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The next instalment in our cycling series, this week focusing on the Col du Corbier…

Situated beneath the twin peaks of Mount Ouzin and Mount Drouzin, the Col du Corbier links the Vallée d’Aulps and the Abondance Valley. For centuries the main thoroughfare between the two great Abbeys at St Jean d’Aulps and Abondance, it has more recently become part of a pilgrimage of a different kind, as cyclists from around the world come to test themselves on the same Alpine roads as those frequented by the professional peloton. In 2012 the Col du Corbier featured as the final climb of the Criterium du Dauphiné, won by Tour de France Yellow Jersey Bradley Wiggins; in 2014 it is scheduled to play a key role in stage 7, the Queen stage of this year’s Dauphiné, from Ville-la-Grand to the Finhaut-Émosson.

Bradley Wiggins in the Yellow Jersey of the Dauphine

Bradley Wiggins atop the Col du Corbier – Criterium du Dauphine, 2012

The western ascent of the Col du Corbier is a little over 6 kilometres in length, rising from 720m at the valley floor to 1237m at the pass, with an average gradient of 8.6%. There are two official entrances to the climb: from Pont du Gys to the north, or from the Route des Grand Alpes between St Jean d’Aulps and La Baume to the south. This latter approach ramps up to 8 and 9% respectively for the first two kilometres, with an energy sapping section of 10.7% shortly before the picturesque village of Le Biot. Approached from this side, the climb skirts the edge of the village itself, winding up for two kilometres through tree lined roads at an average gradient of 8.5%. On occasion, the trees open to the left, providing breath-taking views across the valley to the village of Seytroux and the imposing Roc d’Enfer.

Brief respite is provided at the village of Le Corbier, where the road levels for some 300m, before hair-pinning once again for the final two kilometres – a consistent 9% gradient, with stretches at 11%. Tough though this final ascent is, the vista that awaits you at the Col itself is infinitely rewarding – the Abondance Valley stretching below, with the snow capped peaks of the Swiss Alps in the distance. The pass itself is home to the ski station of Drouzin-le-Mont; treat yourself to drink at Chez L’Henri, the first permanent building to be constructed at the Col in the early 1960s, or simply fill your bidons from the fresh water trough in preparation for what awaits on the way down…

All smiles at the top of the Col du Corbier

Paul and Neil atop the Col du Corbier – photograph courtesy of Neil Blacklaw

For the descent of the Col du Corbier is truly breathtaking – a series of fast, sweeping, open hairpins, through the village of Bonnevaux down to the Abondance Valley. Turn right at the crossroads to head toward Chatel, Morgin and the Col de Bassachaux, or left to ride down the valley towards Lake Geneva and the beautiful Col du Grand Taillet. Or simply turn round, grin broadly, and start it all over again.

For elevation data, profiles, route maps and of course those all important segments, please click here.