Ticking off the cols

Being on an extended summer holiday has allowed for ongoing exploration of all the local climbs, and for route planning the excellent climbbybike website has been a great resource, as has the useful bikeroutetoaster when trying to work out total climbing and whether a ride is going to be painful, really painful or just plain punishing.

Riding around with a lowest gear of 39×25 means that the steeper ascents tend to be a grind, although as fitness returns and weight drops I was beginning to wonder if a compact is really necessary after all.  That was until further exploration of climbbybike revealed this little gem lurking just a few kilometres from home…

This week I ventured beyond Martigny to the excellent Col des Planches, a back road that heads towards Verbier.  The plan was to climb it and descend the back side before heading up to Verbier, but on reaching the Col it clearly wasn’t the high point of the climb, with a road signposted to Saxon (a village in the Rhone Valley) heading up.  Taking this road less travelled led to stunning remote pastures, yet I failed to notice for a few hundred metres that tarmac had given way to a hard-packed dirt road with rather chunky drainage channels.

Seeing as this road was just about rideable, I proceeded upward to the Col du Tronc manualing and bunny-hopping the drainage channels (the Sl2 coping admirable with the abuse) until eventually the descent started, initially quite gingerly on loose dirt, then back on tarmac, although frankly dirt would have been preferable given the state of the road.  After the first village the heavily weathered road gave way to the more familiar smooth Swiss tarmac and after a very long descent I was back in the valley, smashing into the ever-present headwind riding back towards Martigny and Bex.

This is just one of many rides this holiday, with fitness and weight both heading in the right directions, and a beautiful set of tan-lines coming along, inspired by Thomas Lofkvist of Team Sky.  The Swiss racing license should be in the post by now, and a track bike is very much on the shopping list ready for a winter in the velodrome.

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