Col de la Croix de Fer from the West Road biking

The Col de la Croix de Fer (2067m) is yet another great col in this wonderful area of France that is also home to the Galibier and Alpe d'Huez. On the notoriety stakes it is probably overshadowed by its more illustrious neighbours - less steep, and with fewer mad spectators - but it is without doubt one of the most beautiful rides in the area.
The long valley gives a majestic ride through stunning scenery with fewer zig-zag sections than most of the cols hereabouts. For much of the climb it is a fairly steady gradient which can seem a little endless and makes you realise how zig-zag bends provide useful targets. There is even the novelty of some downhill hairpins when you least expect them as the road drops across the valley to tackle it from the other side. These come as a bit of a shock on the descent from the summit. Near the top you can grab a free 'extra col'. The Col du Glandon (1924m) branches off just before the main Croix de la Fer and is the more popular route for the mighty Marmotte circuit to take.

Approaching the Col de la Croix de Fer
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Detailed description

45.1270, 6.0390 The climbing starts in Allemont straight away. If you look carefully you can see a spectacular outdoor climbing wall in the village, but if you are on a bike then the big dam ahead of you will probably be uppermost in your mind. Two zig-zags lead up this to take you around Lac du Verney.

45.1658, 6.0420 Then the long and unrelentingly steep section begins. This leads through the trees with hardly any variation in gradient, to the village of Le Rivier-d'Allemond.

45.2101, 6.0571 On leaving the village you get a welcome level section before the road plummets downwards to the valley bottom on a series of hairpins - some relief but you also have a nagging sense of losing height and valuable effort wasted. The section straight after this is the toughest and steepest section at around 10% or 11%.

45.2076, 6.1166 Further up the valley is the vast dam holding back the Lac du Grand Maison. More zig-zags lead you up level with the dam before a gentle and beautiful section lead up to the final climbing.

45.2424, 6.1702 The side arm of the Col du Glandon is well worth ticking on your descent since it is barely off route and only a short climb away.

45.2269, 6.2033 At the col is the welcome cafe and the iron cross which gives the col its name. The views to the south of the mighty Ecrins are superb.

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