My Cycling Challenge http://www.cycling-challenge.com Cycling in the Alps Mon, 02 May 2016 22:34:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.1 Gorges de l’Ain and Col du Berthiand http://www.cycling-challenge.com/gorges-de-lain-and-col-du-berthiand/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/gorges-de-lain-and-col-du-berthiand/#respond Wed, 27 Apr 2016 21:02:56 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15901 (Yes, I am going through a “gorges phase”)

A couple of weeks ago, while shameless Col Hunting in the Jura mountains, my route briefly entered Les Gorges de l’Ain. I decided to return to more thoroughly explore the gorge.

Gorges de l'Ain - left bank

Gorges de l’Ain – left bank

berth250

This route generally follows Route 22 of the official l’Ain cycling route network. The only real difficulty was when I deviated from route 22 to climb Col du Berthiand – see map below.

Berthiand will appear early in stage 15 of the 2016 Tour de France. It’s less than 7 kms long, but surprisingly steep in places. Note, I started below the big bridge that the Tour will cross.

You can order little brochures for all 33 cycling routes in l’Ain from the official tourist web site here.  They include map, profile, key sites, etc. Route info and GPX files also available for download.

2016 Tour de France will cross bridge Steep - Col du Berthiand Col du Berthiand Nice sign

From Col du Berthiand, I turned back as I wanted to maximize my time beside the river in the gorge. The majority of the route is on quiet roads. It’s just very pleasant, scenic cycling.

This bridge will be in 2016 Tour de France

The same bridge

Gorges de l'Ain

Right Bank

The very northern tip of the route briefly leaved the department of l’Ain and enters Jura department.

Briefly in Jura Department.  Northern edge of route.

Briefly in Jura Department. Northern edge of route.

I would twice cross the Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon. Built in the 1870s, it was destroyed by the French Resistance during World War 2, but then completely rebuilt. The high-speed train (TGV) uses the top of the Viaduc, lower down is the road.

Le Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon

Le Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon

Le Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon

Le Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon

I now understand the confusing route sign that I saw on my last visit. Basically, the first time one crosses the viaduc, the route goes right making a northern loop along both sides of the river. It then recrosses the viaduc and the route heads left, returning south. But again, the route is not perfectly signed. You can easily get lost without a map or gpx/gps.

A confusing sign

A confusing sign

This photo below, on the viaduc, is from my last visit:

On the Viaduc

On the Viaduc

Left Bank

Left Bank

As shown on the map, just before the end of the loop, I made a final small detour up to Col du Hibou (Owl Pass; 384 metres). Woohooo – another new col. 🙂

While no-where near as spectacular as my recent “gorges rides” – Verdon and Ardèches – this is very nice cycling. Also, one could exclude the detour to Col du Berthiand and have a relatively flat route, just enjoying the river views.

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Lac de Sainte-Croix http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-sainte-croix/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-sainte-croix/#comments Sat, 23 Apr 2016 09:04:59 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15863
Route 3496365 – powered by www.bikemap.net

Lac de Sainte-Croix is an artificial lake created in 1973 with the construction of the Barrage (dam) de Sainte Croix at the foot of Les Gorges du Verdon.

This is not the toughest loop, but scenic and relaxing. However, starting beside the beautiful perched village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, almost immediately are a couple of very steep kilometres climbing to the plateau on the north side of the lake. Le Cycle Magazine claims it’s a full kilometre at +16%. I’d say 13%. Regardless, this is the major difficulty of the loop.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie Steep start Tough Hairpin Lake Views

This north side is well known in summer for its fields of Lavender. But currently, it’s a touch early in the season.

Nice smelling Bike Route?

Nice smelling Bike Route?

On the west end of the lake, the route descends to the water. There is a big bridge where the Verdon river exits the lake, and the dam is just beyond:

The Damn Dam (Barrage de Sainte-Croix)

The Damn Dam (Barrage de Sainte-Croix)

On the bridge I met a friendly English cyclist that lives in the region. He recognised me from this blog, and kindly took a photo. Thanks! My apologies for rudely not getting your name and taking a “team” photo.

IMG_3317 - Version 2

The road leaves the south side of the lake and gently climbs for a few kilometres. As you’re descending back towards the lake, spare a thought for the village of Les-Salles-sur-Verdon. The original village was on the flood plain of the planned lake. Residents were forced to evacuate in 1973. The town, including the church, were dynamited and the ruins are now under water. The town was relocated on the new lake’s shore. It is the youngest village in France.

