Virenque big-ringing it up the Col de la Ramaz

Tune in this Sunday to Stage 8 of the Tour de France as Pete and I tackle the Col de la Ramaz in the northern Alps!

The favoured approach for this ascent is to climb out of the small town of Mieussy situated on the D907, the Vallee Verte and follow the road for a further 14 kilometres at an average gradient of 7%!

Initially the road is of the classic switch back hairpin corner variety rising up through housing (think picturesque chalet style not housing estate!) and onwards through the meadows where your pedalling effort will be accompanied by the Alpine cow bells. The lower slopes offer glimpses of the spectacular rock faces that the higher road bisects on its journey to the ski resort of Sommand. The Ponte de Marcelly and its iron cross towering above you on the right and the Col du Foron and the Haute Pointe to your left. The road is painted with the names of the supporters favourites in the tour, it’s easy to imagine riding through a wall of spectators characterising the climb when the Tour visits.

The upper slopes, approaching the avalanche tunnels and immediately after, are the steepest but not quite in the league of the Col du Joux Plane. At this point there is an unfortunate combination of gradient and terrible road surface conspiring to impede your progress. The latter a result of the freeze thaw affect of winter when these slopes will be covered in a metre of snow and ice. Take a look over the edge at the tunnels for an appreciation of how much height you have gained since leaving Mieussy; it’s a great vertigo inducing view. Upon reaching the ski station of Sommand, indicated by a wide open meadow like bowl and its ski lifts, the gradient slackens considerable as you traverse around the edge of this beginner ski area before negotiating the final push to the summit at 1559 meters.

The Col de la Ramaz is most famous for Frenchman Richard Virenque’s stage win in 2003 when he claimed the polka-dotted mountain climber’s jersey.  Pete and I will be climbing the mountain in the morning and then joining the thousands of fans cheering the riders as they ascent the mountain in the afternoon!  Set your Tivos because we might even end up on TV for a frame or two!  Particularly if we succeed in throwing a bee’s nest at Lance…