Three Cols in the Aravis Massif: Col de la Croix Fry, Col des Aravis and Col de la Colombière

Col de la Colombiere

When I excitedly told my parents about the Col du Tourmalet on the phone the other day, my Dad asked me in wonderment whether I’ll never tire of riding in the high mountains.

I’m certainly not sick of climbing Cols and I do not know whether I ever will. But what I do know is that the mountains get less and less daunting and threatening the more of them I climb and with the improved fitness and strength I can actually enjoy climbing even the highest and steepest of them. With every mountain I climb, I learn more about myself.

I doubt I’ll ever get tired of this amazing journey we are currently on. It’s not just about the cycling!

But this post is not about the high and steep mountains of the Pyrenees. You will have to wait for the Tourmalet report a little while. I’m still way behind with my blog updates. This one is about the Aravis Massif in the French Alps where we spent a few wonderful days in July.

We went to Thônes near Annecy solely with the intention to climb two well known climbs of the Tour de France (of recent years but not the 2012 edition): the Col de la Croix Fry and the Col de la Colombière.

Leading up to our days in the Aravis Massif just South of Geneve, we allowed ourselves a couple of days of sightseeing in Chambery (the ride up the Col de Granier counts as sightseeing because we took it that easy) and sun baking at Lake Annecy.

The Tourist Information in Thônes was an ideal start for our ride. We had a general idea of the loop we wanted to do but with our track record of getting lost (it always looks so straight forward on the map before the ride…), we thought we pick up a more detailed map of the area. The girl there suggested adding Col des Aravis to our loop because it was easy and very scenic. Easy and scenic? Alberto was easily talked into adding another Col!

She didn’t promise too much.

We took the little road on our right just before the church as instructed, and as soon as we passed the last few houses of Thônes, no sooner did the sign indicate the left turn and the start of the first climb of the day: Col de la Croix Fry (“Cro:ah Free” as I was corrected by the same girl in the Tourist Office with a slight indignant expression earlier). The sun was up, the day was pleasant, there were other cyclists on the road and I loved the scenery.

Alberto had gone up the climb because there was company for me. A Swiss ski school made their way up the Col during their summer cross training and so I chatted with a nice Swiss guy for the most of the way. The last few kilometers kicked up a bit with it’s 9% gradients but these climbs of the Aravis invite to leisurely pace while enjoying the scenery. It’s an incredible beautiful area, with green pastures, rocky outcrops and peaks and villages as cute as French Alpine villages can be. Farmers were busy bringing the hay in. The sun was shining and I felt sorry for a few of the farm kids raking on the fields when I caught their longing gazes at my bike. School holidays for these guys are different and I just hoped they’d get to ride their bikes later after the chores were done!
The Col des Aravis was a short and pretty affair and we were grateful for the tip. I lit a candle in the little chapel at the Col for Saint Anne. She’s done a great job for us over the past few months. I usually don’t believe in the workings of saints but I didn’t want to take the risk and keep her on our side.

From there we headed straight up the Col de la Colombiere, which again was pleasant to climb and didn’t feel too hard at all.

Don’t get me wrong, a climb is always as hard as you make it and I certainly took my time on that ride but there is still a difference between having to work hard and struggling to make it to the top or being able to cruise. These climbs have featured in the Tour de France and I’m sure none of the Professionals thought of these Cols as lovely and scenic little Cols at the time. But after climbing the Galibier and Madeleine and all the other 2000plus meter climbs, the 1500m range felt like a breeze.

Back in Thônes with just under 80km on the odometer, I felt like riding more. I love rides that make me feel like this. Satisfied with a big smile on my face and hungry for more…

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2 Responses to Three Cols in the Aravis Massif: Col de la Croix Fry, Col des Aravis and Col de la Colombière

  1. …hey there !!!……i haven't abandoned you two but after i finished racing 'le tour', i hadda get ready for all the olympic bike racing on the road, the track & on the dirt & i needed to brush up on my swimming, gymnastic & beach volleyball moves……whew, on top of work & regular 'life', i've been busy, ya ???……glad to see the continent is still treating you pretty well……my best…

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