The Critérium du Dauphiné is always one of my favourite races of the year, primarily for the awesome scenery of the high mountains and this year is set to deliver again. Stage 7 is undoubtably the Queen Stage heading from Montmélian to the ski station at Le Bettex perched above the idyllic mountain town of Saint-Gervais. Five 1st category climbs stand between the two towns with the last two basically making up one HC climb with a short and potentially tricky descent thrown in to disrupt the rhythm. I was “lucky” enough to test out those final two climbs for myself and noticed my Garmin reading as much as 20% gradient!
Côte des Amerands – Saint-Gervais – Le Bettex
I’ll begin with the end but below you’ll find details of the other, not to be ignored, climbs of the 155km stage. Here is the final 12.5km from the valley floor via Saint-Gervais and up to Le Bettex:
The first 2.7km of the climb (Côte des Amerands) is given the status of a 1st Category climb which should tell you all you need to know, especially given the average grade is less than 10% (letour.fr say 11%):
Following the long descent from Megève the two 15-17% sections of road are going to come as quite a shock feeling more like one of my local Peak District climbs, except with an ascent to a ski station afterwards! After the 1st steep section the road flattens giving the opportunity to take in the fabulous sight of Mont Blanc towering in front before the second steep pitch snaps your thoughts back to the task at hand. A fairly rough road surface higher on the climb but looked like it might be repaired before Saturday.
I was expecting a bit of a rest after summiting this first climb but it was literally a minute and a half with a couple of tricky bends (treacherous in the wet I’m reliable informed), over the new bridge and through the town of Saint-Gervais. Another, fairly steep, twisting backroad (9%) will take the riders up to the main Bettex road for what looks to be a far more traditional climb up to the finish. Easy at first, steepening for a 1.3km section of around 10% and a more palatable 7.7% for the last 2.5km to the stage finish.
The other climbs of the day
The stage is a relatively short 155km and the first 27.5 of those from Montmélian are pretty flat but the route takes a left turn before Albertville and heads up the Col de Tamié. Almost 9km in length and averaging 6.3% but only occasionally drifting above 7% but if the pace may well be pushed on if the break of the day is yet to be fully established.
A short descent and then into the first proper test of the day up the Col de la Forclaz which at 8.1km in length “only” averages 7.8% but is made up from three distinct 10% sections – the first 2.7km, the middle 2km and the final 1km. Switch between the 2D and 3D views in the profile below:
The 3rd climb of the day is another 1st cat up the Col de la Croix Fry (11km averaging 7%) which has a 2.5km section at it’s centre averaging just below 10%. A short drop before the short, 3rd cat ascent of the easy side of the Col des Aravis.
The descent of the South side of the Aravis is probably more cause for concern:
The top section is as close as you can get to a roller-coaster ride on your bike with swooping corners a plenty, nice in the dry but probably tricky in the wet. Once you enter the trees the it isn’t quite as steep but the road was more like Paris-Roubaix than the Dauphiné for last Sunday’s Time Megève Sportive. Lots of landslide sludge and gravel covering long sections of the road. Hopefully this will be brushed off before the race arrives but if it is raining hard on the day then more debris may make it back onto the road.
Following that descent it is a fairly steady rise through Megève and the long descent to Sallanches before hitting those final climbs described above.
Obviously biased by being from the North of England I’d love to see Simon Yates shine on this stage with the Northern England feel to that penultimate climb they should feel right at home.