The col de la Croix Fry is at 1477m in the Aravis range. It links the valley of the river Fier, also known as the Manigod valley, with the valley of the river Nom further to the North-East, and provides an alternative route between Thônes and La Clusaz to the easier ride up through Saint Jean de Sixt.
Climbing the Col de la Croix Fry
A quick glance at the statistics is enough to see that climbing the Col de la Croix Fry from La Clusaz is considerably easier than from Thônes. In the first case it is 8 kilometres long with an average gradient of 5.3%, in the second it is 11.8 km long at an average of 7.0%. During our Alpine Cols week, it is usually the very first climb on Monday, direct from la Clusaz.
From La Clusaz
The first part of the climb is shared with the Col des Aravis. Beginning at the roundabout at the upper end of the village, the road climbs steadily on its way south between the chalets. It is well-surfaced and wide. The view quickly opens up to the right over the valley and the village below. The initial 4% gradient soon steepens to 7% but then slackens off again to between 5% and 6%. After 3.5 kilometres the road to the Croix-Fry forks right, leaving the main road which continues on to the Col des Aravis. The slope flattens out as it turns round the head of the valley and then climbs steadily up the flank, providing ever better views to the north. There’s a short section here at 11%. After a large hairpin bend it then enters the forest, where the grade varies between 5% and 7% until it finally eases off for the summit.
The real climb starts at the turn-off from the D12 between Thônes and Serreval. From this point on the grade averages 7.0%, dropping to 3.2% only for a short stretch before and through Manigod. The road winds its way up steadily between chalets and farms, cows often grazing in the bordering pastures. While certainly not built-up, part of the road feels almost suburban by moments, without the wild, high mountain feel of others such as the Col de la Colombière. The gardens are full of flowers in the summer and the chalet balconies bedecked with geraniums. This can however lull the unwary into a false sense of security, because the second part of the climb is tougher. After Manigod you are treated to 2 km at around 10%, before the road relents a little, varying between 6% and 8% all the way to the welcome café at the summit.
Le Col de la Croix Fry in the Tour
Before reappearing as the first of four climbs on Stage 10 of the 2018 Tour de France, the Croix Fry has only been used four times by the Tour. It was first crossed by Piotr Ugromov in 1994 on the 18th stage, from Moutiers to Cluses. Laurent Jalabert was the next to be first over, on the 15th stage in 1997, from Courchevel to Morzine, followed by Lance Armstrong on the 17th stage in 2004, from Bourg d’Oisans to le Grand Bornand.
The Col de la Croix Fry was most recently climbed in the Tour de France on July 19, 2013, when it was the last of five climbs on the 19th stage from Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand. Earlier in the day, Izaguirre and Hesjedal were the first to attack, crossing the Col du Glandon 3’10” ahead of their pursuers. Hesjedal then rode away from the Spaniard on the Col de la Madeleine, but was caught by the Frenchman Pierre Rolland before the summit, which they crossed with a 4’ advantage. Rolland dropped the Canadian at the foot of the Col de Tamié, which he crested 1’45” ahead of a group of 28 other riders. The peloton with Chris Froome and the other favourites was 11 minutes behind. Rolland continued alone over the Col de l’Épine and started up the final climb of the day, the Col de la Croix Fry, with less than a minute’s lead and the whole country willing him on.
Under lashing rain the Portuguese rider Rui Costa broke away from the group and dramatically caught the Frenchman in Manigod, about half way up the climb. To the huge disappointment of all the French spectators, he unceremoniously dumped him and went on to win the stage in Le Grand Bornand, 48” ahead of Andreas Klöden. Rolland finally trailed in 6’40” later.
Froome, Quintana and Contador came in together at 8’40”. Froome kept both the yellow jersey and the polka-dot jersey for the best climber (although he was to lose this to Quintana on the following day).
Climbing the col de la Croix-Fry: Alpine Cols video