On The Up

44South Top#3 Climbs

If you’re visiting Morzine this summer with the intention of doing some road cycling then it’s safe to assume that you’re planning on tackling some of the many famous tour climbs right on our doorstep.  Climbing for many can be as much a psychological battle as it can physical one, and in many ways staying at home and employing someone to repeatedly clout your quads with a piece of 2×4 for a good hour whilst you browse through photos of some pretty mountains provides much of the same experience without all of the mental angst.  That said starting out on a big climb and settling into a comfortable rhythm as you spin your way to the top rewards you with some incredible views, a huge sense of achievement and of course for every col conquered follows an exhilarating decent.

So here are my top 3 favourite ‘ups’ in no particular order that should be on the list for any serious cyclist.

Col de la Joux Verte
Starting in Montriond you climb steadily until you reach the lake, this is a stunning spot at any time of the year and a flat kilometre around the lake gives some respite before it kicks up again winding past the Ardent Cascade Waterfalls before reaching the ski station at Ardent Village.  The middle section starts to get serious with several switch backs and a gradient touching approximately 13% in places.   If you can unclamp your jaw from around the stem long enough you are rewarded with some fantastic views down the valley to Morzine and beyond.  All your hard work is rewarded when you reach Les Linderets.  Now Les Linderets is what happens if you mix one hundred goats, the aroma that comes with one hundred goats, a couple of hundred gormless goat obsessed tourists and the odd vehicle under the control of said gormless tourists.  It really is a sight (and smell) to behold.  Eventually, if you haven’t lost your rag and thrown your bike at a tourist, goat, car or some combination of the above then the climb levels off to around 4% and continues up through some beautiful woodland finally opening up with some stunning panoramas as you reach the summit.  With a total distance of 13.5km in total with a height gain of over 800m, this a good introduction to climbing in the Alps.

Rider climbing the Joux VerteJoux Verte Top section

Col de Joux Plane
Life on the Joux Plane can get really emotional and it will at some point make you wish you’d stayed at home for some ‘sitting down’ practice.  Rated by many as ‘less fun’ than Alpe d’Huez and only ‘a bit more fun’ than gouging your own eyes out with a spoon, the Col de Joux Plane is over 11.5km long with an average gradient of 8.5%.  The unyielding gradient of this climb becomes more apparent when it drops to 7%, which on any other climb over a long distance would be considered a challenge in itself, but on the Joux Plane its all kinds of bliss and is a veritable mini vacation for the legs right before plunging you back into physical and psychological torment as it ramps up to 14% before settling down again at around 8-9%. This climb has featured in the Tour de France eleven times first appearing in 1978.  In the 2000 edition of the Tour and between transfusions, Lance Armstrong was heard saying that it was ‘…the worst day I’ve ever had on a bike’…and he was out of his face on drugs, still he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.  Conquering this climb is a great achievement and if you ever see the pro’s riding it, it puts into perspective how fit/stoned some of those guys really are.

Summit Sign for the Col de Joux PlaneLast km of the Col de Joux Plane

Col de la Colombiere
Similar to the Joux Verte there is plenty of variety albeit a shortage of goats to look at on the way up this climb.  But what the Colombiere lacks in goats it more than makes up for in distance because at over 17km this is a formidable beast.  The first half is a quite pleasant and a relatively gentle ascent through the trees (note the use of the word ‘relatively’ there), levelling off as you reach the commune of Reposoir.  A few zigzags later and all that is forgotten as you get down and dirty with some 8% flavoured tarmac.  For the last three kilometres you are treated to views of the summit marked by a small Alpine hut while each kilometre incrementally ramps up in gradient from 9%, 10% to 11% meaning it just never seems to get any closer.  The small Alpine hut, which as it turns out is a massive restaurant, ensures that it is always busy and as you cross the finish line so feel free to zip up your jersey and celebrate to the crowds who will probably wonder what all the fuss is about having driven up for lunch and will have no idea what you’ve just put yourself through.  This is a great climb and definitely one to tick off.

ColombiereKm marker on the Colombiere