The Cormet De Roselend is a famous climb. It is part of Tour history with an elevation of 1,967m. From Beaufort, it is 20.3km long, making it one of the longest and highest Cols in the Alps. You would think it would be a Tour regular with those stats, but it doesn’t appear on the Tour that often, only 13 times. The first was in 1979, and then as recently as 2021.
It is widely remembered from the Tour as the mountain pass that in 1996, Johan Bruyneel overshot a fast left-hand bend and disappeared over the edge as he descended towards Bourg-St-Maurice.
The Cormet De Roselend is an incredible climb, it is tough, and you will need a good set of legs, but it is not as hard as some of the other greats we’ll cover in other ‘Epic Rides’ posts, but this is still one to be respected but more importantly, enjoyed, in that cyclist type of way.
We set out from the beautiful alpine village of Beaufort in the Savoie department of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps on a beautiful hot June day. This was also our first real opportunity to test our new rides. In the group were a Trek Emonda SL7 and an Open MIN.D, which gave us added excitement.
Beaufort is famous for its locally produced cheese, although you may want to refrain from this until after the ride as the Roselend in this direction is a long one, 25 kilometers from start to summit.
So we settled for a pre-ride Quiche ahead of the climb, and it was, quite simply, the best quiche we have ever had…it sat nicely in my stomach, reminding me how good it was for the next hour as we climbed, something to bear in mind!!!
So, you have two choices when tackling the Cormet de Roselend. You can head straight out of town on the D925, and you’ll pick up the main road for the traditional climb, but should you take the unassuming D218A in the direction of Arêches, you also have the opportunity to bag the hidden gem of the Col du Pré.
Due to the quiche sitting inside us, we decided to do this another day as it is slightly longer, so we went as planned via Beaufort. The Col is located on the Route des Grandes Alpes, which connects Lake Geneva with the Mediterranean Sea.
The climb was fairly busy on a hot July day, with plenty of motorbikes rolling past and cars traveling up and down, which some may find a negative. However, it was an early afternoon for us, and as we climbed, we began to understand why they were there.
It is an absolutely stunning climb thanks to the tree-lined roads providing shade on a hot day, vantage points giving views of the valleys below, and the area known as the Lac de Roselend and its Dam located at an altitude of more than 1,600m. There is also a rewarding short descent here to recover before the final 5.7 kilometers to the summit of the Roselend.
The first 12km are a good slog, there is no doubt to be had here, but for some reason, maybe the Quiche, maybe the views, but it was really enjoyable.
The final section after the dam is not as taxing on the legs. The hardest work is done so you are rewarded with a view of what’s ahead and where you have just come from, edging out of view as you climb ahead.
The last few km’s gradients allow you to move that bit quicker to the summit, which takes you a little by surprise on a summer’s day with a clear sky all around.
It has stunning views all around, don’t get me wrong, we all know the vast majority of Cols have amazing vistas, but sometimes, just sometimes, one or two stick in your mind for different reasons. It is a personal thing, but for me, the Cormet de Roselend will stay in my mind, like the Galibier, for different reasons, for a long time to come.
The summit on the day we climbed was a hive of activity, with motorcyclists and cars all enjoying the vistas and clear skies. There’s also an opportunity here to purchase drinks, snacks, and local delicacies at the summit, but it meant a can of full-fat Coca-Cola was the reward for us. We never drink the stuff at any other time, I’ve no idea why it rejuvenates us (the sugar perhaps?!), and I guess many other cyclists don’t know either, but it does the trick, ready for the way down.
The descent down to Albertville is fabulous. There is little here other than to say, long clear roads as you begin, then the twisty tree-lined roads as you get closer to the bottom. You can get some real speed here and feel confident about what’s ahead. The extra weight of the quiche helped gather some additional speed.
The enjoyment was only slightly lessened due to a large group of cyclists who didn’t seem to want to move over and ride the full width of the road at their own speed, and despite a few polite requests, we ended up with a more robust demand in the Queen’s English…a request which is universally clear and understood, they moved… not the way we should communicate as fellow cyclists but beggars can’t be choosers.
If you’ve cycled this legendary mountain pass yourself or have admired it from afar, we want to hear from you.
Share your experiences, tips, and opinions in the comments section of our article and join the conversation about this iconic route!