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Cycling the Col de Joux Plane

27th October, 2022

The Col de Joux Plane, is an Hors Categorie climb, and the final ascent on the 2023 Etape du Tour. A road steeped in cycling history offers a tough climb as it makes its way up to Morzine before topping out at just under 1,700m, offering up spectacular views of the valley beneath.

A cyclist riding up the Col de Joux Plane in the French Alps

The history of the Col de Joux Plane

The Col de Joux Plane does not have the Tourmalet’s history, nor Ventoux’s mythical status, featuring in the tour de France for the first time just in the late 1970s. What it does offer though is a climb that usually features at the end of a long stage, as it does on the Etape du Tour this year. It also offers a lung busting and leg-aching final half of the climb where it kicks up from averaging 6 and 7% in most places, to never falling beneath an 8% average over the last 5km.

The col has many connotations with disgraced formed riders and it came into many people’s consciousness in 2000, when Lance Armstrong lost the lead on the climb. 6 years later Floyd Landis attacked the climb with such vigour, making up a 7 minute deficit, that questions were raised as to how he was able to climb at such speed and consistency. Performance enhancing drugs were the ultimate answer as he was later disqualified.

The fastest official climb is a whopping 32 minutes and 50 seconds, a time posted by Marco Pantani back in 1997.

A cyclist riding up the Col de Joux Plane

Cycling The Col de Joux Plane – From Samoens

Samoens to La Combe au Fle

The 2023 Etape du Tour will see riders cycling the Col de Joux Plane from Samoens, to the south. This southern ascent is 13km averaging 7.5% but it’s the final half that ramps up to provide a gruelling finale.

The ride starts from Samoens and you will bear left and folloe signs for the Cold de Joux Plane. After a short section through Plan Praz and Chez Raymond which offer fairly steady gradients, you will hit a couple of switchbacks. The road is fairly narrow and the ramps are inconsistent so it’s tough to get into a rhythm.

You will continue climbing until you arrive at La Combe au Fle, where a ramp provides the steepest section of the ride, under almost non existent cloud cover. This has always been a tough place for the peloton and Etape riders will experience the same requirement for mental fortitude to overcome the lack on the steepest section of the climb.

The second half

The climb pitches up quite dramatically in the second half of the ride and the gradient remains consistent at 8% or above, meaning you need enough fuel in the tank to make it to the top.

As you climb above the treeline, the Alps come into stark contrast as white snow capped mountains glisten in your eye line.  You’ll experience a couple more switchbacks before the final 2km of straight road which leads you up to the Col de Joux Plane signpost and the lake.

A cyclist at the top of the Col de Joux Plane in the Alps