Col de la Loze is a spectacular Alpine pass. It will star in stage 17 of the 2023 Tour de France on Wednesday 19 July 2023. Col de la Loze was also a jewel in the crown of the 2020 Tour de France.
What makes Col de la Loze so special for those cycling the Alps is the last kilometres of the climb. On both the Méribel and Courchevel sides, cyclists leave the road behind them and tackle the last section on a new bike path that’s just four metres wide and which takes cyclists up to 2,304m. No other traffic is allowed.
One of the best ways to tackle this special col is as part of the annual Gran Fondo Col de la Loze.
In this article we speak to Laurent Benezech, one of the organisers of the Gran Fondo Col de la Loze. He shares his tips for riding the Col de la Loze as well as inside information on the Gran Fondo and spectating the 2023 Tour de France.
If you’re interested in taking part in the Gran Fondo, read right to the end for a special discount!
1. Overview of the event
The fourth edition of Gran Fondo Col de la Loze (previously called Col de la Loze by Brides-Les-Bains) takes place on Sunday 16th July 2023, with an opening event on Saturday 15th 2023.
It will be a fun, festive weekend celebrating cycling in the Alps, whilst also providing a unique challenge to those who want to test themselves on the mythical climb.
The date of the Gran Fondo has been fixed to fit nicely with the arrival of the Tour de France peloton on the Col de la Loze three days later; the Tour de France riders tackle the 17th stage between St Gervais Mont Blanc and Courchevel on Wednesday 19th July. Col de la Loze is the perfect place to watch this stage from.
The 18th stage departs again from nearby Moûtiers on Thursday 20th July.
1.1 Where is Col de la Loze?
Col de la Loze is within the 3 Vallées, which is the largest ski area in France and the world.
Each of the valleys is home to a famous ski station: Courchevel, Méribel and Val Thorens.
Col de la Loze sits above Courchevel and Méribel. Brides-les-Bains is in the valley below and is the official starting point for the Col de la Loze climb.
The climb is 22.4 kilometres from Brides-les-Bains on the Méribel side. It’s a 26 kilometre climb to the summit on the Courchevel side.
On the Méribel side, the last 7 kilometres are on a special cycling path. On the Courcehevel side, the last 5 kilometres are on a special cycling path.
Until the bike path from Courchevel and Méribel was opened in 2019, the summit of Col de la Loze was inaccessible by bike. The inaugural event held on it was the Tour de l’Avenir in 2019.
The Tour de France followed in 2020. Then Colombian rider, Miguel Angel Lopez reached the summit of Col de la Loze ahead of the yellow jersey Primoz Roglic and the future winner of the Tour 2020, Tadej Pogacar.
1.2 Itinerary for the weekend
On Saturday 15th July 2023 there will be a warm-up event. It’s a timed climb to Pralognan-la-Vanoise from Brides-les-Brains. It’s designed to give the participants a view of some of the roads and layout of Parc de la Vanoise and will be a lovely way to start the festive weekend.
Sunday 16th July is the main event. The day starts at 7am with a rock concert in the middle of the departure area in the centre of town! We were a bit unsure about how residents would react to rock from 7am – but they were totally on board with the excitement last year!
After the start, participants head out onto the courses.
After the event, there is a pasta party for everyone to refuel and embrace the exhilarating challenges they’ve just taken on. The volunteers also get their own party in appreciation of all they have done. To end the night other rock bands will take to the stage.
Col de la Loze sportive video credit: Nicolas Folliet – Jeudi15
1.3 Distance options
Four routes provide different levels of challenge:
All routes (other than the 30 kilometre one) start in Brides-les-Bains and finish at the summit, which is close to the start, allowing riders to get back relatively easily. The 30 kilometre route starts and finishes in Brides-les-Bains.
There’s more information on the routes on the event’s official website here.
1.4 Who is the sportive for?
The event is for everyone wanting to celebrate cycling and try the famous Col de la Loze climb. There will be a high energy atmosphere in this beautiful area of the Alps.
There are various length challenges to cater for everyone, as well as women specific starts for most routes. E-bikes are also permitted – check the official website for details. The weekend is set to be exciting and testing while providing you with the opportunity to climb the same route as the Col de la Loze in the Tour De France, with excellent support and a great atmosphere.
2023 will be a particularly good year to get involved as there is the opportunity to stay until the following Wednesday to watch the Tour de
France riders climbing the Col de la Loze. Brides is the perfect place to base yourself in as it is at the bottom of both sides of Col de la Loze and the roads will be closed to cars on the day of the race.
