Verbier Ski Resort has recently hosted a mountain top Tour de Suisse stage (2008), and after a decade of lobbying, a Tour de France stage (2009 won by Alberto Contador).
Contador and other wimps stop at Verbier. But slow, old guys (me) know that the climb only gets interesting higher up above Verbier.
The climb to Verbier from Le Chable is very scenic and full of great hairpins. But with snow expected in a day or two, there was a fair bit of traffic.
For details of the fabulous far side via La Tzoumaz see here.
But the moment the route starts leaving town the road gets steep. Every kilometre above Verbier is steeper than every kilometre below Verbier.
I started the climb from Le Chable. It’s possible to start lower down in Sembrancher, or even Martigny. But this just adds uninteresting kilometres on a road with fast traffic.
The Croix de Coeur is visible high above – it looks a daunting challenge. This photo taken later in the ride shows the Croix de Coeur with respect to Verbier village and the sprawl of chalets above Verbier:
Still searching for fitness, I found the last steep kilometre hard going:
The summit exposes another valley and views into the Valais. And lots of high, snow covered mountains in the other direction.
From the Cross is an amazing ridge road – completely flat – for almost 5 kilometres that heads straight towards a ski lift and big snow covered mountains. Half way is a very dark tunnel …. but I didn’t expect to see any cars (see photo below).
Much of my route follows the beginning of the Grand-Raid cycling event – it looks incredible but perhaps too tough for me.
At the ski lift I took the road to Chaux for the views. In summer, there is perhaps more to explore. Once I saw a giant penguin (stork?, puffin?), I decided it was time to head back.
I doubled back to the ski lift – and as marked on the map – descended a good quality gravel road until rejoining the main road. This gravel stretch is steep but certainly climb-able.
the route up to Croix de Coeur is paved until about 1900 metres. The last 3 steep kilometres are gravel road and unfortunately not suitable for a road bike – I used a hybrid. The entire ridge ride is gravel.
I have a warm spot in my heart for Verbier as it was my first stage victory in 2008 – 2 hours before the pros 🙂 .