Le col du Grand Colombier (1501 m)
Challenge le Grand Colombier, hors categorie climb, epic climb of the Tour de France 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2020!
Known to be one of the hardest climb you can find in France, the Grand Colombier is more difficult than most of Alpine famous climbs (and yes, that’s including the Alpes d’Huez). With 4 different sides, the local monster climb is plenty of surprises for those who wish to challenge it several times. From the 22% slope above the village called Virieu-le-Grand to the 14% incline on the famous hairpins above Culoz, each side has something to impress and challenge you.
Wish to join the local brotherhood called « les fêlés du Grand Colombier »? All you have to do to be part of it is to climb it 2 or 3 or even 4 times on a single day. The reward at the top is worth the pain during the climb as the view from the top is absolutely breathtaking.
- From Culoz: 18.3 km. Elevation gain: 1262 m. Average gradient : 6.89%.
Unarguably the most beautiful side of all. On clear days, numerous and different point of views on the Alps, the Mont Blanc, and local mountains can be observed during the climb. Several lakes can be observed as well, including Bourget lake, Annecy lake and even lake Geneva ! The famous hairpins are located a few km above Culoz.
Beware, do not trust the average gradient, this climb is very irregular and is known to be really hot in summer. It is best to start early and hot days to avoid the heat. Halfway to the top, it is possible to recover shortly after the hairpins during a flat km before hitting several very hard km in the woods mostly around 10%. The road eases up a second time outside the forest, but make sure you save some energy for last few hundred meters!
- From Artemare, Through Virieu-le-Petit: 15.9 km. Elevation gain: 1251 m. Average gradient: 7.87%.
The road climbing to the top from Artemare (through Virieu-Le-Petit) is famous for being the steepest one of the four.
With a maximum incline of 22% above Virieu-le-Petit, the real challenge is to keep your feet on the pedals…Although the slope with a 22% gradient is short, there are 2 km with an average gradient of 16%.
- From Anglefort: 15.7 km. Elevation gain: 1251 m. Average gradient: 7.97%.
Probably the most unknown road of the 4, the climb from Anglefort is also one of the toughest!
Unlike the road from Culoz, the climb starting from Anglefort is more regular, the gradient rarely goes below 8%, there are less easier parts where cyclists can recover.
- From Champagne-en-Valromey, through Lochieu : 12.3 km. Elevation gain: 900 m. Average gradient: 7,32%.
This side is known to be the less difficult despite the several slopes at 10%, there are many flat parts where it is possible to recover completely. If it is your first hors categorie climb, this side is a lot more accessible compared to the three other roads. And if you plan to climb it several times, it is recommended to leave this one at the end.
If you like tough challenges, see also Félés du Grand Colombier
Le col de la Biche (1325 m)
- From Artemare, through Brénaz: 20 km. Elevation gain: 600 m. Average gradient: 5.5 %.
If the 4 roads of the Grand Colombier are not enough, try its neighbor climb, another hors categorie slightly easier. If you are looking for a carless road, the way to the top is harldy ever used by motor vehicles. The climb from this side is really irregular, with a series of slopes at 10% or above interspersed with easier sections. This side is significantly easier from this side.
- From Seyssel: 16 km. Elevation gain: 1150 m. Average gradient: 7.5 %. This side was used by riders on the tour de France in 2017. Du côté du paysage, du haut de ce col, les cyclistes trouveront des alpages ouverts avec des barrières canadiennes et des troupeaux. With a maximum gradient of 14 %, the average gradient of the first 9 km is around 9 % and gets much easier towards the top. Unlike the other side from Brénaz, this one offers a lovely point of view on the Alps on clear days.
Le col de la Rochette (1112 m)
- From Ruffieu: 6.2 km. Elevation gain: 382 m. Average gradient: 6.16 %. With no particularly steep parts, this climb regularly rises in the forest. Riders that are not into hors categorie climbs and steep slopes will enjoy this quiet climb. Although it is not steep, this climb remains a challenge for non-climbers.
- From Hauteville-Lompnès: 5.8 km. Elevation gain: 297 m. Average gradient: 5.12 %.
All the way up in the forest as soon as the road gets out of Hauteville, this short climb is perfect for those who want to cool down on hot summer days. It is possible to stop by onext to a waterfall called Trou de la Marmitte on the right side of the road and to a small chapel called Chapelle de Mazières on your left.
Le col du Calvaire de Portes (1005 m)
Part of the Tour de France in 2003, this climb has 8 different starting villages leading to the top on various roads.
Liked this climb? Join the brotherhood of Les Toqués du col de Porte by climbing it from different side on a single day.
- From Saint-Sorlin-en-Bugey : 18 km. Elevation gain : 870 m. Average gradient : 4.83 %.
- From Serrières-de-Briord : 12.2 km. Elevation gain : 780 m. Average gradient : 6.39 %.
From this side, slopes rarely exceed 8 %. Beware of the heat and the steep parts towards the end.
Le col du Ballon (929 m)
(to be avoided in 2019 between Virieu-le-Grand and Thézilieu) From Virieu-le-Grand : 13.4 km. Elevation gain : 645 m. Average gradient : 4.81 %.