1.5 How often does the sportive take place?
2023 is the fourth year of Gran Fondo Col de la Loze and we plan that it will take place annually. We hope it will become a staple cycling event in France.
Since 2020 it has grown in participation with people from around the world, starting with 300 participants and growing to 600 in 2021 and 2022, despite the difficulties Covid caused us once more.
We want to welcome participants worldwide to enjoy a cycling holiday in the Alps with us.
2. Why did you set up the event?
The event was set up to showcase the new man-made cycle track at the top of the Tour de France climb – no vehicles allowed, only bikes!
Before the new track was built, Col de la Loze wasn’t that challenging as Alpine cycling climbs go. The new path now provides up to 23% inclines and offers quite a test.
The sportive was originally created by the Mayor in Brides-les-Bains to help encourage tourism after the difficulties of Covid. The first event coincided with the 2020 Tour de France that used Col de la Loze. Our sportive took place three days prior to the Tour.
This year, in 2023, we’re sticking to the same format because we know it works really well.
3. Explain the profile of each route
Official information on all four routes is found here.
To try and explain the routes we’ve created the unofficial GPX routes and overlay of the routes below. You can click on the tabs below the map to see the routes of the four different courses. Please rely on the official site rather than our copies.
3.1 117 kilometre challenge (the ultimate: Col de la Loze both sides)
The Ultimate Gran Fondo Col de la Loze challenge is 117 kilometres in distance, with 4,377 metres of elevation gain. The highest point is 2,304 metres. It’s a real challenge!
The Ultimate route departs from Brides-les-Bains and starts with a gentle 8 kilometre climb to Moûtiers to warm-up before a long descent through Bozel and back to Brides-les-Bains.
It then heads up the 22km climb to Méribel, including the seriously challenging last 7 km section of bike path, before descending through Courchevel. The descent from the Col de la Loze is neutralised and not timed, to protect participants.
At the bottom, cyclists do a loop around that incorporates the start of the Pralognan climb before taking riders back to the base of the final ride up Col de la Loze.
The last climb up is from the Courchevel side to the summit of the Col de la Loze. With all those kilometres and elevation gain in riders’ legs, the last 5 km of bike path pose a real challenge!
Are your legs and head ready?!
3.2 53 kilometre challenge (Col de la Loze via Méribel)
The 53 kilometre challenge doesn’t get you out of the steepest bit of climbing! It still takes in 2,424 metres of elevation gain and the highest point is 2,304m up to the Col de la Loze providing you with an opportunity to enjoy magnificent landscapes.
This challenge offers you the opportunity to experience the last climb of stage 17 of the Tour de France 2020.
The route starts at Brides-les-Bains, goes through Moûtiers, Montagny, Bozel and back to Brides-les-Bains before leading you up Col de la Loze via Méribel and the hideous 23% inclines found in the last 7 kilometres.
3.3 46 kilometre challenge (Col de la Loze via Courchevel)
Although this challenge is shorter, you don’t miss out on the iconic Tour de France climb – the Col de la Loze climb is completed from the Courchevel side and hits 2,141 metres of elevation gain, with the highest point being 2,304 metres.
It’s a magnificent route with astounding views, which starts in Brides-les-Bains, goes through Moûtiers, Montagny, Bozel and up Col de la Loze from Courchevel.
3.4 30 Kilometre Challenge
The last option is a loop that gives a taster of cycling in the French Alps without too much elevation gain (741 metres of elevation gain with the highest point being 1,100 metres).
You won’t climb the Col de la Loze on this route, but your ticket still allows you to enjoy the cycling party, the concert and free lunch.
The route lets you enjoy the magnificent landscapes of the Parc de la Vanoise without the pain of the Col de la Loze climb.
The route departs Brides-les-Bains. You cycle through Moûtiers, Montagny and Bozel, back to Brides-les-Bains.
4. What’s it like to ride Col de la Loze?
The Col de la Loze is one of the best cycling climbs in France and offers a huge challenge.
The road starts out as a normal ski resort climb, with wide roads used to taking lots of ski traffic up to the resorts on both sides. However it all changes in the last seven kilometres of path (Méribel side) and last five kilometres of path (Courchevel side). These are also the hardest parts of the climb. Your brain needs to be just as tough as your legs!
The Col de la Loze from Brides-les-Bains is 22.4 kilometres long on the Méribel side and 26 kilometres long on the Courchevel side. On the Méribel side, the final 7 kilometres are bike path; on the Courchevel side, the final 5 kilometres are bike path.
