Back in 2012, stage 10 of the Tour de France won by Frenchman Thomas Voeckler included the climb of the Grand Colombier which is in the Jura mountains …not to be confused with the Col de la Colombiere which is situated in the high Alps, some 110 kms to the East.
This road, the D120, is an utter crackerjack, with four ways of riding to the summit, however on this occasion and again in on the 15th stage of the Tour 2016, the riders began the ascent from the town of Culoz, gaining 1250 metres over 18 kms….giving an average gradient of 7%.
On 21st September 2016 The Wattmeister discovered that 7% is a misleading figure.
With little in the way of polite introduction, the first steep ramp, complete with riders’ names daubed on the tarmac, prompted our speedster to select his easiest gear for the next 7 kms. However as the D120 cut across the face of the mountain and approached the renowned precipitous exposed hairpins or ‘lacets’, the effort was tempered by gorgeous, stunning views over Culoz, stretching towards Le Lac du Bourget in the southeast.
A couple of kilometres of relative respite were followed by another 6 kms of unrelenting gradients through wooded forest with the Garmin seemingly stuck on 16%.
The Wattmeister’s inner voice made itself heard….”remember all those Full English Breakfasts?” After a full 14 kms, the road levels out for about 800m before climbing again above the treeline, revealing lush green meadows…. perfect habitat for cows…lots and lots of cows..I believe the collective noun is a herd.
Anyway, the bovine invasion afforded an opportunity for a couple of minutes of recovery before attacking the summit some 3 kms distant.
And here, at the very top, the jewel in the crown of this climb revealed itself as majestic Mont Blanc, perhaps 120 kms away to the East, towered above the clouds… the photograph does not do its appearance justice, it was a gobsmacking sight.