Finally, the route crosses a bridge where the Verdon river exits the Gorges du Verdon before heading back to the start at Moustiers-Ste-Marie.

Les Gorges du Verdon

Les Gorges du Verdon

This was an easier, and less spectacular ride than my previous two Verdon loops. But relaxing, scenic, and enjoyable.

More Rides in the Verdon:

1. Lac de Ste Croix – blue route. Described above.
2. Gorges du Verdon and Route des Cr̻tes Рred route. Details here.
3. Lac de Castillion loop – orange route. Details here.
4. Haut-Verdon – green route. I’ve yet to ride. Quiet, medium difficulty.

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Gorges du Verdon and Route des Crêtes http://www.cycling-challenge.com/gorges-du-verdon-and-route-des-cretes/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/gorges-du-verdon-and-route-des-cretes/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 12:36:24 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15793 The words “gorge” and “gorgeous” both apparently derive from the same old French word “gorgias” – fine/elegant, or a fancy necklace. In any case, without a doubt some of the most gorgeous cycling in France is through its many gorges. And the most impressive must be Les Gorges du Verdon (the French use the plural: gorges).

“If this phenomenon of geological splendour was in the UK it would be the wonder of the British Isles.”

Cyclist Magazine – May 2016

This route is two loops: The bigger loop rides around both sides of the gorge, while the interior loop, climbs the Route des Crêtes, basically a mountain towering over the gorge. It’s tough, with 2500 metres of climb and 6 cols – all labeled on the map.

Route 3494162 – powered by www.bikemap.net

I started in the medieval village of Trigance. I was staying at the restored, thousand year old Ch̢teau de Trigance Рhighly recommended. The first 45 kilometres follow the rive gauche (left bank). Most of the route is high above the river, with the emerald coloured water far below. The views are astonishing, continuously.

Face in the direction that any river is flowing. The left bank is on your left.

After a few kilometres of climbing through a very quiet forest, the route descends towards the gorge, crossing the Pont de l’Artuby (over the Canyon de l’Artuby), and the fun really begins. I would spend the first half of the day admiring roads that I would visit several hours later, and the second half of the day, admiring roads that I had long past.

Route des Crêtes on far side of the gorge

Route des Crêtes on far side of the gorge

Pont de l'Artuby Inside the Tunnels de Fayet Tunnels de Fayet from afar A dark tunnel

The road then goes up and up, eventually reaching the Col de Vaumale at 1201 metres. This stretch is appropriately labeled Corniche Sublime on my IGN maps. The photo below was taken much later, but gives you an idea at how high above the gorge the road is.

Corniche Sublime

Corniche Sublime

The river far below

The river far below

Woohooo

Woohooo

At Col d’Illoire I bumped into a very cheerful Rapha tour group. Nice leg warmers?

IMG_3184 - Version 2

Pink reflections? Slowly, slowly Nice views

The road next descends rapidly towards the artificial Lac de Ste Croix – created by damming the Verdon river here (I’ll blog a loop around this lake tomorrow).

OK, I was descending here but stopped for a photo.

Lac de Ste Croix – OK, I was descending here but stopped for photo.

The route goes all the way down to the lake, crosses the Verdon river at its exit from the gorge. From now on we’ll be on the rive droit (right bank).

Pedalos

Pedalos at exit of Gorges du Verdon

But I was only briefly beside the water. To re-enter the gorge it’s time to climb again. Soon I was high above Lac de Ste Croix enjoying more cliff roads. This cliff stretch heads steadily higher for more than 10 kms, reaching Col d’Ayen at 1031 metres.

Lac de Ste Croix

Lac de Ste Croix

26460426991_a21e94aaca_b (1)

Looking forward Looking Back Colle de l'Olivier Col d'Ayen

Descending Col d’Ayen into the village of La Palud, I stopped for more food, and had a decision. Continue around the gorge or take the Route des Crêtes. Some caffeine gave me the bravado to take the detour.

“The French built a road over Galibier to connect two valleys, the Emperor Ferdinand commissioned Stelvio to connect two of his kingdoms, but it appears the Route des Crêtes was built solely for the pleasure of cyclo-tourists.”

Will – April 2016

This smaller loop is approximately 23 kilometres with a high point just above 1300 metres. There are a few fairly steep kilometres, but with regularly spaced look-out points I had plenty of rest. 🙂 The route is signed and leads you in a clock-wise direction, as stretches on the far side are one way.