4.2 Bike paths
The path on the Méribel side is even steeper than the Courchevel side and you’ll need to get used to the savage steepness as well as the constant changes in gradient. Expect 15-20% ramps, hairpins and sharp corners which make it hard to get into a rhythm. The last two kilometres on the Méribel side of the bike path are marginally easier, until the final 20% just before the top. By that time though the end is in sight!
The Courchevel side of the bike path is a little wider than the Méribel side and the gradients and hairpins are a little less severe. Still a big challenge though!
I definitely advise making sure you have enough gears on your bike. You need to be able to spin up the hardest sections. More info on this below.
Being patient is important. Don’t burn your energy too early on in the climb – it’s a long way up and it gets steeper. Easy isn’t a word used for this challenge!
However, if you do get a chance to look up, the views of the Alps are absolutely magnificent. Also if you ride the bike paths after Méribel and Courchevel first thing in the morning, you’ll be bound to come across marmottes on the path; the nature here is quite incredible.
5. What are the highlights of the event?
5.1 Conquer the Col de la Loze
Tackling the Col de la Loze is obviously the reason most cyclists take part in this event. The bike path is truly outstanding.
5.2 Ride then spectate Stage 17 of the Tour de France
The party atmosphere around this event is going to be really special, especially with the Tour de France in town.
One of the main reasons to ride in the event in 2023 is that you’ll be riding the climb before the pros. It’s also a great opportunity to stay a few days longer in Brides-les-Bains and enjoy the excitement of witnessing the battle of the Tour de France 2023 riders facing the steepest sections of Col de la Loze.
From Brides you’ll be able to walk up the Col de la Loze on the morning of the stage and find your perfect spot to spectate – or also take the Telecabine to reach the Méribel side of the climb.
In my opinion, the best spots to watch will either be the last seven kilometres of the Col de la Loze climb on the Meribel side or the last two kilometres close to the Courchevel altiport.
Find out more on the Brides-les-Bains Office du Tourisme website.
5.3 Landscape and views
The sportive takes place in a fantastic part of the French Alps, the Courchevel side of the climb might have even better views than the other side, as it looks out even further over the mountains.
The views are overwhelmingly beautiful from start to finish, numbing the steepest of inclines with the distraction of nature.
5.4 Thermal waters
Don’t forget to visit the Grand Spa Thermal in Brides-les-Bains with its different types of baths, sauna and jacuzzi. They’ll help your legs with recovery!
6. How fit do you have to be to do each route? What training and preparation do you recommend?
How fit you need to be will depend on which route you tackle and whether you’re on an e-bike or not.
If you are not from the Alps and want to take on one of the more demanding courses, my suggestion is that you find the steepest climb local to you. Ideally it will be one or two kilometres or more and it needs to have a minimum of 10% inclines (to match the last seven kilometres of Col de la Loze from Méribel). Then you “just” need to do repetitions up it. You should be able to go up it 10 times to recreate the Col de la Loze.
Otherwise, if you have time, three – seven days in the mountains is ideal training.
Safe to say, some fitness is required to get the most enjoyment out of the experience.
7. Are there cut offs?
The event isn’t on closed roads and we need everyone to finish while it’s light so there are cut offs – although there is plenty of time for everyone to get around, due to the early start.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the shorter routes set off at a similar time to the 117 kilometre route, so they do have a generous amount of time to complete the course in.
Even with the 117 kilometre loop, we haven’t seen any issues previously with timing cut offs, because those that have self-selected to take on this distance have been fit enough to embark on such a challenge.
8. How should you plan your nutrition?
There will be two main feed stations in Brides-les-Bain and at the summit of Col de la Loze. There will also be two more on each side of the climb.
Food stations will provide fruit, cereal bars, sugary drinks, water and savoury food like meat and cheese. Fuelling is key!
If bringing along your own nutrition, consider things like: energy gels, electrolytes, carbohydrate powder drinks, sports drinks, rice cakes, flapjack bars, sandwiches and sweets – jelly babies or even dates.
Remember to keep a sugar and carbohydrate balance.
9. What kit choices do you suggest?
9.1 Gearing choice
Gearing should be thought about very carefully. I suggest a 30-34t cassette – chances are you won’t need the 34 cassette, but it’s better to be over prepared, than under.
Cycle routes in the French Alps can vary with inclines. For people from fairly flat places like London, it could be a shock – it’s important to take that into consideration when choosing gears.
I very much doubt that lights are necessary as the courses start from 8am and we plan for the event to be finished by 5:30pm – although in July in this part of France it doesn’t get really dark until 9-10pm.
However, you can of course use lights if you prefer to do so – they’re just not a requirement.
