Our first cycling trip to the Alps was drawing to a close and we had left the biggest challenge until the end of our week in Haute Savoie. I had read a number of cycling histories and biographies before venturing to the Rhône-Alpes and one name stood out: the Col de Joux Plane.
…..there was still the blasted Col de Joux Plane to come. I’d always hated it’s tight hairpins and steep gradients.
From: “We Were Young and Carefree”
Translated by William Fotheringham.
It was a cool overcast day, for which I was grateful, this is not a climb for searingly hot weather. It starts in the village of Samoëns and rears upwards consistently for 11.6km, so despite its fearsome reputation this is one of the shorter climbs. However, you have to ascend nearly a thousand metres in that 11.6km to reach an elevation of 1700m at the summit, so the average gradient is around 8.5%.
I found it to be a surprisingly quiet and unassuming back road through working farms and managed forest. In some ways it is more modest than our first ever Alpine climb, the Col de la Colombière, but still beautiful and challenging. On a clear day there are stunning views of the Mont Blanc massif but cloud obscured it from our view. One rather unexpected site was a traditional Haute Savoie farmhouse decorated with Smurfs, we have no idea why, but then why not?
Hairpin, ramp, hairpin, ramp, has its own kind of rhythm as we span onwards and upwards on small gears savouring the experience and staying away from the electrified fencing that runs so close to the edge of the tarmac. Crashing on the Joux Plane could be a genuinely shocking experience. We passed yet another deserted ski station as we approached the summit, where a group of hikers were heading back to their minibus. They cheered us on as we stood up on the pedals for the final surge to the summit sign.