Start/Finish: le châble
CLIMBS: CROIX DE COEUR (2174m)
COL DU LEIN (1685m)
A loop that punches above its weight
In 2023, the Giro d’Italia riders discovered a new pass on their way to Crans-Montana: the Col de la Croix de Coeur. Located above the well known resort of Verbier, it surprised many.
You can climb the Col de la Croix the Coeur as part of a loop that includes the Col du Lein, another little known pass in the canton of Valais. I recommend starting from Le Châble, which has easy access via public transport (train from Martigny).
You are right in the heart of the matter as the road goes up shortly after you start. This is the climb to Verbier, where Alberto Contador won a stage of the 2009 Tour de France - a plaque installed at the precise location of his attack commemorates this feat. It is a climb to a big ski resort so the road is wide and the gradients are steady, somewhere between 6 and 8%. It’s a good thing: you can enjoy great views as you rise above the Val de Bagnes.
A wide road with great views leads to Verbier
The climb continues beyond Verbier and this is where things become even more interesting. As soon as you leave the town, the road becomes narrower and steeper, in the lower double digits. You are entering a new territory, that of the high mountains. In the distance, you can see the Grand Combin Massif which peaks at 4314 m. By the time you reach the pass at 2174 m, you have climbed for a solid 16 km: the Croix de Coeur is not to be underestimated.
4000 m peaks in the distance: welcome to Valais
Make sure you take some time to enjoy the views and recover as the descent is tricky. Until a few years ago, it was gravel. It is now (kind of) paved, but the surface is rough and the road is narrow with many turns. Worthy of the Giro, but it’s clear why the Tour de France did not go beyond Verbier: there’s no way the Cochonou publicity vehicles could handle this section.
Descending towards La Tzoumaz
After 7 km of this, you reach La Tzoumaz (1550 m). It’s another ski resort, which means one thing: after that, the road gets wider and better. You can finally relax your shoulders and reach for your bottle without veering off the road.
Back on smooth tarmac
The descent takes you all the way down to the Rhone valley, in Riddes . It’s a different world: you are at an altitude of 500 m, the vineyards and apricot orchards stretch as far as the eye can see around you.
It may be time to stop for food and to refill your bottles. The climb to the Col du Lein is about to start and it is no walk in the park: 14 km with 1200 m of up. All of it on a small road with few cars - you may see more cows than humans on the way. The gradient is fairly steady with little respite but the calm and the views make the experience pleasant if you know how to manage your effort.
The Col du Lein, another hidden gem of the Valais
At the top, a few hundred meters of hard packed gravel will provide a sense of adventure and good photo ops. But don’t be scared: it’s good for Instagram but also for a road bike.
Again, heads up on the descent: even if you quickly get back on tarmac, it’s tricky all the way down to Vollèges. You are now back in the Val de Bagnes and Le Châble is only a few easy kilometers away. With only 71km but around 2500 m of climbing, this loop punches well above its weight. Be careful not to let it knock you out!
You can ride the Col de la Croix de Coeur and the Col du Lein as part of a 4 day self-guided tour based around the town of Martigny. It was designed by Alain and includes other great climbs such as the Col du Sanetsch, the Col des Planches, the Emosson dam and the Petite Forclaz. Click here for more information.
Time to head back down, another great day in the mountains
Small gears and comfy tires are recommended to fully enjoy this loop. Alain's choice: 34x34 and 28mm.
In Verbier, Le Carrefour is a good place to stop for coffee and cake before the final section of the Croix de Coeur. It's Swiss prices, but so is the quality. As the name indicates, it's located on the last junction before you leave town.
In summer, a buvette located on the left after the top of the Col du Lein will provide refreshments and local specialities. As it’s almost all downhill from there, feel free to enjoy some delicious cheese and cured meat, you’ve deserved it.
Sweetness at Le Carrefour
El Pistolero was here
Shortly after leaving Verbier
Feeling small in the Alps
Starting the twisty descent towards La Tzoumaz
Not as smooth as a baby bottom
Yay, gravel at the top of Col du Lein
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