Col du Grand Colombier

(Culoz)

France

Col du Grand Colombier dwarfs all of the surrounding landscape. It has serious race history too.

Set in the southernmost part of the Jura mountains of France, Col du Grand Colombier has featured many times in the Tour de France and Criterium Dauphine. Possible climbs are from both the eastern and western sides; each with different permutations. While the west side via Virieu-Le-Petit is declared the harder way, this climb is via the classical, and more popular way, from Culoz.If it is good enough for the Tour de France, it’s good enough for us. It is a 16km climb with an average gradient of 7.2% with some sections rising over 19% – all while ascending 1196m to the summit at 1501m.

Culoz.

The official climb starts, at what might be considered France’s largest village roundabout on Route Du Grand Colombier – where we made our way bisecting through vineyards, overlooking the valley floor and Le Rhone river.

4km. The party piece.

Tight, enclosed switchbacks at over 14% – barely space for one car!

Steep gradients >19%.

The reward is open-views to the south, before heading back into lush, dense and beautiful forest.

Streaks of light hitting the forest floor, we enjoyed cooler temps. And the gradient backed-off a bit too.

The final few kilometres, things ramp back up >10%.

Meeting the other route from Anglefort, the forest section continues for another 5km. Then the landscape changes dramatically.

At 3 km to go, with 170m of climbing remaining, the summit is close.

Above the treeline, big chunks of granite can be seen – maybe the summit too.

Final ramp – over 10%.

What’s at the top? Well, perhaps not the prettiest finish; but with a large car park and a temporary 'pop-up' café with a Nespresso machine, (better than instant!) There are big views of the surrounding landscape, and of course, a mandatory place to get a picture of your bike against the 'summit' sign.

If time allows, it is recommended going 'up and over' to ride the other side and loop back to Culoz. Or, if you are after more climbing, descend to Vireu-Le-Petit and climb back up. You will be gifted with >20% ramps and have enjoyed the Col du Grand Colombier both ways.