The col de la Ramaz is situated in the Chablais mountain range, at an altitude of 1619m. It links the village of Mieussy, south-west of the col, with Morzine, 20km to the east.There is a small ski station on the eastern side called la Praz-de-Lys.
Climbing the Col de la Ramaz
No matter which side you start from, the Col de la Ramaz is a tough climb. You are rewarded by stunning views on Mont Blanc from the summit.
The climb officially starts at the roundabout in the village of Mieussy. From here there are 14 km to go to the col, 960m higher up. The average gradient is 6.7% but this means little because it is very irregular.
The first 2 km through the chalets and farms on the outskirts of the village are at 8%, then the road eases of to 2% for over a km. After a further 3km of switchbacks through the forest, the serious stuff begins. The road is now cut into the plunging hill side above the Gorges du Foron, and the gradient alternates 9%, 7%, 9% and finally 10% at the steepest section through a tunnel. The ever-changing gradient means it is hard to settle into a rhythm. If it is a hot day you will be glad of the shade under the avalanche shelters and in the tunnel: the mountainside here is south-facing and you are in the full blast of the sun. The road finally levels out to a more reasonable 5% as it reaches and curves around the Sommand plateau for another 3 km.
There is a final kilometre at 7% to reach the col and its impressive view on Mont Blanc.
There are two different ways to start the climb from Taninges, either up the main road (the D902) to Les Gets, or up a much quieter side road, the D307. This second option is a little harder and less regular but a much nicer road to take.
It winds up through the houses, chalets and farms on the northern outskirts of Taninges before striking NE along the flanks of the valley, the other side from the main road. The two routes come together after 7 km and 320m of climbing. This is where things get tough. The road climbs steeply in a thick forest in straight lines between tight hairpin bends. The gradient varies between 8% and 11% per kilometre, but is over 12% for long sections. It feels interminable… until at last you clear the forest and the gradient progressively levels off, 7% then 6% and finally almost flat as you arrive at the ski station of Le Praz de Lys, before a final kilometre at almost 9% to reach the col and the reward of its magnificent view.
Col de la Ramaz in the Tour
The col de la Ramaz has only been used 3 times so far by the Tour de France, in 1981, 2003 and 2010. It will however make a new appearance in 2016, during the 20th stage, from Megève to Morzine. The same stage will be used for the Etape du Tour in 2016. The col has always been classified as a First Category climb.
The first person over was the Frenchman Hubert Linard on the 18th stage in 1981, from Thonons-les-Bains to Morzine. He enjoyed a comfortable advance of 5’17” over the peloton on the col, but ran out of energy on the later climb to the col de Joux Plane. The stage was won by Robert Alban, while Bernard Hinault kept the yellow jersey.
In 2003, the col de la Ramaz was the principle difficulty of the 7th stage, from Lyon to Morzine/Avoriaz. The French favourite Richard Virenque delighted the crowds with a 190km breakaway, winning both the stage and the yellow jersey. This was in spite of Armstrong’s US Postal in hot pursuit! Virenque paid for his efforts the next day, losing the yellow jersey and over 7 minutes to Armstrong on the climb to Alpe d’Huez.
The last time the Tour visited the col de la Ramaz was in 2010. It was the 8th stage, from Les Rousses to Morzine/Avoriaz. The col de la Ramaz was the first serious climb of the day, at km 154, and the last climb before Avoriaz. The stage is memorable for two reasons: it was the first victory on the Tour for Andy Schleck, and it was the stage where Armstrong finally last all illusions that he might win another Tour. Armstrong fell heavily at the foot of the Ramaz after clipping his pedal on a roundabout, and the damage was such that he finished 11’45” behind Schleck.
In spite of his victory it was a controversial day for Schleck. His Director Sportif Bjaarne Riis had noticed that Contador was not at his best, and had been urging him to attack in the final 5km. Later in the Tour Schleck was to regret not taking that advice… He lost the Tour to Contador by 39”, exactly the amount he lost during the 15th stage during the infamous “chaingate” incident on the Port de Balès.
Tour de France 2016
The Tour crossed the col de la Ramaz for the 4th time on July 24, 2016 during the 20th stage from Megève to Morzine. The stage was 146km long, and passed over four major cols, the col des Aravis, the col de la Colombière, the col de la Ramaz and the col de Joux Plane. This same stage was used for the Etape du Tour. It was pouring with rain for most of the day.
Little of note happened and the stage was won by Ion Izagirre (Movistar). Chris Froome kept his yellow jersey, with Romain Bardet in second place at 04′ 05″ and Nairo Quintana a few seconds behind.