than before.

Superb cycling terrain.
Thanks Foghat for answering a question ai had often asked myself but never bothered to answer!
 
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