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11-08-2022 | Wouter Fioole

La Madeleine: an awesome day in a snake pit

Everyone who followed the Tour de France this year can recall the images of the enchanting Lacets de Montvernier. No less than 18 hairpins in just 3 km where both the road and the peloton meanders uphill. It is not only the road to Montvernier that winds its way uphill. In the Maurienne valley, everywhere roads left and right wind their way up the mountains that way. Where the Marmotte actually leaves them all left and right, the gran fondo La Madeleine picks up as many of those climbs as possible.

Photo: a relaxed atmosphere at the start.

Up and down

Sunday, August 7, in La Chambre, over 500 men and women were at the start of the 135, 115, or 60-kilometer course on the serpentine roads from the valley up and down. From the start it is a few kilometers through the valley to the Col du Mollard, 18 kilometers at an average of 6% with 45 hairpins in the first 12 kilometers. A great start of the day! A small descent follows to make the connection to the last part of the Col de Croix de Fer. The last part of this Anaconda of a climb is still 14 kilometers long at an average of 6.5%. The first 8 kilometers of it barely rise above 4%. From the village of Saint-Sorlin-d'Arves, however, the last 6 kilometers pull the average up again considerably by barely getting below 8.5%. The view between the mountains is however phenomenal these last kilometers. And - for those who still have an eye for it - also the mineral-soaked rock face is beautiful. It turns shimmering green in the sunlight.

Photo: the desolate but beautiful Col de Chaussy, an unknown gem.

Less beautiful than on TV

At the top of the Croix de Fer we crossed to the top of the Glandon to plunge down in a long line. There was no peloton here for a long time so loners or just small groups were looking for a way down as quickly as possible. Once down, the 135 and 115 distances split in a somewhat confusing way. The longest course goes via the Lacets de Montvernier up the Col de Chaussy. A total of 14 kilometers winding uphill at an average of 7%. In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed, there is nothing of the beautiful Tour images to see when you yourself are winding up in full effort. Yes, it is a climb you want to have done, but as beautiful as the helicopter shots you will not see it. For the shortest distance, this is the first climb of the day, the middle distance skips it. However, all distances eventually descend to La Chambre to conquer the namesake of the gran fondo: the Madeleine.

Photo: the famous switchbacks of the Lacets de Montvernier.

The Madeleine, the beast

A formidable climb of just under 20 kilometers at 7.5% average. In total, the 135 km is thus good for more than 4700 meters of climbing (the 115 almost 3800 and the 60 almost 2700). That the climbs not only wind around like snakes, but also do their job is immediately clear in the first few kilometers. Just as strangling snakes slowly but surely drain the energy from your body, so too does the energy from the legs of many of the riders. Meandering along the road, suffering, standing still next to the bike and even on foot, the climb continues. Only a few of them are really going fast. At the top waits the liberating finish and a magnificent view. This pit of snakes I would like to enter again!

Photo: stunning views all day.

Photo: nice after party with plenty of food and drinks.

In summary:


  • Beautiful and challenging route.
  • Very good feed stations.
  • Enough and friendly staff.
  • Bicycle repair at provisioning.
  • Good facilities at the start: drop off bag with dry stuff that you could pick up again at the summit.
  • Prefect opportunity for after-dinner drinks both at the top of the Madeleine and during the meal in Saint François Longchamp.


  • Unclear split 135 and 115 after the descent of the Glandon. Wonder how many of the 135 kilometers only rode 115 anyway.
  • He won't be back for another year.
  • Took some time before the results were online.

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