The top of the climb is accessible from Virieu-Le-Grand and Armix. Slopes are not very steep, rarely used by cars and offer lovely panoramas.
Le col de la Lèbe (914 m)
From Artemare: 16 km. Elevation gain: 656 m. Average gradient: 3.98 %.
On a busier road, this climb offers various point of views on the Alps, and local mountains.
Le col des Fosses (745 m)
From Colomieu: 12.8 km. Elevation gain: 421 m. Average gradient: 3.30 %.
Starting from Belley, this climb is rather easy, it goes through several charming villages and offers a nice panorama on the Alps on clear days. The road is winding next to the beautiful Ambleon lake.
Col de Cuvillat (1073 m)
From le Petit-Abergement: 4.9 km. Elevation gain: 303 m. Average gradient: 6.8%.
Next to the col de la Rochette, between le Petit-Abergement and Champdor.
Easy for real climbers, it is a real challenge for others. Small road all the way, this col is hardly ever used by cars, the probability to meet motor vehicles is very low.
Col de Belleroche (1056 m)
From Ruffieu: 15.8 km. Elevation gain: 331 m.
Cross country skiing tracks in winter, the road leading the top is closed from December to March. One of the easiest climb in the area, the road rises through wild and beautiful valleys and woods. This is probably the favourite climb for locals looking for an easy ride on a quiet road in charming surroundings.
Col de Cuvery (1178 m)
From Le Grand-Abergement: 14 km, Elevation gain: 355 m.
From Bellegarde: 14 km. Elevation gain: 814 m. Reasonably easy from Le Grand-Abergement, the Col de Cuvery is really challenging from Bellegarde (Valserhône) or Les Neyrolles through Col de Berentin with an elevation gain of more than 800 m. The road does not get steeper than 8 % though. Do not miss, the wonderful point of view from Le Catray.
Col de Richemond (1036 m)
From Hotonnes: 8.5 km. Elevation gain: 336 m.
From Injoux-Génissiat: 8 km. Elevation gain: 520 m. If we consider Le Col de la Biche as The Grand Colombier’s little sister, then we can think about Le Col de Richemond as the little brother. Relatively easy from Hotonnes or Brenaz, it is more exposed and much more difficult from the other side. A bit similar to Le Col de Cuvéry, there are no steep sections on this road as there are on Le Col de la Biche and the Grand Colombier. N.B : There is a road going linking Le Col de Richemond and Le Col de la Biche starting from Brénaz. Close to the summit of Richemond, the mountain shortcut goes through wild fields and reaches the slopes of Le Cold de la Biche.
Col de la Cheminée (925 m)
Le col de la Cheminée links the valley called Valromey and the Plateau d’Hauteville. Very easy, it is favored by cyclists who want to avoid climbing Cuvillat, La Rochette or Belleroche.
Bugey Sud, base camp to the Alpine climbs nearby.
Le Mont du Chat (1504 m)
From Yenne : 17 km. Elevation gain : 1266 m. Average gradient : 7.50 %.
As it is for the Grand Colombier, the Mont du Chat is one of the most difficult climb in France and only riders in good shape are able to make their way to the top. The reward on the top is worth the pain as it is just above the Bourget lake and offers a wonderful view on the surroundings. Although gradients are not very high duirng the first part of the climb, it does not go below 10 % until the top during the last part.
Le col du Clergeon (979 m)
Rather short, but nontheless challenging as the slopes are most of the time above 8 %.
- From Ruffieux: 8.7 km. Elevation gain: 724 m. Average gradient: 8.32 %.
- From Rumilly: 15.4 km. Elevation gain:: 758 m. Average gradient: 4.93 %.
Le col du Mont Tournier (821 m)
Gateway to Chartreuse or Mont du Chat, Le col du Mont Tournier is easily accessible from the ViaRhôna.
- From Yenne: 10 km. Elevation gain: 571 m. Average gradient: 5.65 %.
- From Saint Genix-sur-Guiers: 11.2 km. Elevation gain: 622 m. Average gradient: 5.55 %.
Le col du Sapenay (897 m)
Less known, than the other climbs in Chautagne, the hairpins of le col du Sapenay offer a great view on Bourget lake.
- From La Biolle: 13.9 km. Elevation gain: 506 m. Average gradient: 3.64 %.
- From Chindrieux: 11 km. Elevation gain: 800 m. Average gradient: 7.27 %.
Le col de la Chambotte (650 m)
5 km. Elevation gain: 416 m. Average gradient: 8.32 %. The climb offers a great view on the Bourget lake all the way, beware of cars, the road is really narrow.
Le col du Chat (633 m)
From Yenne: 10 km. Elevation gain: 562 m. Average gradient: 5.26 %.
Le col du Chat, not to be mistaken with its neighbor Mont du chat, is significantly easier. A great view can be enjoyed on both side, but beware of cars on this touristic winding road.
NB: A safe tunnel under the mountain has recently been built only for cyclists and pedestrians
Le col de la Crusille (573 m)
10.3 km. Elevation gain: 361 m. Average gradient: 3.50 %.
Another climb located close to Mont Tournier, and from which it is easy to access climbs in Chartreuse and Lake Aiguebelette.