There is “heat wave” in the Alps at the moment so I decided to take advantage and visit one of my favourite routes in the Maurienne Valley.
This summer, Les Lacets (hairpins) de Montvernier made its Tour de France debut, revealing this great “secret” road to the unwashed masses. It’s a beautiful series of 17 hairpins, but – a warning – it’s perhaps only 20% of the way up the challenging Col du Chaussy.
Here is a more detailed post discussing just Les Lacets de Montvernier
It’s tough to photograph the hairpins from up close, but I did my best:
“Yates You Can” is graffitied on every hairpin. Left over Tour de France encouragement for the pro cyclist brothers Adam and Simon:
There is only one way to “easily” photograph all the hairpins. Once past the top of the hairpins there is a small gravel farm track to the right through a field (see map below). Follow it and then enter some trees to find yourself on a cliff look-out. Careful! Me terrified:
The rest of the climb to Col du Chaussy is very quiet, but not easy. From Montvernier, look up and you will see a great, unlikely cliff stretch a few kilometres from the summit. Woohoo! Note: I was very careful balancing my little tripod for this photo:
The far side of the Col used to be a gravel road, but was nicely paved a few years back. It’s narrow, but smooth. Once can descend via the D99 down to approximately 850 metres, joining the famous, main road to Col de la Madeleine – this makes a fully paved route perfect for road bikes. But I had my hybrid, and instead turned up at Bonvillard to follow a truly superb alternate route to Madeleine via Lac du Loup (Wolf Lake).
The road is paved until perhaps 1600 metres, then becomes a good quality gravel road – lots of fun.
At La Traverse, the route effectively summits the crest into the next valley, the valley with Col de la Madeleine. The next couple of kilometres cross through the ski slopes, finally joining the paved road to Madeleine at the second last hairpin. Leaving 2+ tough but lovely kilometres to the summit.
Strangely, there is some anti gay marriage graffiti on the road. Boo.
Recently, the big col sign was replaced with this monument. Interesting enough, although, like its predecessor it still overstates the altitude of 1993 metres. 🙂
For details of all three road bike routes to Col de la Madeleine see here.
Finally, it was a crazy, 40 hairpin descent, down the south side of Madeleine to La Chambre. If you like descents, this is a good one.
This loop is tough, and most people will try it for the experience of climbing the amazing Les Lacets de Montvernier. But for me, the unpaved route to Madeleine via Lac du Loup is what makes this route special.
Quiet / No Traffic
I did the Madeleine by way of Montgelafrey on 11 November. Not a soul on the road and really warm. Same as you, I noticed the anti-gay graffiti near the top. One of my favourite rides is up the Chaussy by the Lacets de Montvernier. I am lucky as I live in St Alban des Villards (half way up the Glandon) and my regular run is up to the Croix de Fer for coffee. If any reader is over this way, get in touch. Tomorrow, a neighbour and I are off to do the three Col ride in the Bauges. Salut J 🙂
I know your post is a while back but I’m over in July (staying in Tignes). Can I drive somewhere then do a loop which includes Lacets & Madeleine …I really don’t like climbing a mountain then turning around to descend the same way!!
Not certain I understand the question. Look at the map. This ride is a loop, not a their back. The start is in a different valley than Tignes.
Is the Wolf Lake gravel road possible on a road bike?
Hello Mikkel, The road is fine until the lake, but steadily gets rougher and rougher. Especially the cross over into the Madeleine valley I think is far too rough for a road bike.
How many kilometers of gravel road?
about 8 kms. Good quality at first but very rough as one passes into the next valley
We’re going over tomorrow to do the same loop you did via the gravel. Is it fairly straightforward from where you turn off at Bonvillard? ie, do we need to take note of any particular spots/turns where it might be confusing?
Hi Phil, No, it is fairly straightforward. Just don’t fly by the intersection as you’re descending. I “think” there is a sign saying Lac de Loup there, but regardless it is a fairly big intersection.
Later when you reach La Grolle (marked on map) and cross into the valley with Madeleine. Don’t be in a hurry to descend down, turn right and stay on the ski station road for some time, eventually aiming for the main road at a hairpin below.
Enjoy, it is a great route.
Another of your fabulous rides. I did it with my wife yesterday–me on gravel bike, she on e-bike. Her battery died just as we crested the Madeleine!
And the little side trip through the farmer’s field to overlook the Lacets is totally worth it. Amazing view. Thanks again for sharing the info!
Did this loop today. There is snow as you cross over the ridge for around 1km. Well snow and refreeze ice. The unpaved road is okay on a decent road bike (maybe not a 5 grand carbon bike). I got lost riding down to rejoin the main road above St Francois but it is a bit of a building site so not easy to navigate. The road is pretty well known locally and I note it is even signposted as a Madeleine route at the start of the climb. A sign said it is due to close on the 1st December but with the snow I wouldn’t go on it on anything less than an MTB at the moment.