Here is a preview of stage three of the upcoming July 2008 Lost Boys Tour d’Enfer.
A trip organized by my friend Leslie that will include people from the USA, Canada, France, Turkey, Germany, and Switzerland.
All 2008 Tour d’Enfer Previews can be found here.
Day 3: Bourg Saint Maurice to Lanslebourg
The Stage: Approximately 80 kilometres (50 miles); Ascent: 2,100 metres (6,890 feet)
So your legs are tired from Day Two? Don’t worry, only one climb today. It does happen to be the LONGEST climb in France and also the HIGHEST paved mountain pass in France. Today we cycle the legendary Col de l’Iseran.
Bring the oxygen tanks, because at the top, the altitude will reduce your power output by approximately 13 or 14%.
Col de l’Iseran
The Climb: 47.5 kilometres (29.5 miles); Ascent: 2,030 metres (6,660 feet)
Built in 1936, the Col de l’Iseran has been in the Tour de France five times. It would have been six but in 1996 the climb was cancelled due to snow – in July! It is – of course – on Le Cycle Magazine’s list of the 30 most beautiful climbs in France.
It last appeared in the Tour in 2007. In 1959, the legendary rider Louison Bobet made it a point honor to climb to the Col de l’Iseran before abandoning – symbolically ending his career at the top!
Col de l’Iseran is the highest mountain pass in France, but the Cime de la Bonette became the highest road when the local authorities extended Col de la Bonette in a loop around a peak – for no other reason than to be higher than Iseran.
Fortunately, todays ride gives you a chance to warm up a little as the first 9 kilometres (5.5 miles) are generally flattish. There are two parts to the climb, up to Lac du Chevril – another huge alpine lake created by a dam. And from Val d’ISere to the top.
In between are 6 flat kilometres (4 miles) that include 5 tunnels. A couple are long and they are wet and sometimes dark. It’s quite important that people bring something reflective and light-colored for this stage.
After the tunnels and the beautiful ski resort of Val d’Isere the traffic dies down and the ride really picks up. Cycling signs count down the distance to the top and announce the % grade for each successive kilometre – we are in cycling country. After a few leisurely kilometres we will reach the St Charles bridge (see map) from here on this is an awe inspiring, stunning climb!
The Col de l’Iseran doesn’t go through the Alps it goes over them. At the top are great views and a nice little restaurant/gift shop. You can buy your highest Col (pass) in France shirts here. After stopping for obligatory photos of the sign at the top, it’s a superb descent to the bus down the savage south side.
Riding the high alps you may occasionally here a sharp screeching sound. This is probably a marmotte – basically beavers with a small tail. They will stand on their hind legs and screech to warn other marmottes of danger. Leave them alone – they’re not good eating.
You can’t get lost today – easy route to follow.
- Start: Bourg Saint Maurice
- Exit town to the East
- At McDonald’s follow D1090 towards Val d’Isere
- At Seez, take D902 towards Val d’Isere
- Climb and descend Col de l’Iseran
- Stay on D902 until Lanslebourg
Still Have Energy?
For the stronger riders, at the finish in Lanslebourg is the start of a shortish climb up to the Alpine lake du Mont Cenis (route is marked in red on the map). If you still have some energy, I highly recommend taking a peek, while us weaker riders finish the main route
Col du Mont Cenis – North Side
Summit: 2,100 metres (6,890 feet)
The Climb: 14.8 kms (9.2 miles); Ascent: 770 metres (2,525 feet)
Starting from Lanslebourg, this relatively short climb ends beside a large alpine lake, just short of the Italian border.
Tour de France: Rated 1st Categorie (Hors Categorie on other side), this climb has appeared 5 times in the Tour, most recently in 1999, although for this side 1992.