A long way down

A long way down

IMG_3244 - Version 2

More tunnels Roads in distance from start of day. High Happy Bike

The descent is fabulous, with the occasional sexy hairpin.

OK, yes, I was descending here.

OK, yes, I was descending here.

Leaving the route des Crêtes there are still plenty of good views as the road descends closer to the river, but the crazy stuff was done for the day. I was thrilled I’d managed both loops and tiredly laughed as I slowly struggled up the two uphill kilometres to my perched hotel that I’d been fearing all day.

IMG_3286 - Version 2 Lower down Knackered Happy Bike
View from Château de Trigance

View from Château de Trigance

More Rides in the Verdon:

1. Lac de Ste Croix – blue route. Details here.
2. Gorges du Verdon and Route des Cr̻tes Рred route. Described above.
3. Lac de Castillion loop – orange route. Details here.
4. Haut-Verdon – green loop. I’ve yet to ride. Quiet, medium difficulty.

For more “gorgeous gorges” rides – see here.

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Lac de Castillon – Five Col Loop http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-castillon-five-col-loop/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-de-castillon-five-col-loop/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 21:03:06 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15748
Route 3493371 – powered by www.bikemap.net

barn250

Lac de Castillon, just above the Gorges du Verdon, is an artificial lake created by the dam of the same name: Barrage de Castillon. In fact, the dam here has basically widened the Verdon river into this beautiful lake.

This 101 kilometre loop visit five cols Рsee map. Starting in Castellane, the route almost immediately turns onto a very quiet road that heads past another dam and the lac de Chaudanne. From here begins the climb to Col de St. Barnab̩. This is a great little climb. Very quiet, with lovely views of the lake as one gets higher. Perhaps 5 kms from the Col, the road splits. My loop went left, but of course I did a quick there-back to visit the Col.

Lac de Chaudanne below

Lac de Chaudanne below

Nice Kilometre Markers

Nice Kilometre Markers

Barrage de Chaudanne Lac de Chaudanne Col de St Barnabé

Next, the road descends some great hairpins to Lac de Castillon. It’s beautiful. Several kilometres run alongside the lake and then the route cuts up to Col des Robines. It’s not a small road, and I imagine that there is much more traffic in summer, but it’s wide, and I didn’t meet too many cars.

Lac de Castillon

Lac de Castillion Col des Robines Napoléon

At Barreme, I turned left onto the route Napoléon. Here the climb to Col des Lèques gently begins. It’s not the toughest col but has some superb stretches especially the Clue de Taulanne.

Clue de Taulanne

Clue de Taulanne

Clue de Taulanne Clue de Taulanne Col des Leques

In 2015, stage 17 of the Tour de France climbed Col des Lèques on the way to Pra Loup.

The descent from Col des Lèques to Castellane is very nice. Lots of sexy hairpins:

OK, I was descending here, stopped for pic :)

OK, I was descending here, stopped for pic :)

Exactly where this loop begins/ends also happens to be the start of a climb to two more cols. I still had a little juice in my weak legs, so I had a snack and headed up again. The road is basically the quickest way to Lac de Castillon from Castellane. But at Col de Cheiron I turned onto a smaller road and headed higher to Col de Baume. Not too far, but a nice enough climb.

Col de Cheiron Col de Baume Road to Col de Baume Lac de Castillon

I could see some huge, huge religious looking monuments further in the distance. I had also seen them high above Lac de Castillon much earlier in the day. So I kept going, finally coming to some strange, multi-religious site. It was fenced off and required a ticket when open – only for an hour a day. I had seen no official signs to it and wondered if the local tourist board frowned upon it. I later learned that it was the site of some religious sect that indeed was not super popular with the locals. Called “la cité sainte du Mandarom Shambhasalem.” More info here.

IMG_3151

Anyway, the road ended here, so I descended back to Col de Cheiron. Realising I was close to a 100 kilometres, I had no choice but to ride a final detour: to the dam itself at Lac de Castillion, before descending back to the start.

Barrage de Castillon

Barrage de Castillon

This was a very fun loop – and a good warm-up before attacking the Gorges du Verdon. I wonder if it might have a lot of traffic in summer, but for me, in April, it was generally quiet.

1. Lac de Ste Croix – blue route. Details here.
2. Gorges du Verdon and Route des Cr̻tes Рred route. Details here.
3. Lac de Castillion loop – orange route. Described above..
4. Haut-Verdon – green loop. I’ve yet to ride. Quiet, medium difficulty.

