Les Lacets de Montvernier (the shoelaces of Montvernier) is situated in the heart of the Maurienne valley, which undoubtedly is one of the most famous and renowned areas in the world to cycle. Tour de France legends such as Col du Madeleine, Galibier, Glandon and Croix de Fer are all nearby. This gem is equally famous but yet hidden. A shy jewel waiting to be added to your ride/discovered.
Constructed in 1934, a similar time to Sa Calobra in Majorca this climb was not a part of Tour de France history until 2015, and is a part of Stage 11 of this year’s Tour de France a stage which will take the riders up 3 legendary climbs, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and then onto Col du Granon Serre Chevalier.
As you ride or drive down the valley from La Chambre (start of Col du Glandon… and Madeleine!) you’d easily miss this climb. Tucked into the rock, no big signs and no fan-fare, a reward for those who are in the know and one which should be a part of your trip to the region.
It starts at a small village called La Tour-en-Maurienne, where you’ll ride past a Tour-de-France yellow jersey-coloured bike and a sign pointing you to Col du Chaussy par Les Lacets (via the shoelaces!). Still, no “sign” that you’re about to ride something very special.
When in the town you have to stare up at the rock above to see the climb, and after a few hundred meters from the village you’re climbing away. It isn’t a particularly long or arduous climb, it is only 3.4km long with an average gradient of 7.9% but immediately you start getting amazing views of the valley below.
Climbing away from the more lush treelined section, the road (already super narrow) starts to weave into the rocks, with tight corners and compressions. Stage 11 is a long day (152km) and this is just the start, but if this climb were to be at the end of the stage, absolutely this would be a good section to attack. Nothing demoralises a rider more than not being able to see their aggressor ahead.
How many switchbacks?! – No less than 17 switchbacks for you to enjoy and when you divide the distance between the start and finish of the switchbacks and the number, there is a switchback every 150m for you to slingshot yourself around. Wild!
Left, right, left, right with such switchback intensity it’s hard not to carry the energy into your ride, every bend a new view, you want to see what is around the next corner, but sadly there is an end (unlike a lot of climbs there are no signs telling you the corner number) where you meet straight section taking you up to a banner on the side of the road. I’m not sure who started the tradition of putting your bike by the summit of the climb sign, but absolutely one to add to the collection.
My ride/gearing? I’m lucky enough to have the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 series groupset on my Wilier Filante SLR. I’m a huge fan of 52-36 on the front (a great all-rounder for top end speed but also more ratio for steep climbs) and love the new 11-34 cassette. That gives me almost 1:1 which is great as I’m a big fan of keeping high cadence to keep the lactic acid away.
Bike shot done, and now you have a choice. You can either ride up and over and descend a new route or enjoy one of the best cycling rollercoasters in the world. There is no choice. Enjoy!!