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Le Col du Grand Colombier

Written and photographed by Daniel Hughes for Epic Cols.

Set in the southernmost part of the Jura mountains in France, about an hour’s drive from Geneva, le Col du Grand Colombier dwarfs all of the surrounding landscape, rising steeply from the valley floor. It has a serious race history too, previously featured in the Tour de France and the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Possible climbs are from the eastern and western sides. The west side via Virieu-le-Petit is declared the harder way to ascend it, and we climbed it via the more classic and popular way from Culoz. If it is good enough for the Tour De France, it’s good enough for us!

Our ride started in Saint-Martin-De-Bavel, a charming hamlet to the west. Meandering through the valley floor, surrounded by sunflowers and idyllic French buildings, we made our way to Culoz. The old town itself is quaint, but the surroundings are very industrial. This gentle warm up was certainly appreciated.

You can start the climb in central Culoz, although the official climb starts at the edge of the town, at a huge village roundabout on the Route du Grand Colombier. From here we made our way up through vineyards, overlooking the valley floor and the River Rhone.

After 4 km or so, we hit one of the main party pieces of this climb, the Lacets du Grand Colombier. These are tight, enclosed switchbacks at over 14% gradient, which I was expecting to be far more open. You’ll need to be careful of cars here, particularly on the descent. It doesn’t feel like two vehicles could pass each other, and the same goes for the rest of the climb too. This road is tight.

The steep 14% gradient over, the reward was open views to the south, before heading back into the lush, dense and beautiful forest. Streaks of light pierced through the forest canopy, and we enjoyed cooler temperatures alongside an easing of the gradient.

Meeting the other climb option from Anglefort, the forest section continued for another 5 km until the landscape changed dramatically.

Above the treeline, great chunks of granite can be seen, and maybe even the summit too. With 3 km to go and 170 m of climbing remaining, the summit was close and the pace increased.

Revelling in the fantastic views to the west, the final 3 km went far too quickly. Before we knew it, we had enjoyed a final ramp of over 10% to get to the line on the road marking the finish.

 

So what’s at the top? Well, it is not the world’s prettiest finish, with a large car park and temporary café for cyclists and hikers. There is a Nespresso machine (better than instant) and of course a mandatory place to get a picture of your bike against the summit sign.

If time allows, I’d recommend going up and over the other side to ride a loop back to Culoz. Alternatively if you are after more climbing, descend to Virieu-le-Petit and climb back up. You will be gifted with 20% ramps and will have enjoyed the iconic Col du Grand Colombier from both ways.

To read and see more iconic climbs from around the world go to: www.epiccols.com

The stats:

  • Distance – 16.1 km
  • Gradient – 7.2% rising to over 14%
  • Metres climbed – 1,156 m

 

@danielhughesuk Equipment:

Shimano Dura-Ace R9170

Di2 hydraulic groupset

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Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P

Dual Sided Power meter

The choice of the world's best climbers, sprinters, and time trialists, the DURA-ACE R9100 crank drops weigh while maximizing power transfer. The new design, and its iconic look, is adapted for race specific disc brake systems while still offering a wide range of gearing and crank arm length options. The addition of a reliable, accurate, waterproof power meter makes this crank an even more valuable tool to serious cyclists. With a rechargeable Li-ion battery, left/right balance, and Bluetooth LE and ANT+ connectivity, the SHIMANO DURA-ACE Power Meter sets a new standard in cycling data collection.

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PRO Vibe Aero

Handlebar

An ultra-high performance handlebar constructed with Innegra fibers to ride the most punishing conditions. The new PRO Vibe Aero handlebar is built to meet cycling’s highest demands using state of the art technology. The Vibe Aero is developed with Di2 in mind offering ultimate integration for maximum aerodynamic performance and ultra-clean styling.

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PRO Vibe Carbon

Stem

High-end, full carbon stem

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Shimano Dura-Ace R9100

Pedals

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  • Customize the entry and release tension settings
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  • SHIMANO 3-year limited warranty
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@caralimccall Equipment:

Shimano Ultegra R8070

Di2 hydraulic groupset

ULTEGRA R8000 series is "pro-proven" as it is a direct trickle down from DURA-ACE groupset. As road bike component, the stress-free operation is one of the most important feature to lead all day riding comfort with braking and shifting.

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PRO Vibe Carbon

Stem

High-end, full carbon stem

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