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Col Hunting and the Gorges de l’Ain http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-hunting-and-the-gorges-de-lain/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-hunting-and-the-gorges-de-lain/#comments Sat, 16 Apr 2016 09:18:15 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15714 Some shameless Col hunting in the north-west corner of the French Jura mountains. 6 very low cols (all marked on map) on a pleasant loop. The highlight? Briefly cycling through the Gorges de l’Ain.

Route 3486075 – powered by www.bikemap.net

L’Ain is the French department just north/west of Geneva.  It has 33 official and signed road bike routes.   The routes range in difficulty from easy in the super flat, man-made-lake Dombe region to some of the toughest climbs in France in the Haut-Bugey section of the Jura mountains – for example the legendary Grand Colombier (2016 Tour de France).

You can order little brochures for all 33 routes from the official tourist web site here.  They include map, profile, key sites, etc. Route info and GPX files also available for download.

Note:  The routes are signed but not perfectly (this is not Switzerland).  Without a gpx or a route map, you will likely get lost

A confusing sign

A confusing sign

Nice Hairpin

Nice Hairpin

The route is generally on typically quiet Jura roads, although it’s briefly a slightly faster road (nothing remotely terrible, but I am fussy) as I detoured to the brilliantly named Col de France (371 metres).

Fancy name for tiny Col Moo Gorgeous Gorges de l'Ain

Forty-three kilometres into the route is a brilliant descent into the Gorges de l’Ain, down beside the Ain river.

IMG_3022 - Version 2

Further through the gorges is the Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon. Built in 1870s, it was destroyed by the French Resistance during World War 2 – and then completely rebuilt post-war. Now the high speed train (TGV) uses the top track.

Le Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon

Le Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon

Le Viaduc de Cize-Bolozon On the Viaduc Viaduc History Henri Romans-Petit.  Leader of the l'Ain Maquis

I always enjoy a chance to shamelessly add (6) new cols to my list. But the highlight of this route was easily the Gorges de l’Ain. I plan to return here and cycle the official l’Ain route #22 which rides along much more of the Gorges, on both sides, and over the Viaduc. You can find some more info here – see site’s right sidebar for downloads.

Moo

Moo

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Gorges de l’Ardèche http://www.cycling-challenge.com/gorges-de-lardeche/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/gorges-de-lardeche/#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2016 17:50:20 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15642 Known locally as the European Grand Canyon, the Gorges de l’Ardèche is a 30 kilometre-long canyon between Vallon-Pont-d’Arc and Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche. It’s popular among climbers, hikers, canoe/kayakers/rafters, and spelunkers. Among the many caves is evidence of man from 300,000 years ago. Several huge caves are open to tourists (we enjoyed les grottes de Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche over a decade ago while cyclo-touring through).

The region was generally inaccessible until the 1960’s, when an astonishing road was built along the south side of the gorge. A dream road for cyclists.

The first map below has three suggested routes in the region. The green route which I just cycled, passes through the Gorges de l’Ardèche istelf. The other two I have yet to ride, but were featured in the April 2013 issuee of Le Cycle Magazine. I’ll describe all three below.

Green Route: Gorges de l’Ardèche

86 kilometres; 1600 metres ascent.

This is basically a loop around the entire Gorges. The first half, to the south, never gets near the river. If this early stretch is unspectacular, it’s very quiet – good cycling. The villages are few and far between, but the wine village of Aven-Orgnac is a good place for a snack, and also has its own prehistoric cave. Further along, Labastide-de-Virac is a superb little walled village with a well preserved castle. I have a fairly large collection of col sign photos, but the two cols on this route are the lowest I’ve ever ridden (Col de la Forestière 363m; Col du Serre de Tourre 323m). But while this route is never high, don’t think it is easy. The road is rarely flat.

The Gorges de l’Ardèche will feature in stage 13 of the 2016 Tour de France. The stage will be worth watching for the helicopter alone.
But the highlight of this loop is without a doubt the Gorges de l’Ardèche itself, which starts just past Vallon-Pont-d’Arc. The road enters the gorges by passing through a few cool tunnels carved into the cliffs. Initially near water level, the vast majority of the route through is well above the river. Early on there are 2 steep kilometres, 9%-11%, that reach Col du Serre de Tourre, and then the road remains high in the cliffs.

Below: The Pont d’Arc itself is just after the initial tunnels.

