View Full Version : Tree tunnels on the Col Luitel

05-13-2013, 03:12 AM
Two K shorter than the climb to Alpe díHuez, a hundred less vertical, and steeper. Col Luitel, crossed by the TdF seven times, but not recently. Last time was í81, first time was í56. Five times as a climb, twice as a descent before attacking Alpe díHuez. I doubt theyíll ever cross it again. Roadís way too narrow. Two cars meet and itís like two seriously fat folks making whoopee in a china shop. You know, lots of very careful maneuvering. Or so I would imagine.

Iíd thought of doing it with Maxn the other day but got hung up and by the time I could break free, not enough time. Then he did it with his mad german friend a day or so later. Just as well because riding alone means I can shoot pics as much as I like. The day was looking highly questionable for the camera, wasnít sure which way it was going to fall. Some rain in the morning but looking like maybe good in the afternoon. So I waited. Maybe too long but thatís how it goes sometimes.

Got to Vizille, the town where the french revolution got its start. Big chateau there, nothing spectacular to my eyes but definitely big. Thatís where the revolution started. By some nobles whoíd had it with the king apparently. I might be wrong on that. Things like that slip my mind pretty easily. Gorgeous park around the chateau. Huge in fact. Thought of stopping and taking a quick pic but didnít. It was Sunday, too many people around, I was running late, not a priority.

Parked, rolled off, onto the route nationale to Bourg díOisans and Alpe díHuez. I wasnít looking forward to that bit. Too many cars, everybody in a hurry, not much of a shoulder, frequently windy. Down the valley in the morning, up in the afternoon. Normally, but Sunday there was wind out of the north. Wasnít sure what that would mean. Got lucky, on the back. Also not much traffic. Only 4 K to do on the road before turning off for the road to Luitel. Turned out to be a pleasant ride, a nice warm up for the climb to come.

The village of Sťchilienne is where the festivites begin. Abruptly. Like from flat straight into a couple of K at almost 10%. Average that is. Lots of ramps that are steeper. Thatís the prelude. It gets harder. I knew that in advance having already beat myself up on it a couple or three times. The last time was in the fall of 09. Under a canopy of exploding colors. That was a good day. Spent a lot of time exploring an alternate road that climbed high onto the ridge. A dead end, even steeper than the normal road, also narrower. So narrow I have no idea what two cars meeting do. I was tempted to check it out again but decided time was too tight. Plus Iíd kind of forgotten what the regular road was like.

Steep, narrow, tunneling through a thick forest on insanely steep slopes. In other words a wonderful road. I remembered why I always thought of it as one of the best rides Iíd ever done. My days in my sonís training camp in Colorado in April must have been good for me. Hadnít ridden much since returning. Did one good ride with Maxn that beat me up good but Sunday on the Luitel was a fine day. There was even one long section where I moved down two cogs. Didnít last long but felt good. On the other hand first time rode Luitel was with a 39/26 for my low gear. No way I could turn that today. Just the thought makes my knees ache.

I cheated a lot. Kept stopping to shoot pics. Couldnít help myself. Too gorgeous to pass up. I would have driven Maxn up the walls with all that stuttering up the mountain. He likes his GoPro, shoot while he rides. I like my DSLR, rest while I shoot. Got to a hamlet part way up built on either side of a creek raging down off the mountain in a constant series of cascades. So white looked like there was more air that water pouring down. The old houses were fixed up with modern glass and fine terraces of flowers and grass along the creek. If thereíd been a cafť Iíd have been tempted to stop just to savor the view. There wasnít. Just as well, still had lots of climbing to do.

Iíd forgotten how long that climb is. Also that the steepest Ks are all at the top. Sustained double-digit grades. My legs were starting to nag at me, whining about it being Sunday, a day to relax. Came into another hamlet in a meadow long ago carved out of the forest. Big views to the south. Sun pouring down. Felt good. Glanced to the left, a classic double-take. Stopped, walked back a few paces to look again. My eyes hadnít deceived me. In the distance standing proud was a magnificent tower of rock, the Mont Aiguille. Wished Iíd brought along my long lens. Beautiful perspective.

Neared the top and got slammed by the wind coming out of the north. Hadnít even been a breeze all the way up the climb but on top it was blowing. Stopped in the lee of a small barn to add a layer, empty my water bottle, check the time. My idea had been to continue up to Chamrousse, the ski station where Killy won triple gold. No way, out of time, had to get back to give my dog his evening injection. Oh well, another time.

The col itself is a broad meadow on top of the ridge, a natural reserve. Lots of ponds and flowers, but not Sunday. The ponds, yes, too early for the flowers. Hardly any leaves on the trees up here yet. Nice place, might have to come up here with the wife to hike around some day. Sheíd like that. Headed off. Oops, the sign for the col. Quick stop for the obligatory bike against sign pic. Then off again.

And down. Iíd never ridden this road down. Always gone up to the ski station then down the other road. Wasnít expecting much but only because the other one isnít all that interesting. Not curvy enough. This one is. Very sweet. Pavementís wide and smooth, the curls long and round. I think if someone knows the road well, it could be ridden all the way down with almost zero braking. Very fast. The sun was coming in at a low angle, the lighting in the valley and across the slopes brilliant. Wanted to stop to shoot but no time. Had to charge. Grinning all the way. Then a time trial ride down the valley back to Vizille and the car. Col Luitel, a fine dayís outing. The loop not all that long, just shy of 40 K with around 1300 vertical. One to do again someday. Also really need to ride up the Chamrousse road.

Some pics.

05-13-2013, 07:57 AM

05-13-2013, 08:40 AM
So sweet!

Lewis Moon
05-13-2013, 09:25 AM
Wow. SO different from where I'm from. Another planet?

05-13-2013, 09:54 AM
my jealousy has increased tenfold

05-13-2013, 09:58 AM
I want that!

05-13-2013, 08:32 PM
Sooo nice.

05-13-2013, 09:05 PM
wow.... Thank you for sharing. I would love to ride those roads. That would be amazing.

mike p
05-13-2013, 09:26 PM
Killer pic's!!


05-13-2013, 09:54 PM
Another col for the trip back to that area, as long as I can stop for a few pictures too!

05-14-2013, 05:50 AM
When I grow up, I hope Velotel teaches me how to retire in France. Jees that's beautiful.