Tour de France 2021 – Base Camp

As mentioned in my previous post, we will stay in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, capital of the Maurienne Valley in the Savoie, for my Tour de France 2021.

It’s easily one of the French Alps cycling hotspots – like Corvara and Bormio in the Dolomites – and there are a lot of cols within cycling distance of our base camp.

The mountains on the southern side are the Dauphiné Alps and the Cottian Alps.

On the northern side is the part of the Graian Alps known as the Vanoise.

In this post, I’ll discuss the climbs that start at our doorstep.

The Maurienne valley roughly stretches from Aiton (near Albertville) in the north, to Bonneval-sur-Arc, at the foot of the Iseran in the south.

The A43 highway runs to most of it – up to Modane – but slow traffic (cyclists) will travel the D1006 and D1008 respectively.

The roads out of the valley go over the following mountain passes:

  • The Col de l’Iseran toward the Tarentaise Valley
  • The Col du Mont-Cenis – a fork of the Iseran – leads toward Italy
  • The Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier, connecting to the Col du Lautaret which leads west to Grenoble or east to Briançon
  • The Col de la Croix-de-Fer and the Col du Glandon toward Grenoble
  • The Col de la Madeleine toward the Tarentaise
  • The Col du Grand Cucheron towards the Isère valley

That’s not including all climbs out of the valley, but the others are dead ends or loops.

Croix de Fer

Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is not just located at the base of the Croix de Fer, because that pass alone has more ways than one to climb and a panoramic detour.

The 29 km long “classic” is the one following the D926, but the alternative from Villargondran taking the D80 over the Col du Mollard is well worth the effort.

This climb up to Mollard is about 19 km long and the route will join the “classic” one after a 4 km long descend near Belleville for the remaining 14 km, totalling 37 km.

Either climb can be altered to include the “Route Panoramique” over the D808. When coming from the Col du Mollard, this means going back down the D926 a bit first.

Near Malcrozet this panoramic route joins the “classic” final. This alternative is about the same in length as the “classic” route and no less than 40 km in total, when starting in Villargondran

And starting in Saint-Jean-de Maurienne, you can also take the D110, which will join the remaining 3 km of the (D80) climb up the Mollard near Albiez-le-Vieux after 15 km. This alternative is 37 km long also.

There’s a possibility to “jump” back to the D926 after some 5 km, via de Chemin de Merderel.

  • Le Chalmieu

A “feisty” dead end fork starting near Belleville, is the D80A to Le Chalmieu.

While the CyclingCols profile ends there, you can go further up to around 1,900 meters, before the road turns into a dirt track.

If you consider it to be a climb of its own, starting in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, as listed on CylingCols, it’s 22 km long via the “classic” route up the Croix de Fer.

That’s without the additional 4-5 km to get to the end of the paved road. The alternative via the Mollard is probably a little bit shorter.

La Toussuire

Like the Croix de Fer, the dead end climb to the ski station La Toussuire can be reached via several alternatives.

Starting from the D926, it splits from the Croix de Fer climb right away taking the D78D (1st profile on CyclingCols), the D78C towards (Saint-Pancrace, the 3rd and 4th profile) and the D78 (near Pierrepin, on to Le Corbier, the 2nd profile).

The D78C and D78D join each other before Les Bottières and the D78D then connects to the D78 near La Rochette.

However, following the 2nd profile, that D78 splits again just after Le Villard, into the D78A. Both the D78 and the D78A then eventually end up in La Toussuire, whereas the D78A alternative is the longer route…

So, just starting from our apartment, I have several loops and alternatives to cycle and keep me busy for a few days.

My next post will cover the nearby cols, Madeleine, Gladon, Lacets the Montvernier/Col de Chaussy and Télégraphe/Galibier.

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