The sign entering speaks of 11 managed look-out spots. These are great. Basically, they have built steps to cliff galleries at all the best viewing spots. I stopped at most and enjoyed the breath-taking scenery.

I scanned an old print I found from 2002 of my wife here – before we had a digital camera – old-school. 🙂

This ride is really as good as it gets. A simple route suggestion might be to just ride through the 30 km gorges and then just double back.

Map of loop with profile. Click on map name for gpx file.

Route 3474391 – powered by www.bikemap.net

#2 Les Cevennes Ardéchoises

Again, these next two loops were recommended by Le Cycle Magazine. Blue route on top map.

90 kilometres; 1550 metres ascent.

#3 Les Plus Beaux Villages de l’Ardèche

(The most beautiful villages of the Ard̬che Рred route on top map)

80 kilometres; 820 metres ascent.

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Col de Portes – Jura Col Hunting http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-de-portes-jura-col-hunting/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/col-de-portes-jura-col-hunting/#respond Wed, 30 Mar 2016 20:51:52 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15615
Route 3461150 – powered by www.bikemap.net

Every spring I plan a loop somewhere deep in the Jura mountains to visit cols that I have never cycled. It’s almost always a great ride as the region is just full of scenic, hilly roads ….. with virtually no traffic.

This great loop visit four cols: three new to me, and Col de Portes from a couple of new sides. This is one of those rides that I describe as having far more kilometre markers than cars. Superb cycling.

fay250

There are at least four direct way to the summit of Col des Portes (1008 metres). I had previously cycled the north-east side from Tenay along with Col de Ballon – details here. Don’t let the relatively low summit altitude fool you. Today’s climb started at 200 metres – this is a fairy big climb. And to make it harder, I added a little detour via Col de Fay (680m).

Faster than me Nice hairpin 1967 Airforce plane crash

At the summit of Col de Portes (yes, this is spelled correctly) – is the Chartreuse de Portes – a 12th century Monastery. One day I’ll do a post on great cycling climbs that include a monastery along the way. 🙂

All the photos here are from this ride, except for the one below. An old favourite, these are monks from the Chartreuse de Portes that I cycled past the last time I was in this neck of the woods.

Friendly Monks

Friendly Monks

Note, on the map, as I descended from Col de Portes, I took an easy to miss turn off (I missed it at first) on a superbly deserted stretch of road to Innimond. Here I did a quick “there-back” up to Col de Petit Perthuis (1031 metres). The paved road ends at the col – but there is an orientation table and great views of the distant Alps:

IMG_2823 - Version 2

Next I continued on to Col des Fosses (745m). I cheated here, virtually descending to the Col. I’ll need to come back and climb the far side, a decent 500 metres or so of ascent with a small lake part way up.

Next I started looping back on lower roads. But this was perhaps the best part. Some very fun cliff stretches, plenty of nice views, and again: no cars.

IMG_2831 - Version 2

My plan was to climb the south side of Col de Portes on the way back. I joined the route 8 kilometres from the summit. It definitely seems the most scenic of the four sides. But half way the road was closed due to a land slide. Luckily, there was a little deviation road that was perfect. I climbed up to just below but beyond the Col allowing me to finally descend back to the start.

half way to Portes

None of the above photos are Alps spectacular, but there is something supremely relaxing (yet challenging) cycling in the Jura mountains. This is yet another Jura loop that I would happily recommend.

jura

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Le Semnoz – the quiet south side http://www.cycling-challenge.com/le-semnoz-the-quiet-south-side/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/le-semnoz-the-quiet-south-side/#respond Mon, 28 Mar 2016 21:36:01 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15596

Le Semnoz is the huge massif on the west side of Lake Annecy. At 1655 metres, its summit РCr̻t de Chatillon Рis the highest paved cycling climb in the Annecy region. In 2013, stage 20 of the Tour de France finished here, but they climbed the shorter, steeper, wooded north side, driectly from Annecy.

But I prefer this far quieter, longer, southern route, via St. Eustache,

For five road bike routes up Le Semnoz – see here.

I started beside beautiful Lake Annecy, following the bike path for 8 kilometres, then turn up towards St. Eustache. As the route slowly moves away from the lake, there are plenty of nice views:

IMG_2758 - Version 2

After 12 kilometres or so, the route reaches Col de Leschaux. There is a more direct way to Leschaux, but it will have a little more traffic. After Col de Leschaux, the route begins climbing Le Semnoz itself. From the Col it’s easy to see the first few kilometres above:

Above Col de Leschaux

Above Col de Leschaux

Above Leschaux

Above Leschaux

Nice views IMG_2763 - Version 2 At Col de Leschaux

The top of Le Semnoz is a small ski station – both Alpine and Nordic. Last winter I cycled up the north side and rented XC skis – I was less energetic this year. 🙂 But the ski station was still open, and there was still a fair bit of snow in places:

Great views of distant Lake Annecy:

Wooohooooo !

