Combe Laval circuit

I certainly haven’t run out of longer routes to do this summer, so trying to select a couple of end-of-season epics has been fun.

First up: the amazing Combe Laval, but with novelties, for me. Firstly, approaching from Font d’Urle. Secondly, doing the circuit of the combe by going west from St Jean-en-Royans to St Laurent and ascending via the D2 on the west side of the combe. And lastly, returning via col de Carri – the first time I’ve done that col in that direction.

I was taken aback to be passed by a cyclist on a mountain bike on the ascent to col de Rousset, and though in the end I timed my last push just right to pass him on the last bend, we arrived at the col together with a handshake. Turns out he was English, a national over-50s champion in England, and one-time pro based in St Etienne (so said I shouldn’t feel too bad about his passing me), and his and his son’s nice road bikes had been stolen from his roofrack in his drive just prior to leaving for their holidays. The mountain bike had been hired from the campsite. Anyway, we chatted en route, and then he headed off to col de la Bataille, and I carried on to Combe Laval.

Reflections on the route? At 90 miles with 10,000ft of climbing (and nine cols), it’s as demanding as the return via Bouvante and Font d’Urle, but, like that, and unlike the return via Léoncel, the last 15 miles, descending from col de Rousset, are ‘free’ – a nice end to a ride. None of the three is easy!

The D2, from St Laurent, isn’t a greatly inspiring road or climb, though, thankfully, there is one small spot, at the end of the second mountaintop dip, where you get a good view of the combe, and a slight insight into why thd mad road on the other side, was built where it was. It does lso have ome decent views of the Isère valley. (The D2 is the road larger vehicles are directed to to get to the top of the combe. It’s wide and well surfaced, and barely used, at least on today’s evidence.) Two things for cyclists to note: the hardest parts of the climb are near the bottom, but there are no roadside markers to help you gauge your effort over the 17km (just km markers painted on the road). And the two tunnels are unlit and long enough that you will want a rear light at least, and if you’re descending, probably a front light too (and remove sunglasses) as both are on a bit of a bend, and at speed might catch you out.

Anyway, time for photos, mostly from Combe Laval and the D2. The last one is of the pretty flowers that appear at this time of year on trimmed roadside verges – these were at col de St Alexis near Vassieux.

The route:


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