Travellers' Tales: Col his bluff

Cycling in the Alps
Jonathan Green’s friend undersold a ‘little’ climb in the French Alps

"Just the Tamié to go now, except for a little pimple up the road," Andrew said as we filled our bottles at a village fountain. We were based at a campsite between Annecy and Albertville and were tackling the local cols. We’d planned a loop of 140km to take in the Col de la Madeleine and Col de Tamié.

The early, chilly kilometres on the cycle path to Albertville were a great warm up, as were the lanes along the Isère Valley. The climb up the Madeleine is 26km and about 1,500 metres of climbing. It was really hard, and I had ample time to recall the tale of David Millar’s epic lone battle in the 2010 Tour, albeit going the other way. We had coffee at the top but didn’t fancy the price of the food. Mistake! We weren’t carrying enough of our own and felt a bit empty as we rolled along the valley from La Chambre. With just ‘the pimple’ and the steady Col de Tamié ahead, we reckoned we’d manage. The pimple turned out to be about 10km of nasty, steep, sinuous climbing that nearly did for us both. My wheezing abuse of Andrew was only interrupted by the appearance of an old chap, looking fairly fresh. He said he was 70.


Cycling in the Alps


The Col de Tamié was every man for himself. We knew it was steady, but with empty legs (and bellies) it asked a few questions. Not until we’d had cold beers back at base was Andrew forgiven.