Cycling The Col de Joux Plane From Morzine

James | September 14th, 2021
Photos: StoryCrafters | Cyclist: Guy Jones, CMI Pro Cycling Team

The Col de Joux Plane is steeped in road cycling history and is a regular feature in the Tour de France. With a steep gradient providing a very challenging climb on the way up, riders are greeted by spectacular views at the summit before descending down to the valley floor along high speed bends and hairpin turns.

The Col provides one of the most challenging yet rewarding rides in the area and if you’re a keen and competent cyclist then we strongly recommend you take on the challenge. What’s more, there is a fantastic loop that takes in the Col which starts and finishes right in the centre of Morzine.

A Rich Cycling History With Plenty Of Controversy 

The Col de Joux Plane first featured in the Tour de France in 1978 and has played a part 12 times since. The Col is traditionally used as the final climb and descent of a much longer stage requiring riders to preserve energy in order to compete with the step gradient late in the stage.

In 2000 the Col became famous for its gruelling climb when it pushed Lance Armstrong to his limits, nearly costing him the overall win when he bonked on the climb and lost the lead.

In 2006 controversial American rider Floyd Landis managed to make up a 7 minute deficit by attacking the Col at full pace. He was however later disqualified for the use of performance enhancing drugs thus proving the Col requires almost super human strength and endurance to tame.

The Col is used for numerous international and domestic races and sportifs throughout the year and is renowned for its challenge. Officially classed as a “Hors Categorie” (beyond category) by the UCI due to its gruelling and unrelenting nature. The fastest official ascent of the Col is owned by climber extraordinaire Marco Pantani who tamed the beast in 1997 with a time of just 32 minutes and 50 seconds.

Cycling The Col de Joux Plane – The Numbers

The ascent of the Col de Joux Plane from Samoens has an overall average gradient of 8.5%. However the final 5.5kms of the ride has an average gradient of 9.5% so you will need to save some fuel in the tank.

The steepest section of the road is a 12.5% gradient and is around about the halfway point at La Combe. The road is 11.6 kms long and is all uphill from Samoens up to the Col which sits at an altitude of 1691 meters above sea level. The elevation gain is 998 meters and your legs will know about every single one of them by the time you reach the summit. 

road cycling in morzine at the french alps with mont blanc at the background

How To Ride The Col de Joux Plane From Morzine

There are two routes summiting the Col which both start right in the centre of Morzine and you can ride straight from the door of The Farmhouse.

Option one is a straight up and down the Col on the Morzine side which although is not the way the Tour de France does it, still provides a challenge.

The second option is a much longer 52 km circular route that encompasses the Col in the traditional fashion.

Straight Up and Down

Heading straight out of The farmhouse take a left onto the road and follow round the bend until you reach the T-junction opposite Hotel le Sporting. Go straight across at the junction onto the D354 Route des Nantes. This is where the climb begins and this road will take you all the way up to the summit of the Col.

The road is 10.9kms long and offers an altitude gain of 771m. The average climbing gradient for the route is 6.5% however the maximum gradient is at a steeper 11%.

The start of the ride is particularly steep as you climb out of the village but there are some easier sections slightly higher up to give your legs a bit of respite. As the houses thin out along the roadside as you gain altitude you will head up past a helicopter landing platform on the left before you make it to the hairpin turns of the Nyon plateau.

The road then enters some beautiful alpine forest before breaking out into pastures by some ski lift stations. The final climb up to Col du Ranfolly is particularly steep but the good news is once you reach the Col the final 2kms of the ride up to Col de Joux Plane are fairly pleasant.

Just round the corner from the Ranfolly the road descends for a short fast section before bearing right and traversing the mountainside before the short sharp climb up and round to the lake and beautiful viewpoint at Col de Joux Plane.

Once you have recovered and taken in the views (there is a lovely cafe/restaurant opposite the lake for some well deserved refreshments), to return to Morzine, simply turn around and come back the way you came.

The Col de Joux Plane Loop

Turn right out of The Farmhouse then take the first left past the nursery school. At the t-junction at the top of the road, take a right onto the main road. This heads out of Morzine towards the neighboring village of Les Gets along the D902 and the road climbs gently for 7kms.

Follow the main road right through the village before descending the 11 kms to Taninges. Here the route turns left onto the D907 signposted Samoens. This road provides a beautiful 11.5km flat meandering ride along the valley floor surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery.

At Samoens bear left following the signs for Col de Joux Plane where the ascent of the Col begins. Initially the road is steep and narrow and you’ll quickly begin to notice the road continuously pitches steeply then backs off slightly making it difficult to find a rhythm. Heading up to the steepest section of the climb at La Combe you will also notice there is not a lot of tree cover so make sure you take plenty of water with you and try to set off early to avoid the midday sun.

The second half of the climb is the more demanding with a consistent 9.5% average gradient which will test you all the way to the summit. However, as you climb higher you will start to notice the snow capped peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif start to come into view which should inspire you on to the top.

At the top of the Col there is a lovely little lake which provides the perfect spot to stop and celebrate your achievement and take in the beautiful views of Mont Blanc and the Samoens valley. There is also a restaurant at the summit which during the peak summer months offers some much needed refreshments.

Enjoy The Descent

Once you’ve taken in the views it’s time to head back to Morzine. The initial descent is short lived to start with as there is a second Col to reach after just 2kms.

The Col du Ranfolly is only a short climb but on tired legs it can prove a challenge as the road pitches up sharply to the summit. The descent from this Col is very fast and has an average gradient of 9% over the 12 km road which winds its way back down to the valley floor.

If you are not enjoying the hairpin bends and high speed turns too much to look up then you will be greeted with fabulous views as you pass through beautiful alpine meadows with far reaching views over Morzine.

The Perfect Place To Stay To Tackle The Climb

Morzine is a road cyclist’s paradise with an abundance of incredible alpine routes to be tackled. The Col de Joux Plane is one of the most famous and the most challenging routes in the area and we at The Farmhouse could not be better located for you to ride it.

The route starts and finishes just 250m from the hotel and we have everything you might need for the perfect cycling getaway.

We are cycling enthusiasts ourselves with a plethora of knowledge and experience of exploring the local area on two wheels. We have made every effort to ensure cyclists have everything they need at the hotel with secure bike storage, workshop space with tools and a bike wash all available.

We can even customise our menu to make sure you’re fully fuelled up to take on or recover from tackling the Cols.

Click here to see more on why The Farmhouse is the perfect place to stay for a cycling holiday in the Alps.

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