Col de l’Iseran

Snow bank at Col d l'Iseran

Date: 12th July 2023
Ride No. 78
Grade: 10/10
Location: Bonneval-sur-Arc

Segment ID:16641905
My Time: 1:15:56



I rode the Col de l’Iseran in 2019 with my friend Rob.

Unfortunately, however, Rob suffered a mechanical, so it was a disjointed climb.

This was my opportunity to improve a PB and add it as a solo ride to my TdF 100 challenge.

Today it was cooler, which was just right to revisit this 10/10 challenge.

I could remember the spectacular landscape from my previous ascent, but compared to reality, my memories were pale.

I think the best word to describe the Col de l’Iseran is, ‘Diamond’.

It’s hard and beautiful.


Ooh, Aghhh

The views of towering snow-tipped mountains from Bonneval-sur-Arc are enough to drop your jaw.

The Col d’l’Iseran start is a gentle 4% for about 100 metres, then it pops up to 12, but it feels fine.

After the initial jolt, the gradient returned to 7% before kicking you once more with a size 12.

I didn’t remember this in my fond memories.

After about 4Km there is a relatively flat section as you cross a river bridge, but reassuringly you return to a familiar 9%.

At 9Km the road bounces between 8-10% to prepare you for a leg groaning 14% lift present

Snow and ice banks line the road as you struggle with 9-10% up the final 3Km.

You truly believe you have accomplished something when you arrive.

The views are even more stunning than expected.

You just must walk around and marvel.



“JONAS, where are you?”

Of course, its photos time and as I head to the beautiful sign, my eye catches a photo op.

Quickly pose the Brompton and announce to Cycling Weekly that I have spotted Jonas’s latest prototype or have I beaten him up the climb.

As I propped the Brompton again on the sign, I am asked if I would like my photo taken. Well, knock me down with a feather.

After all my comments about people curiously looking but not speaking, it is a fellow Brit who is the saviour for the day.

Will from the Peak District and Hi, it was great to meet you and chat.

The last time I climbed to the top, it was bright but freezing, while today it was bright but pleasantly warm.

So, I took out my iPhone and clicked to my hearts content.


Put the Col de l’Iseran on your bucket list

The descent had a Sean Kelly technical feel to it, making it quite interesting.

The road surface was very bumpy and broken in places.

It seemed rippled as if you were riding over the thick white lines to alert motorists to slow.

In a nutshell, if you can ride the Col de l’Iseran the do.

The landscape is more than enough to compensate for the pain (which we all secretly enjoy, of course).

I considered another climb in the afternoon, but my bike needed some maintenance.

A back wheel wobble probably meant the cones needed to be adjusted, so it was back to the campsite for some TLC.


Crash Bang Sizzle

So, was that the end of the day?

Not quite.

Feeling good and looking forward to cooking up some salmon I just bought from the local supermarket, I tinkered with the Brompton first.

There I sat with a cup of Lapsang Souchong and fruit cake happily fixing the bike. Bliss.

An hour later and after a spin around the campsite, it was time to cook.

As the salmon hit the pan, thunder crashed, and the sky turned black.

Things did not good.

A few spots briefly fell as the cloud passed over.

Lucky escape?

No chance.

Two minutes later, the skies flashed, the thunder boomed as large hailstones sizzled next to my salmon in the frying pan.

I had intended to fry the salmon, not poach it.

The shelter of a nearby tree seemed to offer some protection, but this was only scant.

The rain was relentless.

There was nothing for it but to pick up the cookers and pans, throw them in the car, and head to the nearby shower block.

I was too late. People had already huddled inside by the time I got there, so they wouldn’t appreciate the smell of re-fried salmon.

The clothes and washing up sinks were at the rear of the building. They looked sheltered and empty, so I claimed squatter’s rights and moved in.

Not the most elegant of dining establishments, but it worked.

I’m fed, and the Brompton was sparkling, and we were both ready for another day.