Wooohooooo !

Finally, I descended the north, steep side directly to Annecy. Here is very a short, silly video from a few years back, descending here.

The Annecy region is full of great cycling climbs, but Le Semnoz is the highest, and most challenging. But definitely worth the effort.

Here is one final route up Le Semnoz – by mountain bike, which includes a traffic-free, sometimes bumpy old forestry road.

Route 3,459,049 – powered by www.bikemap.net

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Cycle Col de Joux Plane and Cross Country Ski http://www.cycling-challenge.com/cycle-up-to-col-de-joux-plane-and-cross-country-ski-higher/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/cycle-up-to-col-de-joux-plane-and-cross-country-ski-higher/#respond Sat, 19 Mar 2016 18:54:25 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15570 jouxp250

The weather is currently perfect. So I visited another of my favourite late-winter alpine cycling climbs.

When the Cross Country Skiing conditions deteriorate down low in the Vallée de Haute-Giffre, the authorities sometimes clear the famous south-side road up to Col de Joux Plane from Samoëns to facilitate Cross Country Skiing at the summit.

To be clear, the Morzine side of Joux Plane is closed – likely until May – it’s currently a downhill ski slope.

Col de Joux Plane will be the final climb in Stage 16 of the 2016 Tour de France – perhaps deciding the race. It’s only 12 kilometres but the every changing grade – sometimes 4%, several times 13% or 14% – makes it a challenge. But a scenic challenge.

In summer, one of the great loops in the North French Alps includes Joux Plane, Col de la Ramaz, Col de la Joux Verte (Avoriaz), and Col de l’Encrenaz. Details here.

A couple of kilometres from the summit is a long shaded stretch that can often have ice, but it was fine today – but descending requires attention here at this time of year.

At the summit, the cheerful gentleman at the XC ski hut took my bike inside in a safe place and sized me for rental XC skate-skis. It’s not the biggest ski area, but there are perhaps 10kms of well groomed trails. And the views of the Mont Blanc Massif are incredible. Below: A tricky self-portrait:

Woohoo:

The high point on skis is the fantastic lookout point at Croix de Mapellet (1770m):

Croix de Mapellet

Croix de Mapellet

It’s become a minor, silly tradition to try and take a winter on-the-col-sign photo here.

2016 2015 2014 2011

This is about as good as it gets. A challenging, quiet, famous road on a beautiful late winter day – and some XC skiing as an added bonus.

Fourteen Cycling Climbs with Great Skate-Skiing in Winter

Route 3,444,504 – powered by www.bikemap.net

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Lac d’Annecy Loop via Col de la Forclaz http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-dannecy-loop-via-col-de-la-forclaz/ http://www.cycling-challenge.com/lac-dannecy-loop-via-col-de-la-forclaz/#respond Thu, 17 Mar 2016 19:57:45 +0000 http://www.cycling-challenge.com/?p=15549 Another of my favourite late winter climbs. If you’re going to do a loop of beautiful Lake Annecy, don’t take the road beside the water as it’s full of traffic, especially on the weekends. Instead follow this far superior route (map at bottom).

Here are more climb ideas in the Annecy region: The Ten Best Cycling Climbs from Lake Annecy

The first 20+ kilometres or so are along the superb Annecy bike path on the west side of the lake. No cars, but plenty of cyclists with great kit:

A few kilometres past the lake, turn off the bike path and head up the short (8.5 kms), but very steep, Col de la Forclaz. I love this climb. Both sides are tough and scenic, but this south side is far quieter.

It will be in stage 19 of the 2016 Tour de France. It’s also where I first watched a Tour mountain stage – in 2004 – Virenque, Moreau and Simoni at the front:

Today, the weather was truly perfect. As steep as it looks:

13% with a view:

Having fun Steep Woohoo

Not the longest or toughest loop, but very scenic, bike friendly, and occasionally crazy steep. And the best view of Lake Annecy from a road bike:

Lake view from Col de la Forclaz

Lake view from Col de la Forclaz

Route 3,441,850 – powered by www.bikemap.net

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