Col de la Loze – the Meribel Ascent
By Adrian Hill French Alps 12 November 2019
It was roughly this time last year that we took our first ride up the newly laid tarmac of the stunning Col de la Loze via Courchevel just as it had been finished; and a day before it was lost to the snow gods until early May! But now it is time to attack the Meribel ascent …
Since we first went up the Col de la Loze, there has been a lot of press and hype about the climb. We have regularly ridden it this year with Alpcycles clients. It has been getting great feedback and becoming a firm favourite amongst local riders due to it being traffic free. The col has had a good flow of cyclists from all over heading up to see what all the hype is about and there have also been regular Time Trials, a Haute Route summit finish and we have taken a magazine journalist up to check it out.
Then in early July it was finally joined to neighbouring ski resort Meribel to officially become the “first traffic free Col in the Alps”. I was away working on Alpcycles trips in other locations over the spring so didn’t get to ride the Meribel ascent until mid-July but had heard a few rumours about the climb so was pretty keen to hit it up.
Well; I can quite honestly say that I was shocked at how steep the last 6 km of the climb were and would definitely rate it as one of the hardest I have ever ridden. As you can imagine I have been up a few climbs in the last 20 years! Its consistent average 10% gradient with savage pitches of 19% plus will give no respite at all. From the bottom of the valley the full climb is 23 km giving you +1,300 m of ascent with the last 6 km being the “new road” of the Loze. This is where the road really gets nasty. With only a few hairpins in the first 2 km thereafter the road has brutally long straights with a view of the summit for a good 2 km and a pure “wall like” ramp in front of you. I was actually cramping in my arms due to being constantly stood up as the front wheel would lift whilst seated!
A few of the group I rode with that day had to stop on the way up. These are all strong, experienced cyclists who ride locally. The climb was littered with riders slumped over their handlebars wishing for more gears. On reaching the summit (wanting to puke) most of our group agreed that we would not be rushing back for that much suffering over 6 km. Some vowed it was the first and last time they would be riding up there.
At the end of August, the Tour de l’Avenir (Under 23 TDF) tackled the full climb from Brides les Bains in a mass start Time Trial. The Tour de l’Avenir is often used to test the route and logistics around a finish before the World Tour riders and Tour de France are let loose the following year. The stage was won by Alexander Evans (AUS) in 0105’39 seconds! And as you will probably already know the 2020 Tour de France will tackle the Col de la Loze from the Meribel ascent on Stage 17 – Grenoble to Meribel/Col de la Loze (Wednesday 15thJuly) which will be a humdinger of a stage for sure.
So, if you’re in the French Alps in 2020 the Col de la Loze should definitely go on your bucket list. I prefer the Courchevel side but both sides are equally awesome but of course you will want to tackle the Tour de France side from Meribel before or after the race hits it in July. All I will say is get ready to engage that granny gear and maybe pack an ice-axe, rope and crampons! But the panoramic view from the summit is worth the pain & suffering for sure.
Of course, if you are in the area, and need somebody to show you the local roads give us a shout!