My ride up the Col de la Croix de Fer

July 31, 2000

First a little pre-history. I got an email from a friend who I met on a Breaking Away Tour in 1999. He mentioned that he was doing his second Breaking Away tour in the French Alps and that he would be on l'Alpe d'Huez on July 30th. That's a long weekend for me since the 1st of August is a Swiss National Holiday.

So I decided that I would meet Brian on l'Alpe d'Huez. I drove down and did the hill for the third time. I decided to stay the night, have dinner and sleep over since they were doing the Col de la Croix de Fer the next morning and I'd never done it.

So we awoke the next morning and headed to the Col. It only about 10 kilometers from the base of l'Alpe d'Huez so it's a quick trip. I drove to a small bar at the base of the climb and parked and waited for the others to decend l'Alpe d'Huez. Before starting, I snapped a few pictures of the valley.
The climb of the Col de la Croix de Fer starts pretty easy. You begin to climb a little bit and pass through the small village of Veney. Just after the village the first hill hits. It actually a dam of the river and we have to travers up the earth dam. It's not a tough climb as it's really short.
These are pictures taken from the top of the dam looking downhill (left) and the way we will go (right).
At the top is a very nice lake and we begin to cycle along the side of it (left). Toward the top of the lake, we have to climb a small hill but at the top is a great view of the lake. I stop to take a quick picture (right).
Right after the hill a small, very short decent hits then the real climbing begins. I find out later on the descent that it's a good 10 percent for about 5 kilometers. Tough but the legs are fresh and I'm climbing well. I stop just ahead of Brian and snap his picture just as he passes a sign.

The climbing continues for a while until we reach another small town, le Rivier d'Allemont. There are many little cafes here with lots of signs saying things like "Food for Cyclists" and "Cyclists Lunchtime Menu". I'm a bit too early for lunch and they are just opening.

I pass through the town and notice the hill turns down a bit. I look over to my right and notice that there is a road about 100 meters down below me. "Oh no!", I think, "Surely that must be another road and we're not going there". Well, I was wrong.

After the town there is a rather sharp 12 percent descent with four good, tight switchbacks. My first thought is not "Oh good, a descent to rest the legs", but instead I knew I would have to climb that nasty hill on the way home.

The next two or three kilometers after the descent are quite tough. I'm in my 39x26 and standing. It's quite steep and I'm now suffering. This section has got to be more than 10 percent but I see no signs to tell me. Oh well, best that I don't know.

After a while of climbing, I come upon another earthen dam. But what I notice more is that the road is starting to get a bit easier. The top of the Col de la Croix de Fer is only around 6 percent or so. So the climb gets easier as you get near the top.
As I get over the hill by the lake, I stop to take a number of pictures. It's quite a pretty lake with very tall mountains around it. The water is really pretty and I'd love to dive in.
A bit farther and the road descends again but it's a nice easy descent. I won't mind going back up this one later. In the picture on the left, you can see the road ahead and how it is lower. The picture on the right is looking back from the bottom of the hill.
At this point, there is a choice of doing the Col du Glandon to the left and the Col de la Croix de Fer to the right. I snap a quick photo of the sign and the Col in the background.
The last five or so kilometers and pretty easy, but the road is really rough. It's pretty beaten up from snow, I assume, and there are lots of potholes to dodge. But the top is really pretty. There are lots of people here and lots of cars parked on the side of the road.

I go over to the other side and snap a nice 4 picture panaorama.

Then, of course, a photo of the Croix de Fer which in French is "Iron Cross". The backdrop is spectacular.

After a while, I bid farewell to my friends. They are continuing down to St Jean de Mauriene and will climb the Col du Telegraph. Some, I imagine, continued onto the Col du Galibier. Me, however, I turned around and headed back to the car. It's a nice decent with not too many switchbacks. I held around 75 kph (46 mph) for a long time and enjoyed the decent.

When I arrived at the car, I had a nice lunch at the bar where I parked and after, headed home.

For more info on this col, check out these pages: