Tour de France 2021 – Stage 4

Croix de Fer and Frumezan

Another mixed weather forecast today:scattered clouds, but with sunny periods.

And at the end of this day, I cannot complain. The Croix de Fer summit, actually just starting some windy kms before, plus the descend of the upper part of the Glandon where cold, but climbing is worse when it’s over 30 degrees Celsius…

I only did the Croix de Fer from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne once and I had no good, let alone fond memories of it.

Back in 2012, it was part of our training camp for the Alpe d’HuZes event, a month before which I ended up in the hospital with several fractures after a crash.

I already realized that I didn’t recognize more than half of it on the way down during Friday’s Prologue and not because we took the Route Panoramique…

Anyway, I was a little weary to revisit this giant…

did remember that the first couple of kms of this climb were not easy, but the downhill in between that and the next difficult 5 kms up to the tunnels, I did not.

The not too difficult 9 kms from there, up to after you pass the latest of the Saint-Jean-d’Arves shops and houses, I also had no memory of at all.

I remember my buddy Stefan coming back down to support me a bit at some stage and I sort of remember the freezing final 6.5 kms and finding the poor bastards waiting at the summit for me, trying to shelter close to the then closed restaurant.

But that’s it.

Needless to say, it went a lot better today and I now have a good memory of the climb, although I might still be surprised by the sometimes steep sections next time anyway 😂

Also, whenever I do this climb again, I will not take a left turn at the split with the Mollard, where I should have gone straight. I recognized those two corners, but that was because I had just cycled them last Friday 🤦‍♂️

While having another piece of the now famous Blueberry Pie at the summit, I remembered there was some fork off the Glandon I found while exploring the area(s).

That was Fremuzan and it starts in Saint-Colomban-des-Villards. Well, according to CyclingCols, but I had to look and ask around to find it as there’s no sign with that name on it.

If you ever want to try and climb it: it starts at the church. Coming from Saint-E!tienne-de-Cuines, it’s just before that, the side road leading up to the parking next to it.

From there, it’s 7 kms straight up at 10% – there are a few less steep and a few steeper sections, but it’s fairly “even”.

What is not even, is the road. It’s labeled a “route forèstiere” and it’s often not much more than rocks and mud. The upper 3, 4 kms are actually the best, but after I was about a km in, I started to wonder if this was something I could do for 7 kms.

Besides, at times I was worried Paula wouldn’t be able to get the car through safely.

Here’s a short clip to give you an idea:

Then again, probably not that surprising, there was a car parked at some points along the route and at the “summit” there were several and even a camper and a caravan.

How those got up there, I have no idea…

By the way: far be it from me to question CyclingCols that lists both “Frumezan” and “Fremezan”, but the sign(s) I saw clearly read the former.

But as even the Strava segment is carrying the name Fremezan, I guess it may well be a dialect thing…

That this climb is even listed, is probably dated back to the time there actually was a decent road. The first listed climb dates back to 2014, so who knows?

Also, the fact that all but 15 cyclists have a listing, probably means it doesn’t get cycling visitors that often.

By comparison, the last 5 kms of the Croix de Fer has 20,526 listed, the whole Croix de Fer 5,495…

Where going up this rocky road was tricky and took me an hour, going down was even more tricky and costed me not much less.

Well okay it did, but it wasn’t easy 😎

Apart from some narrow escapes on account of the degraded road, I suddenly ran into a car coming up.

The driver didn’t seem to bother much whether or not I could pass safely – up-going traffic has priority, right?

Here’s a video with part of the downhill, including the encounter with the car in question starting around 2:40

Anyway, I made it down in one piece, after which I lost Paula in the remaining descend of the Gladon.

That part is a real treat to fast descenders, whereas the upper downhill hairpin half really is not. Not the wide open first few of them, but more the tricky ones a bit further down.

As we had to do some shopping, I put the bike in the car in the Intermarché near the start of the climb in Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines. I originally planned to cycle to the supermarket near our apartment, but that was without the Fru(e)mezan climb anyway…

Total for today: 70 kms and 2,375 m of elevation gain.

Link to Strava, Ride with GPS and Relive.

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