View Full Version : Col de Champ-Laurent revisited again

04-04-2013, 04:49 AM
Roughly translated as the pass above the field of Laurent. I like that name. Apparently a village, no, not a village, a hamlet slowly grew around his field. Named of course Champ-Laurent, sometimes written as Champlaurent, like on the sign on the col itself.

Iím blessed/cursed with an at times terrible memory. Like I forget lots of stuff. A blessing because I can, and do, read and thoroughly enjoy my books 3, 4 times because Iíve forgotten exactly how the stories unfold. A curse for things like shopping and appointments and things my wife asked me to do. I was thinking it had been a long time since Iíd ridden Champ-Laurent. Couple of years at least. Decided it was time to ride it again. Without a camera. Already had lots of photos from previous rides. Later, after the ride, looked at the photos from the last visit, just about a year and one month ago.

Thus the blessed/cursed comment. If Iíd remembered Iíd ridden it last May I might have decided to ride something else. The something else would have been terrific for sure, the nature of the beast here. Finding good rides in France is just a matter of throwing a dart at a map, with the eyes closed. Never a miss. Iím glad I didnít remember Had a fine time, truly an excellent ride.

No camera was good. Sky grayish, the air dull, a flat day. A flat day for a steep climb. A week ago I rode with Maxn, again with no camera. Didnít want to slow him down more than I do anyway. Made me push the pace more than I might have otherwise. Same result on the ride to Champ-Laurent. Pushed hard all the way with no kodak moments. Surprised myself. Rode strong and fast. Easy to say since I was alone so nothing to measure against except my memory. But I felt strong and fast. Maybe too fast because by the time I got to the col I was starting to feel a bit beat.

The first almost 20 K were delightful, small roads in a shallow valley defined by low ridges on either side. Mostly easy rolling once Iíd gotten up a narrow, twisting paved farm road from the valley floor onto the ridge on the right. Seems like anywhere in Europe, or at least in France, Italy, and Switzerland (my only references) where thereís a hill, thereís some steep road up it. Once that initial leg checker was behind me, the riding was big ring. All this was in Savoie where both remarkable skiing and riding can be found. Also stunning gardens of vegetables and fruit. But not yet. Saw quite a few old guys, and I do mean old, working in the dirt, pulling weeds, turning manure into the soil, getting ready for the warmth to come. Between the symphony of music coming from the birds and rich odors of warming dirt and steaming manure, wasnít much doubt spring was finally arriving.

Swept down through a long S-turn combo and out into the valley at the base of the climb to Laurentís field. That view from the valley never fails to impress me. A wall of a mountain behind the village of Chamoux-sur-Gelon, a wall covered in a thick forest of huge trees. With a narrow, steep road curling and angling up the slopes. A sustained climb, 806 vertical meters (2644 ft), average grade over 8%, max over 10%. I wonít bore you with details of the climb. But if you want some, go here [/URL]. [url]http://forums.thepaceline.net/showthread.php?t=109616&highlight=champ+laurent (http://forums.thepaceline.net/showthread.php?t=109616&highlight=champ+laurent) That's what I posted last year.

My plan had been to do a loop by returning over another small col, one lots of local riders donít know, Col de Cochette. A small but hard climb that has never failed to put the hurt to my legs. Got to Champ-Laurent full of doubts about my proposed loop. Iíd hammered the climb with an intensity I hadnít expected. With a price, my legs were beat. Check the time. Yes! Saved by my dog. Have to give him two injections a day, morning and evening, 12-hour intervals. Getting back in time could be tight. Too tight for Cochette. Thank you dog. Thought about reversing my ride. What Iíd gone up is sweet going down. Trouble with that was riding down what Iíd ridden up would be good but afterwards Iíd have 20 K back to the car with a lot of upping, maybe a good 350 vertical meters, plus a headwind all the way. No thanks. Okay, down the back side and down to la Rochette.

The back side is normally lots of fun but less this time. The winter had been hard on the road. Lot of debris, cinders, and crumbling blacktop. Down into the valley, turn right, into the wind. Kind of figured that would be the case but at least gravity would be on my side. Then I remembered a fine little road that angles up the side of the hillside to the ridge line before diving down to la Rochette. Iíd ridden it a couple of times in the past. Good road. Should be in the lee enough to reduce the wind but it also meant going up. But not so much. Or so I thought. Turned out to be more than I thought. My legs started bitching about my memory lapses.

Got to the top, headed down. Sweet descent. Fast, lots of round turns, not much braking except when diving through a village or two where the road squeezed through. Starting plotting again. One option after la Rochette would be all downhill to Pontcharra but then Iíd have a long flat haul to the car. But at least the wind would be on my back after Pontcharra. Maybe enough to make up for the wind that would undoubtedly be blowing hard up the narrow valley before Pontcharra. Otherwise there was the climb up to Chapelle Blanche, not long but stiff in a section as I recalled. Afterwards almost all downhill back to the car. The climb won, even my legs agreed. Turned out to be a good call. Made me hurt but not so much and not for too long. Then it was fast and furious going down and back to the car. A good loop, something like 60 K and around 1500 to 1700 vertical. The distance and vertical comes off the ridewithgps site. In my experience their verticals are always exaggerated. The site calculated around 1750 (5741 ft) so maybe it was more like 1500 (just over 4900 ft). My legs voted for the bigger figure.

A mix of shots taken during different rides. Later in the year and vastly greener. Not much green on the trees yet. Enjoy

04-04-2013, 10:20 AM
Bravo! Very, very beautiful!

04-04-2013, 10:23 AM
It looks so green there.


04-05-2013, 12:44 AM
It looks so green there.

It's not that green at the moment; those were all shot later in the spring. Not much in the way of leaves yet this year. Probably about like it is around you. But slowly the green is returning after a long winter.

04-05-2013, 12:54 AM
Great shots and narrative!

May I ask what camera you use?

04-05-2013, 03:19 PM
Great shots and narrative!

May I ask what camera you use?
Canon DSLR, obviously far heavier and bulkier than the little cameras but I like it plus I can see what I'm shooting instead of having to dig out reading glasses and trying to see the screen.

mike p
04-05-2013, 03:35 PM
Again thank you! Great shots, I'm very jealous!


04-05-2013, 03:41 PM
will you adopt me?

04-05-2013, 06:42 PM
Jealous +infinity

04-05-2013, 08:40 PM
I was taken by this col the last time you posted about it, and this post reminds me again how carefully I tried, from a distance, to explore and imagine the route. We come to France to ride, well, almost annually, here and there, mostly in the southern part of the country, the Alps, the Pyrenees, Provence, Languedoc,Nice.... and perhaps in the Fall to come back to this part of the Alps, a new area for us, but still familiar in its way. Thank you for the introductions to so many of her fairer rides, and for the atmosphere that is a part of your prose.