I have to cycle 100 Cols in 2009, so I thought I better get started.
This route is another of those rare big Alps climbs that I think is better in winter or early spring than summer.
Col de la Croix Fry was the last climb in the gigantic 2004 Tour stage 17 won by Armstong by less than a second over Kloden
Cycling on cold, sunny days in the Alps is always a tale of two rides.
- Climbing is wonderful. As good as it gets. You are warm and the views are a dream.
- Descending can be awful. It can be so cold, made worse as you are covered in sweat from the ride up.
But I have learned to dress for the conditions – and even though my arctic boots were like having 2 pound weights around my ankles – my toes were cozy!
COL de PLAN BOIS
From D12: 6.6 kilometres; 610 metres ascent (2030 feet); average grade: 9.3%
Starting from Thones, I took a quiet road up to the lessor know Col de Plan Bois. Parts of this great climb are VERY steep (in the mid-teens) with a full kilometre at 12%.
The road was sort of cleared to the top, although the last 2 kms were very icy. I knew the road would be shut at this point. But enjoying the views, I pushed for about 1.5 kms along well packed snow-shoe trails until the other side became cleared and generally rideable.
Descending through a dark, shaded gorge past a waterfall, it was so cold – too cold – briefly terrifying.
COL de la CROIX FRY
From D12: 11.4 kilometres; 819 metres ascent (2690 feet); average grade: 7.2%
In winter, the primary west route to Croix Fry is usually perfectly cleared due to the little Manigod ski station at the top. And this time of year it is surrounded by beautiful snow-covered Alpine peaks.
Below Manigod the route rejoins the main road up to Col de la Croix Fry. A little more traffic, and quite steep, but again, this is a stunning route – and I enjoyed myself.
At the Col, a nice couple from Paris took my photo and we chatted about how cold the descent would be – as if I needed reminding.
Enlarge the first thumbnail photo above. On the top of the sign is a borne velodateur. Basically, you can stamp a time card (from the tourist office well below in Thones) when you reach the top – after stamping it at the bottom – to record you time and route completion.Common on big climbs in the Aravis Alps
But first, I took a quick three km detour to visit Col de Merdassier – a tiny ski station (this probably shouldn’t count in my 100 Col challenge). 😉
15 kms downhill back to the car. Luckily I had six layers, my arctic boots, and my “Cagoule” (balaclava) – so i survived.