The col des Aravis is situated on the south-eastern corner of the Aravis mountain range, at an altitude of 1486m. It links the village of Flumet to the south-east with La Clusaz to the north-west.
Climbing the Col des Aravis
The col des Aravis is much easier from La Clusaz than from the other side. In the first case it is only 8 kilometres long with an average gradient of 5.6%, whereas from Flumet the climb is 11.5 km long, with a deceptive average grade of 5.0%. During our Alpine Cols week, we climb it once from each side: from La Clusaz on Tuesday and from Flumet on Friday to finish the week in style.
From La Clusaz
The first part of the climb is shared with the col la Coix Fry. 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 opens up to the right over the valley and the village below. The initial easy gradient soon steepens to 7% but then eases off again to between 5% and 6%.After 3.5 kilometres the road to the Col de la Croix-Fry forks right, leaving the main road to continue to the Aravis.
The grade remains between 5% and 7% all the way to the summit, with a short passage at 8.6%. This upper section is in the Alpine pastures.
There are fantastic views back down the valley to the north-west, as well as on the surrounding summits.
The climb starts in the village itself and is initially quite steep, averaging almost 6% for the first kilometre and a half. It then flattens out considerably through the forest, even descending for over a kilometre, before the climb starts in earnest a little before the village of La Giettaz.
From this point on there is little respite, the grade varying between 5% and 8% most of the way to the summit, with a short section at almost 12% and another much easier at 3.5%.
The road winds up between farms, chalets and orchards, with frequent hairpin bends.
The last kilometre is particularly impressive as the road winds steeply back and forth up and over the lip of the pass before finally flattening out towards the summit.
Col des Aravis in the Tour
The col des Aravis has been crossed no less than 39 times by the Tour de France. It is a second category climb. The Italian Gino Bartali was the first to the summit in 1948 on the 15th stage in that year’s tour, from Aix-les-Bains to Lausanne. The British rider Barry Hoban was first over in 1968, on the 19th stage starting in Grenoble. He went on to win the stage in Sallanches. Until Mark Cavendish, Hogan was the holder of the record for the most stage wins in the Tour de France by a British rider, with eight wins between 1967 and 1975. His win in Sallanches was unusual because he was better known as a sprinter than a climber. The story is that the peloton let him go for the intermediate sprints, and he just kept going for a famous victory!
Robert Millar is another British rider who was first over the col des Aravis, this time in 1984 (La Plagne to Morzine). It was his best year. He finished fourth overall and won the King of the Mountains jersey. Millar remains the only Briton to have done so. Other famous climbers to be first over include Charly Gaul and Lucien Van Impe.
There was plenty of drama on the 2000 tour. The 16th stage, from Courchevel to Morzine, brought the riders once again to the Col des Aravis, where the great Italian climber Marco Pantani, already winner of two stages (Mont Ventoux and Courchevel) went on a solo attack and was the first over both the Aravis and the Colombière. Pantani finally cracked at the foot of the Joux Plane and slipped from the 6th to the 14th place. He abandoned the Tour the following day, never to return.
The col des Aravis appeared most recently in the Tour de France on the 9th stage in 2010, from Morzine-Avoriaz to St Jean de Maurienne. The Frenchman Jérôme Pineau was first over, wearing the polka-dot King of the Mountains jersey. He was closely followed by four other French riders (Moreau, Charteau, Casar and Gautier) and the Italian Cunego. Pineau and Charteau fought each other for the KOM jersey over every climb of the day until Pineau finally cracked on the Madeleine, allowing Anthony Charteau to capture the jersey for the next day. Pineau took it back from him for the 10th and 11th stages before Charteau won it back again on the 12th stage (from Bourg de Péage to Mende) and then kept it all the way to Paris.
Tour de France 2016
The Tour crossed the col des Aravis for the 40th 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.