There is no doubt, the climb will make you quite hot and sweaty! You’ll most likely start out in a jersey and shorts, but having extra clothing is never a bad idea when you’re in the high mountains. Mountain summits are often much colder than the valleys as they’re so high up, which means the descents can also be incredibly chilly all year round.
One of the event services we offer is to take a kit bag for each participant to the top of the summit for you. This means you have dry clothes to change into so you can enjoy the finish and also the descent back down to Brides!
10. What support is there on the route?
We have aimed to ensure the Gran Fondo Col de la Loze provides a great level of support.
We will take your spare clothes to the top of the climb for you, there’s a rock concert in the morning to enhance the motivation, various food stations on route and a pasta party afterwards. We hope there will be an atmosphere like few others!
10.1 First Aid
We will have support from the Red Cross, including doctors on motorbikes to get to participants quickly if required.
Mechanics aren’t provided but local bike shops can assist you beforehand (more info below) and participants will have an emergency number to call during the event, so if someone has a mechanical and we can help then we will help.
11. Where should people stay?
The best place to stay to complete the Gran Fondo Col de la Loze sportive is Brides-les-Bains. Step out of your hotel and bingo, you’re at the start!
There is plenty of accommodation within the local towns, other towns to look in are: Couchevel, Méribel, Moûtiers and Champagny.
12. Bike shops and bike hire
Bringing your own bike is the most efficient way to complete the sportive. It also means you’re dialled into your bike and are less likely to pick up injuries. You’ll know your limitations on your bike when cornering and descending and it takes out the hassle of having to collect a bike when you arrive.
There are some bike hire options, but thre’s limited availability so you should definitely arrange it in advance. The closest bike rental shop is in Moûtiers, 5km from Brides-les-Bains, but has a limited number of bikes on offer.
13. What tips would you give to someone wanting to do the Col de la Loze sportive?
Try to be fit enough to enjoy it as much as possible.
Make sure you have the correct equipment and ensure your bike is serviced and checked over before doing the sportive, as it’s quite an intense and challenging route cycling the French Alps.
Also take extreme care on the descents. In particular, participants will descend back to Brides-les-Bains after the event on the Courchevel side only. Please take a lot of care as you could cross other cyclists still climbing on the same narrow path.
14. What is there to do before/after the event?
You’ll be completing the sportive in an extremely special part of the Alps, with astounding beauty, glorious views and towns oozing tradition and character. Why not make a holiday of it?
14.1 More cycling
Once you’ve ridden Col de la Loze, why not try more iconic climbs from the Tour de France, or other surrounding cycling climbs in France.
Cycling in the French Alps is an incredible experience and cycling holidays here have a habit of creating memories of a lifetime. Cycling the 3 Vallées areas will challenge your legs for the climbs and your eyes for the magnificent landscapes in this part of the Alps…
Bring your family and friends, stay a while longer, make time to recover at the thermal baths and taste the local cuisine.
This is a terrific part of the world to explore, with various adventure activities around.
There are also the Spa thermal baths full of healthy minerals in the water to help you relax and recover. You can get a massage there, while having access to the sauna, jacuzzis and the wellness area. Be fresh and ready to return to work.
The Brides-les-Bains website has more information on summer activities.
15. How to get to the Col de la Loze sportive
The best airports to fly to are Aeroport De Lyon St Exupery 150 kilometers away or Aerport De Geneve 120 kilometers away. From the airport you can get public transport, hire a car or arrange for personal transfers. Some hotels will also provide transfers – make sure to check with them.
This link to the Geneva Airport provides local travel information (here).
15.2 From the local area
You can get to the event fairly easily if you’re staying in the area, you might even be able to walk!
Public transport includes buses and trains, taxi services or you might choose to hire a car.
Some more information with links to transport can be found here.
16. How do you enter Gran Fondo Col de la Loze?
Entry is on the official website.
- 117 kilometres €60
- 53 kilometres €45
- 46 kilometres €45
- 30 kilometres €10
The price includes entry, free T-shirt, a bag, the concert, lunch, snacks stops and the pasta party.
And you’ll have spotted the special discount available to readers of this article!
There is a separate, dedicated start for female riders in all the events other than the 30 kilometre distance.
16.1 Cancellation policy
Should the event be cancelled due to Covid, entries will be refunded or transferred to the following year upon request. You can find more information on the website and if you have specific questions, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A big thank you to Laurent for this in-depth look at the Gran Fondo Col de La Loze. It sounds like a great event and definitely one to consider for those planning an Alps cycling holiday.
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