Like most famous cols, the Croix de Fer has two sides. One of them is often labeled the “easy” one and the other the “hard” one. The “hard” one is usually considered to be the “best”.
The Croix de Fer is hard from both sides but in different ways.
The climb from the Oisans, many people start in Le Bourg d’Oisans, starts with a gentle ride for some 10km. This is your 30 minute warm-up and time to admire the beautiful views of the peaks from the bottom of the valley.
Once you start the climb up the dam at Allemond you start getting a taste for the ride; think of this as an pre-starter, the peanuts before the main meal.
A short flattish section alongside the lake is your last chance to chance to admire the views. The first long section starts by the large EDF Hydro-electric building. It’s just about the same distance as you have already cycled from Le Bourg D’Oisans, 10km, but it’s going to seem like a lot further.
The climb begins to bite
The climb is around 10%, through the trees which provides shade on sunny days. The trees also increase the humidity which can be difficult in mid-summer.
Eventually, there is the small hamlet of Le Rivier d’Allemont which has a nice little café/bar, Les Favets, which is used to cyclists stopping by for a bottle refill or something more substantial.
It’s mostly full of cyclists having a congratulatory meal on their way back down; they will encourage you, no doubt.
Just outside Le Rivier d’Allemont, the road begins to descend. Beware! This is a very steep and very bendy section with the tightest hairpins leading down to the river.
Crossing the river leads to a very steep section with ups and downs as well as tight hairpins. The road surface is often a bit scrappy after the winter avalanches have rolled a few boulders over it.
Above the tree line
Eventually, you will climb up above the tree-line and into the open alpine landscape. Once past the big dam, the Gran Maison, the road is slightly less steep.
Near the top, right by the Cafe du Glandon, you will see the signs for the Col du Glandon, its just 100m away on your left.
Don’t go there! Not yet, anyway. You will find it much harder to get back on your bike to complete the last 1.5km to the Croix de Fer if you stop now. Best leave it for the way down.
The last section is past the ski lifts of St Sorlin d’Avres. When you reach the col, the stupendous views from the top over the Avre valley are one of the best anywhere.
There is a café at the top which is open in mid-season; if you arrive early in June it may not yet be open.
Enjoy the views and the long descent.
Big, comfortable rooms, somewhere for your bike, great food to fuel your days and a friendly welcome. That’s what we provide for all our guests at Le Château d’Oz, when they stay with us on a cycling holiday. Contact us for more details.