Croix de Coeur and Col du Lein




Start/Finish:  le châble

Country:  Switzerland

Route:  Loop 


                       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



Stats and design by myCols

Average grade    8.6 %
Length                    15.3 km
Altitude start      859 m
Altitude top         2173 m
Ascent                   1314 m
Maximum             11 %


Average grade    8.5 %
Length                    13.6 km
Altitude start      526 m
Altitude top         1685 m
Ascent                   1159 m
Maximum             12 %


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


This loop is featured in Cyclist Magazine, issue 139 (June 2023). Click here to view the online version.

You can climb the Col du Lein as part of a loop with the Col des Planches. It's slightly easier but the Col des Planches has some steep ramps.

Interested in a guided trip?

Let us connect you to our network of guide services and tour operators. For more information about booking, contact:

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