Col de la Croix: the giant of the Alpes vaudoises

June 17, 2024

On the weekend of June 15 and 16, the Tour de Suisse came to Villars-sur-Ollon for two stages. For the men, this was be the event’s finale. For their female colleagues, it was start of the fourth edition of the Tour de Suisse Women.

The routes were the same for both pelotons: on Sunday, there was an uphill time trial between Ollon and Villars. And the day before, a mountainous loop was covered twice by the men and once by the women.

This loop culminates at the Col de la Croix (1778 metres). Located just 7 kilometers after the start in Villars (1250 meters), it has a flat section in the middle and is not an overly difficult climb. But the men had to climb it a second time, and from the Rhône valley which lies an altitude of 400 metres. For the loop leads back down to Aigle before heading back up to Villars, halfway up the pass. 

The Ineos Grenadier team leading the peloton towards the Col de la Croix

The giant of the Alpes vaudoises

From the valley floor, the southern side of the Col de la Croix represents a total vertical drop of almost 1400 metres. It’s not the Stelvio or the Ventoux, but it puts it on a par with such prestigious climbs as the col de la Madeleine . And it surpasses Alpe d’Huez or Passo Giau!

The ascent of this pass highlights the diversity of the region’s landscapes: you start out in the vineyards of the Chablais region, then pass through several typical villages in the middle of pastures before arriving in an Alpine landscape at the foot of the imposing Diablerets massif, which rises to over 3000 metres.

Alpine landscape near the top

I live on the slopes of the Col de la Croix, so I rarely climb it in one go, but I know every inch of it. And while the Tour de Suisse passed through Ollon and Antagnes before arriving in Villars, I strongly advise cyclists against using this road in normal times. Traffic is constant and the road is simply too narrow to allow safe and pleasant cohabitation between cars and cyclists.

Fortunately, there are no less than three options for reaching Villars on much more enjoyable roads.

Via Gryon

This is my home climb. I live in Gryon and can’t get enough of this lightly trafficked road: several narrow villages prevent the passage of trucks. And the views are splendid! The route is signposted, with information panels every kilometer.

The start through the vineyards is steep (10%+), then eases off to 6-8% all the way. Between Gryon and Villars, an uphill false flat gives you a breather before the final kilometers to the pass.

You are on cycling territory

Via Les Plans-sur-Bex

From Bex, climb up the shady Avançon valley to the village of Les Plans, then join Gryon on a pretty forest road.

There’s a steep section on the way to Les Plans, but you’ll hardly see any cars on this road. This variant represents a detour of around 5km from the direct ascent to Gryon.

Via Les Ecovets

If you’re coming from Aigle and don’t want to pass through Gryon, prefer the climb via Panex, Plambuit and Les Ecovets, which starts just outside Ollon. The road, steep in places, is quiet and offers breathtaking views of Leysin and the Tour d’Aï.

In this collection on komoot, you’ll find the 3 variants for climbing the southern side of the Col de la Croix:

Tips

  • These 3 climbs and the final section from Villars are all part of the Challenge des Alpes vaudoises, which invites cyclists to discover a selection of 8 climbs in the region. The 2024 edition will run from July 1 to September 30, details of which will be available soon.
  • You can climb the Col de la Croix in a loop that also combines the Col du Pillon and the Col des Mosses. This is the Classique des Alpes vaudoises, details of which can be found in this ride listed on the site.
  • On July 7, the UCI Granfondo Suisse offers 3 routes for keen cyclists. They all go over the Col de la Croix – find out all the details in this blog post.
  • Want to organize your cycling holiday in the Alpes vaudoises? Lillie and I can help you define your itinerary and take you on a guided tour – more information here. We also offer a bike-friendly apartment for rent in our beautiful village.

Alain

Follow me on Instagram and head over to the blog to read more cycling stories. Looking for inspiration on where to ride? Check out our favorite road and gravel loops.

In the vineyards towards Gryon

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