Col de Rousset 1254m

The Col de Rousset is the gateway to the beautiful Vercors plateau from the south. Firstly, a map: – this gives the stats of the ascent as 11.3 miles long and 2849 ft of ascent (that’s 18.1 km +868 m for metric folk). You’ll also notice 124 ft (34m) of descent too – more of that in a moment.

I suppose this is really a quiet little promotion for the climb itself: quite apart from it being just fifteen minutes from the house, it is not only a great introduction to Alpine hills (it’s about an hour up and 25 minutes down), but also extremely beautiful, with ever changing views as you ascend, but also through the seasons. For this posting, I’ve used photos taken in April, and the mixture of Spring light and foliage (or lack of foliage, for many of the trees) is in stark contrast to the bleakness of winter or the lushness later in the year.

The character of the climb is that it is very benign, and as long as you can keep pedalling for an hour or so at moderate effort, you will get to the top and have the reward of the breathtaking view. In the series of photos below you’ll see features from the climb from just outside of Die on the D518. From the inconspicuous ‘DEPART’ post lurking by a large information sign, you start with a gentle climb towards and through the Forêt de Justin; before the road levels out, and indeed then makes a little descent towards the bridge just before the picturesque village of Chamaloc, and its much-photographed lavender fields. If you keep an eye on the kilometre posts, they helpfully give the elevation, distance to next notable place, and percentage gradient: the only one that does not have a percentage is the one just before Chamaloc, as it would be a negative one!

At Chamaloc the climbing recommences, and from here you have the prospect of a continuous climb to the top, round the eight hairpin bends. One of the thrills of the ascent is that, just after Chamaloc, you can see virtually the whole climb open out before you: ahead, just to the right of the apex of the valley, you can just make out the entrance to the tunnel at the col, and either side of the apex you can see the road carved out of the side of the valley, and the hairpins themselves. None of the climb is more than 10%, and much of it nearer 5%, so it does not necessarily favour the lightest riders: as long as someone can put out decent power, they can keep up with the specialist climbers, as shown by two of the Exeter Wheelers who were with me this week: despite a 15kg weight difference, there was only about 20 seconds difference in their times of slightly under 50 minutes. I was a more sedate 56’20. Taking in the views, of course.

At the top, the view is outstanding – not of Alps themselves, but the pre-Alps stretching south from the plateau: on a good day you’ll see that characteristic sight of lines of outlines getting fainter the further away they are.

I returned to the climb later in the week to take these photos, and to do a video of the descent, in which I tried to give a few views out to the side, as well as staying on the bike despite the strong gusting and swirling winds.

The road to the Col de Rousset from the main road west out of Die
The easily missed ‘Départ’ post
One of the very helpful km markers. The distance actually is to the far end of the tunnel at the col.
The bridge after the short descent into Chamaloc
The place where you get your first proper view of the top of the ascent
And here you get the ascent laid out in front of you, winding across the valley
Hairpin No.1
Hairpin 2
Hairpin 3
View of hairpin 3
Hairpin 4
Hairpin 5
Hairpin 6
Km marker at hairpin 6
Hairpin 7
Hairpin 8 – the last one!
The well-earned view from the top.
The end of the climb

And lastly, a video of the rather windy descent, as far as Chamaloc.

Training in the Alps

A year ago was the first time I stayed in the house at Les Liotards; this year three of that original let’s-furnish-the-house-with-stuff-from-Ikea party returned with four others from Exeter Wheelers to take advantage of the clement weather and mixture of stunning roads for a week-or-so-long training camp.

With ages ranging from mid-20s to, er, 50 (me), including someone who doesn’t (yet) admit to liking hills, and a mixture of committed and experienced racers, less experienced racers, and one other (me again), it promised to be interesting to see how we sorted out our riding. The riders: Ellie and John (20s), Jon, Mark, Jamie and Arved (30s), and me. In fact, only two of the riders (Jamie and Ellie) didn’t know the area at all, all the others having stayed here before.

One of the pleasures of the place is its beauty – but this is also one of the challenges for real training too: can you take in and enjoy the scenery but still do some serious, structured training? Well, I suppose that since I ride for fun and don’t race, I can afford not to be too scientific in my approach to training (I still enjoy riding at a reasonable level of fitness and competence, and do some time trialling with the club), but I do think that a good and sufficient mix of riding at different intensities will not do most riders any harm.

For the mix of riding, the roads round here really do the work for you: if you’ve read previous posts or seen the list of routes, you’ll know what a good range of roads and routes there are, from nearly flat to big Alpine climbs. And if you take basic the six-day stats, with our individual totals ranging from about 200 to 375 miles, I suspect that we’ll all be leaving France somewhat fitter than when we arrived, despite the prodigious amounts of food (especially cheese) that have seen consumed.

Training highlights: climbs up the Col de Rousset, Col de Grimone, Col de Menée and Col de la Chaudière, which both confirmed Jamie as a prodigious climber, followed closely by Arved (and not forgetting John’s spirited chasing on Col de Rousset); Arved’s dedication to cranking out the miles at an unremitting pace and eating for two; the stunning loop of Col de Grimone, Col de la Croix Haute and Col de Menée which had differing opinions on whether training should include a lunch in a roadside café or not; and a stunning day up on the Vercors plateau: properly challenging riding in quite breathtaking surroundings.

And it’s all been helped by extremely pleasant weather: only one day with some rain (gone by lunchtime), and as long as you don’t mind lots of sunshine and temperatures in direct sun of about 40C (and air temperatures, down in the valleys, of 20-25C), there hasn’t been much to complain about. Even my first-attempt tartiflette drew no complaints.

Photos below are from the Grimone-Menée ride, and going out towards Col de la Chaudière, on a ride which split into two after the descent to Bourdeaux, both groups arriving back in Die with five minutes of each other, though one group having consumed coffee and flan as part of their training.

Routes done over the week or so include:

  • To Aouste-sur-Lye, up to Beaufort-sur-Gevanne, and back via the Col de la Croix and Col de Marignac
  • To Châtillon-en-Diois and back via the Col de Miscon
  • To the Col de Grimone and back via the Col de Menée
  • To Pont-en-Royans via Vercors, up the Gorges de la Borne, talking the short cut back at Rencurel to St Agnan-en-Vercors and back down the Col de Rousset
  • To Col de la Chaudière, and back (eastwards) by Vallée de la Roanne or (westwards) by Dieulelfit, St Bégude-le-Mazenc and Crest
  • To Valdrôme and back via Rossas and Bellegarde-en-Diois
Jon Hare nearing the Col de Grimone
L-R: me, Jon Hare and Mark Williamson at the Col de Grimone
At the start of the Col de Menée ascent, near Chichilianne
Jamie Howard ascending the amazing Gorges de la Borne
Arved Scwendel on the Vercors plateau, near St. Agnan-en-Vercors
Heading out towards the tough Col de la Chaudière


Ellie Bremer at the deserted Col de Miscon