Blog post

Haute Route Alps Stage 3: Risoul to Valloire

Haute Route Alps Stage 3

Stage 3 is where it all goes tits up. After a moderately cold descent from Risoul we started our first climb. The Col d’Col d’Izoard was a brute. The Izoard begins in Guillestre and is about 31.5 km long. The climb can be divided into two parts. During a long 16km run from Guillestre on the D902 you only have to climb 400 vertical meters. An average of 2.5%. Well that was sweet. It’s actually quite a nice climb up until that point.

It’s really only when the D902 turns left direction Briançon at the D947, it gets serious. During the next 15 kilometers you still have to climb a thousand altimeters. The first kilometers, in open countryside, are just the warmup. But before you reach Arvieux, the percentage already rises to 8%. The village of Arvieux gives you some rest, but after that, the climb starts for good. Still in an open landscape, the Izoard heads towards 10%. That’s an awfully tough Alpine climb. By the top I was knackered.

I didn’t even manage to see the memorial dedicated to Coppi and Bobet. Apparently it is there, maybe next time, eh! See, I’ve already bought into the fact that there may be a next time. Hopefully there is. The last few Kms open out to a baron landscape. The Casse Désert is a  lunar landscape, but you’re still climbing 10+%. That’s steep, actually the whole climb now feels as though it has been very steep. The reward comes in the form of the descent.


Screaming down the other side of the Izoard was great. There were some tight switchbacks, but mostly it’s a fun descent. Top speed of 70 kph makes it all worth while. The only downside to the descent is arriving in Briançon. It’s a large town for this course, the largest we’ve encountered for the whole 3 days. There’s really no way around it.

It was in the neutralised section in Briançon that I met Toby. A posh toff Englishman, albeit a jolly nice fellow. We picked up a pack on the other side of town, and rode together for a while. Then I had yet another puncture. Fucking Schwalbe 1 tyres. They’d let me down big time. I fixed the puncture, and thanks to a great guy from La Fuga tours who lent me his track pump, managed to get going again.

From this point until the end I had a 50km time trial ahead of me. I was too strong for the stragglers, and not strong enough to hook on to a fast bunch, and the fact that all the fasties had past me earlier on. What a fecking drag this turned out to be. It was only save by the fact that I knew the terrain. The hard part was yet to come.

From the moment you turn off of the Col de Lauterat, and up the Galibier, you’re faced with a climb of 8%, with the last kilometre being over 10%. It was in this last kilometre that I saw Toby again. He was just leaving the summit as I arrived. What happened next is beyond belief. I was swinging around the first few corners, and then on the final left turn before the tunnel, I saw Toby coming back up the cliff.

Toby had taken his eyes off the road for a split second and found himself, and his poor bike, being flung over the edge of a near vertical cliff. It was scary for me, let alone Toby. He seemed ok. I couldn’t see his bike. Later, in Valloire, I caught up with him. He told me that he only had cuts and bruises, mainly to his ego. His bike bounced down the cliff. But all it needed was a new rear tyre (not that I would have ridden a carbon bike that had just been flung off a cliff).


The descent into Valloire was uneventful. Dinner that evening with the Fins, Peter, and Erica was great. I must mention Erica, she was the mainstay for many riders. She helped with all of Peter’s riding, except for turning the pedals. Although she’d have placed better than me during the Alps stages. Peter and Erica were great for, and to, me. Chapeau to both of them.

Overall position after stage 3: 317

Position on stage 3: 340



By admin



Previous Post

Next Post