The col de la Forclaz lies in a commanding position above Lake Annecy, on the road between Vesonne, to the south, and Menthon St Bernard, to the north. We climb it from the south on Monday during our Alpine Cols week. It is one of the most beautiful climbs in the Alps, with incredible views over Lake Annecy from the northern side and from the summit.
Climbing the Col de la Forclaz
Whichever side you climb the Col de la Forclaz, it is steep. Both sides contain substantial stretches at between 12% and 13%, although the average grade confirms that the climb from Vesonne is the tougher of the two. The Col de la Forclaz has a formidable reputation both for the difficulty and the beauty of the climb. The climb from Menthon St Bernard provides stunning views across Lake Annecy, but these are perhaps best enjoyed either while resting at the top or while descending!
The climb begins immediately, twisting and turning through the narrow village of Vesonne. After just 500 m you know what you are in for as the road ramps up to an impressive average of 11.4% for over a kilometre, switching back and forth above the village and relenting slightly to 9.8% for another kilometre before backing off to a more reasonable 6.6% for the next 1.5 km as it heads directly up the side of the gorge. The shade here is very welcome on a hot day. The respite doesn’t last however and the grade varies between 8.3% and 12.7% all the way to Montmin, a small village 5.8 km and 540 m climbing after the start. There follows a sweeping descent through the mountain pastures for a kilometre or so before the final 1.6 km to the top, including a short section at 13%.
From Menthon St Bernard
The climb to the Col de la Forclaz in the direction north to south starts in Menthon St Bernard. The first 6 km are straightforward, on a wide, well-surfaced road with an average grade of 4.5%, with just two short passages at almost 8% to break the rhythm. The views across Lake Annecy are stunning as you near Rovagny.
The last 4 km are much harder, with several brutal hairpins and long interminable straight sections, mercifully shaded. The grade is never less than 7.1% and includes a kilometer at 12.6% and the final 500 m at 11.1%.
Col de la Forclaz in the Tour de France
The Col de la Forclaz has only featured in the Tour three times. The first time was on the 19th stage in 1959, from Saint Vincent d’Aoste to Annecy. The Swiss rider Rolf Graf broke away from the peloton earlier on another Col de la Forclaz (between Martigny and Chamonix), in company with Gérard Saint. After a puncture cost him 4’ he made a huge effort to catch Saint, finally doing so in Ugine, after 204 km. Graf then overtook his erstwhile companion on the Col de la Forclaz and went on to win the stage in Annecy by 4’15”.
The Col de la Forclaz was the first of four climbs on the 15th stage in 1997, from Courchevel to Morzine. Laurent Jalabert led at the summit with an advance of 3’, but was caught on the Colombière after a solo ride of 80 km. Marco Pantani won the stage.
In 2004 the Col de la Forclaz was the fourth of five climbs on the 17th stage, from Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand. The riders went over the Glandon, the Madeleine and the Tamié before the Forclaz and then went on to the Croix Fry for a massive day of climbing. A break-away group consisting of Richard Virenque, Christophe Moreau and Gilberto Simoni were first over the Forclaz, with a 2’30” advantage on the first peloton. This was not to last and they were caught on the Croix Fry. Lance Armstrong went on to win the stage in Le Grand Bornand, becoming the first rider ever to win four mountain stages in a row.
Tour de France 2016
The Tour will cross the col de la Forclaz for the 4th time in 2016, on Friday July 23rd during the 19th stage from Albertville to Saint Gervais. The stage is 146km long, and will make five climbs, passing over the col de Tamié, the col de la Forclaz de Montmin, the col de la Forclaz de Queige, the Signal de Bisanne, the col des Saisies and the final climb up to Saint Gervais.
The Tour will be in our local area for three days in total. Thursday July 22nd will be Stage 18, a 17km hill time-trial from Sallanches to Megève, including the fearsome Côte de Domancy where Bernard Hinault won the World Championshipo in 1980. Saturday July 24th will see another tough mountain stage, from Megève to Morzine. The stage is 146km long, and passes over four major cols, the col des Aravis, the col de la Colombière, the col de la Ramaz and the col de Joux Plane. All these climbs figure regularly or occasionally in the Alpine Cols training weeks.
Come and see the Tour for yourself during our Tour de France week: stay with us at the Beauregard 4* in La Clusaz, ride stages 18, 19 and 20 and watch the riders go by for an unforgettable experience!