This was a hard ride. I set out from home at about 10h45 to meet a friend in Villeneuve. Together we were going ride to the Col du Granon via the gravel track and then hit one of the amazing singletrack descents back down again.
It was a sunny but windy day and I knew it was going to be a tough one when I’d already run out of low gears on the main road to Villeneuve! The wind was blowing straight at me with the odd big gust from the side, making riding tricky from the start. I arrived at the meeting point 10mins late and already breathing hard…and we hadn’t even begun the ascent yet…this didn’t bode well
When you take the gravel track up to the col from Villeneuve, it starts off fairly tame (by Alpine standards) but before you know it, your bums on your seat and you’re dropping to your lowest gear and just spinning your way up trying to not count km’s or metres above sea-level. It gets pretty steep in some places and the chat and banter seem to peter out the higher you climb. I was sorely missing the 11-34t cassette that I used to have before I upgraded to a 11-32t. Those 2 teeth would’ve made my life just a little easier right then…
The gravel track is about 6km long and in that time you gain about 550m in altitude. We got to the top of the track in about an hour and that’s when the real fun began :-/
At the top of the track the only way up to the col is to join the road for the last 5km. Sounds easy hey? Well it’s not. It’s very steep & very exposed and it was very windy and very hard work. The roadside signs telling you how high you are and how many km to the summit seem to take a lifetime to come along even though each sign is only 1km apart…
Those 5km took us nearly an hour to cycle and in that time you gain another 500m in altitude. My maths is terrible but even I can work out that that averages at a 100m altitude gain for every 1km of tarmac your tyres roll on. That proved hard work at over 2,000m up in the sky and for half the time into a very strong headwind. As you follow the road your direction changes and for the last couple of km the wind is behind you which is a relief. By that time my legs were begging me to stop but I pushed on for the last couple of km and got to the summit feeling good 🙂
So we made the top but we still had the traverse to do. It’s a pretty amazing little trail, nothing more than what looks like a goat track in some places and continues up and down for another 4km of rocky, exposed singletrack but with amazing views down across the valley and beyond to the south east where the mountains continue to the horizon…
The descent has got to be one of the best mountain biking trails in the area. Just awesome. Very technical and steep with lots of rocks and sketchy bits and plenty of tight switchbacks and trees but also some amazing fast, flowy sections where you can just let go of the brakes and rip it!
All in all, an amazing loop – about 30km from start to finish and if you’ve got it in you to do that climb you will be rewarded with some very special stuff on the way down 🙂
…of course if you haven’t got it in you to do that climb, you can just get someone to drive you up…but that’s cheating 😉