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19-07-2023 | Yda Smets en Herman Nekkers

The many possibilities of the Gran Fondo Col de la Loze

Yda Smets and Herman Nekkers were in Brides-les-Bains in the week of 16 July for the Gran Fondo Col de la Loze. An event that is still small in scale now, but that could change as the col's fame grows. This gran fondo has so many options that there is always something for everyone.

Col de la Loze 22%

The Col de la Loze is a new col that opened in 2019. It is the connection between the winter sports resorts of Méribel and Courchevel. The road has been realised by asphalting existing unpaved paths and is only accessible to cyclists. From the valley, it is about 15 kilometres of climbing on a normal road to both resorts. From there, it is another seven kilometres car-free to the col. The side from Méribel is bizarrely steep, a climb of unprecedented proportions. The Courchevel side is less extreme, but by no means easy.

When collecting the start numbers, we run into world champion Stefan Kirchmair. We also meet a few more CycloWorld users such as Jeroen Wellner from the Netherlands and Meredith Byrne from the United States. It is remarkable how many people ride the mediofondo. There is nothing wrong with that. You will have to climb briskly anyway. In the evening, we also witness the presentation of the AG2R team for the Vuelta.

Time trial

Saturday afternoon there is a time trial to the beautiful valley of Pralognan-la-Vanoise. Yda has had some medical malady this year and did not feel strong enough for the granfondo. She decided on a duel: time trial and mediofondo via Courchevel.

Yda: "When I went on a training ride to the Col de Tougnète with Herman last Thursday and heard that the last part of the Méribel climb to Col de la Loze is similar to the climb to La Tougnète, the choice was quickly made for me. What a horribly steep and irregular climb, not only myself but also my brakes were severely tested. Fortunately, it was no problem at all to adjust my registration. I was given a new start number for the mediofondo and a start pack for the time trial.

The time trial is 25.8 kilometres with 1100 altimeters and finishes at 1700 metres in the Parc de la Vanoise. The start is somewhere between 14.00 and 16.30. I am the very last to leave at 16.15. I explored the first stretch from Brides-les-Bains to Bozel the day before on my way to the bike shop that had repaired my front brake. A good warm-up for the climb to Pralognan, as official timekeeping doesn't start until Planay, a village behind Bozel. From here it's pretty much all uphill, with gradients between 3 and 15%. The scenery becomes more and more impressive, with high cliffs on all sides. I enjoy the view so much and the climb with hairpin bends is so gradual that I forget that time riding should be pain. Driving into the picturesque town of Pralognan, I think I am there, but that turns out to be a misconception. I am directed to the right by a signalman and then ride a few more kilometres into the Parc National de la Vanoise. This is no punishment, as the scenery now becomes truly breathtakingly beautiful. A motorcyclist from the organisation informs me that I am almost there. When I see the finish flag in Les Prioux, I accelerate before crossing the mat. In the car park at the finish, extremely friendly volunteers are ready with soft drinks, orange segments, watermelon and some salty snacks. I replenish my reserves and get back on my bike towards Brides-les-Bains, with the firm intention of returning to Parc de la Vanoise for another hike. In the evening I find out that I have finished first in my category 50+ and third overall."

Gran fondo

In pursuit on the first climb.

Herman rides the gran fondo (117km/4377m+): "It was supposed to be warm, 28 degrees maximum. The first hour is still cloudy and not too hot yet. I decide to start calmly and not let myself go crazy on the first climb. A quick descent is then followed by the Col de la Loze from the tough side. Until Méribel it's still going well, I know the climb and especially don't want to waste too much strength. The best riders of the mediofondo are already overtaking me. The last seven kilometres on the piste cyclable are unprecedentedly steep. The climb is much harder than the profile suggests. In particular, the sections near the ski lifts and the last part are extremely difficult. Briefly it sometimes flattens out, but the view is the next wall. I find those steep sections increasingly difficult anyway and struggle forward. Even though I am suffering, I can still enjoy the beautiful scenery. Miraculously, I survive all the steep sections and I eventually reach the top. It is now halfway up.

It is a correct decision to neutralise the entire descent via Courchevel. The first seven kilometres are very steep and from Courchevel the road is occasionally busy with moderate road surface. The third climb to Champagny-la-Vanoise goes well. It is not too difficult and I still have power in my legs. A short descent is followed by the final climb to the Col de la Loze via Courchevel. I don't look forward to it, as it is terribly long and the route is mentally tough through successive ski villages. Fortunately, I still have the power to catch up with some people. After a long climb, I reach the piste cyclable. Here the campers are already waiting for the Tour; it's another seven kilometres to the Col de la Loze. Although lacking the dizzying percentages of the Méribel side, it is still very tough. Long stretches between 10-15%. One rider in front of me drives away from me very slowly, behind me no one can be seen. Just before the finish line, I hear panting. Someone is trying to catch me just before the line. I accelerate a bit more and cross the finish line completely demolished. In 6:56 riding time I am in, the overall time is 6:23. Tenth in the 50+ category."

Medio fondo

Yda: "The time trial gave me so much morale that I look forward to do the 46-kilometre mediofondo. How special is it to ride to the roof of the Tour de France and finish on the Col de la Loze at an altitude of 2304 metres?

On Sunday morning, the starting gun sounds at 8.30am. Women are allowed to start in the front section, but since my only goal for today is to have fun and finish, I join the back of the line. Then, when my chain comes off on the first descent towards Moûtiers, I am so far back that I can relax and ride my own race. Even before Moûtiers, the route makes a sharp right turn and the first climb of the day begins: over ten kilometres to Montagny. The temperature is pleasant, the views are beautiful and the legs feel good, so I climb up steadily. I pass the supply post at 15 kilometres and by now I have left some groups behind me. After the descent towards Bozel, we turn right at the roundabout towards Courchevel. From now on it is 22.5 kilometres of climbing. I rode the first part of this climb on Friday and it was not an unmixed pleasure because of the heat. Now the climbing is going a lot better for me. I pass the small lake in Courchevel Le Praz where I broke off the climb last Friday to have an extensive lunch and swim. Now I continue to the top of Col de la Loze, climbing better and better. A spectator along the side is kind enough to fill my water bottle with water, so I make it to the supply point at 34 kilometres without worry. I stop for a coke and some crisps and then continue the march again. Meanwhile, I have caught up with the three men who had passed me on the descent, which gives me extra energy. The final stretch is claiming more and more victims. Many people dismount to catch their breath on the 15% steep sections. Then relief comes again with a stretch of descent, but the last kilometre is still hard work. Arriving at the summit, I meet world champion Stefan Kirchmair. He set the fastest time on the granfondo, but was disqualified for riding behind motorbikes. We take a photo together in front of the giant bike and start the descent to Brides-les-Bains.

What a top cyclo this was and how glad I am that I chose the combination time trial-medio fondo!"

Yda and Stefan Kirchmair on the Col de la Loze

After all

At the end, there is a fine pasta party in the pleasantly busy park of Brides-les-Bains. We sit down with our friends from yesterday and are occasionally recognised by followers of the platform. To her great surprise, Yda is called forward, she is the winner of the mediofondo in the 50+ category. Of course, we are proud of that!

The Gran Fondo Col de la Loze is still small-scale at the moment, but that may change soon. Fine and and well-stocked supplies (sports bars, cola, water, salt, gels), good signallers and signposting, nice pasta party, friendly volunteers. The granfondo is out-of-category, but with so many sections there is something for everyone.

The results.


All routes



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