Classic Climbs of France, Day 6, Col du Lautaret, Col de l’Echelle, Bardonecchia (Italy!), and Briançon

Alan Gilbert
4 min readJun 27, 2023

This is part of a series of posts from my cycling trip to France to experience the “classic climbs” of the French Pyrénées, Alps, and Mont Ventoux.

Today’s Ride

Unfortunately, my Garmin GPS dropped a substantial portion of the data points so the map is missing much of the route in the link above. But I believe the total statistics are correct.

Our routes so far in the Alps region. Today’s ride in red (with the portion from Bardonecchia to Briançon repeated, out and back).

Highlights

Day 2 of riding in the Alps… still spectacular. The day started with a climb from La Grave back up to Col du Lautaret, the spot yesterday where, for me, the weather started getting really bad. Today’s weather was just the opposite. Sunny and beautiful, bluebird sky, low 60’s temperatures. It was nice to get a second chance at enjoying that landscape because it was quite beautiful. What a difference a day makes!

At this point, I have really gotten used to climbing. A 3% grade feels flat, 6% feels normal, and 10% feels like hard work that I can sustain for hours. It also doesn’t hurt to have incredible views to pass the time and enhance the experience. And of course, the climbs lead to spectacular vistas and exhilarating descents.

After a fabulous 2,500 ft. descent into Briançon, we climbed 1,500 ft. up to Col de l’Echelle before descending back down 1,500 ft. into Bardonecchia, Italy. The border was a little white line in the shoulder with an ‘I’ on one side and an ‘F’ on the other. I was too focused on the descent (and subsequent climb) to get a good picture.

We had a fabulous lunch in Bardonecchia, consisting of simple penne pasta with either bolognese or pesto sauce – most of us had both. Simple as they were, each was the best I have ever tasted. We also had plenty of bread, salad, bruschetta, melon with prosciutto, and incredible affogato to top it off.

The only problem with such a heavy lunch was that we had to turn around and climb back over Col de l’Echelle to get back to Briançon for our shuttle (a few riders took the “avid” option, skipping the shuttle and riding all the way back to La Grave). It wasn’t easy hauling all of that pasta back 1,500 ft. up the mountain, but it was worth it!

A word on our crew… There are 16 of us total and everyone has been a delight. All are male, except for one woman who is very fit and just killing it, always at the front of the pack. Two are from Australia, and the rest from the US. Most are from very hilly or mountainous areas, with me being one of the few flatlanders. Our backgrounds are diverse, but of course we all share a love for cycling. There is a broad range of abilities and we have generally clumped into two groups. One who is younger, about 35–45, and likes to go fast, hard, and long (there are longer, “avid” options for most days), and one who is older and more pacing themselves. The latter group includes one rider who is 75 and another who is 79! My heroes! Our three guides set things up so that everyone can go at their own pace and feel comfortable, and still have full support and emergency help.

Our guides getting the bikes ready for today’s action
Not a bad view from the hotel breakfast patio!
Beautiful ride up to Col du Lautaret, much better without cold, wind-driven rain!
Celebrating being at the top, for the moment
First of two climbs up to Col de l’Echelle
Amazing lunch in Bardonecchia, Italy
Not a bad spot for blogging!

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