It’s a tough call to choose a number 1 as we have so many Cols here in the Tarentaise, including some iconic cols such as the Col de La Madeleine, Col de L’Iseran, le Cormet de Roselend and the Col du Petit St Bernard. On top of those, you have all the rides up to the winter resorts of Meribel, Courchevel, La Plagne…. However, the one that always comes out on top for me is probably the Col du Petit St Bernard.
You start in Aime on the cycle path and head along the river for 13km to Bourg St Maurice. A nice warm up! Through the centre of Bourg and on to the road heading into Seez and on to the Col.
Altitude at top: 2188 metres
Height gain:1282 metres
Average gradient:4.6 %
Maximum gradient:8.2 %
Yes, this is a long Col but with an average of 4.6% it is almost a gentle cruise (depending on how fast you ride!) It’s achievable for cyclists of all levels of experience.
From the village of Seez you head on up through the forest. There are some beautiful switchbacks which give incredible views down on to Bourg and across to Les Arcs and the glaciers.
These switchbacks carry on up to the ski resort of La Rosiere, then you have a final 8km to the top of the Col.
Depending on wind conditions this is where the Col can be either kind or unkind!
Most of the time the wind is behind you and pushes you to the top. The last part gives the impression of being fairly wild, but it’s a popular area.
You will pass the famous St Bernard Hospice with about 1 km to go and that last part of the Col is the flattest.
There is also an incredible stone circle which you cycle through and there are many remains of WW2 fortifications up on and around the Col.
In early season, sometimes there is enough snow left up there in the fields for the Kite surfers to play and it is amazing watching them on that last KM. If you think cyclists are mad….
At the top you can choose to stay on the French side and go in to a beautiful old restaurant which displays some stunning photos of the Col (and the process of digging it through) or you can head through the border and go in to Italy and have a lovely coffee and some pasta!
For the brave (or foolhardy) you can descend down to La Thuile in Italy to eat and then climb back up. But be aware it is a 12km descent to La Thuile and what goes down…..!
The descent from the top of the Col back to Bourg is superb. It can be quite fast at the top on the way down to La Rosiere which is good fun. Then from La Rosiere down to Bourg there are fantastic views. You can see all the way to the Tignes damn and across to the Sommet de Bellecote and the Mont Jovet.
The descent is not fast unless you pedal hard and go for it. Otherwise you can have a superb descent at your own leisure. Even the most nervous of descenders will cope with the P St Bernard.
The Col was first used in the Tour de France in 1949 and has been featured 3 times since.
This year on 18th July there is a TDF stage from Albertville to La Rosiere ,which will be incredible to watch as the stage starts in Albertville and then heads over a number of cols and finishes with the climb to La Rosiere.
The stage is only 108 km long but climbs straight out of Albertville on the Montee de Bisanne then down to Beaufort, then up the Col du Pre, then down to the Barage de Roselend and up to the top of the Cormet de Roselend. Then all the way down the Cormet in to Bourg and up to La Rosiere.
A terrific stage and a wonderful riding experience.
Come and join us and we can ride it together!