CLIMBS: Col du Lein (1623m)
Col des Planches (1411m)
Route: Loop (clockwise)
A 57km loop with two passes starting in Martigny
This loop includes two lesser known passes in the Martigny and Verbier region of Valais, Switzerland: Col des Planches and Col du Lein. It is a great early season ride, when the high alpine passes are not yet open. Highlight: a short and sweet section of gravel.
The initial 10km along the valley floor prepare you for the first few hairpins of the ascent to the Col du Lein (1,623m) above Saxon. The road narrows as soon as you leave the village and traffic becomes almost nonexistent. It wanders among the pastures and orchards while offering views extending from Martigny all the way to Sion. After 14km of pedaling up a gradient averaging 8.5%, you reach the Graal: the last few hundred meters of the pass are on smooth gravel - the type that puts a smile on every rider’s face.
You soon find yourself back on asphalt to start the descent towards Vollèges then Sembrancher (alt. 730m). Immediately, the road starts to climb again, this time to the Col des Planches (1,411m). Caution: it can get very warm on this exposed south-facing flank, which offers few respites.
At the top, however, the reward is there: the buvette de l’alpage du Col des Planches, an unassuming farm that serves great mountain food. Try the planchette, an assortment of local cheese, sausage, dried meat and bread.
You may even buy some cheese to take away - it’s all downhill from there. After a few hairpins in a magnificent forest of larches, a dizzying descent drops you 1,000 meters further down and back to your point of departure. Feel free to take a break on the way to admire the glorious view of the Rhone river and Martigny down below.
This loop is part of the “Top Road Cycling Routes” created by Alain for the Switzerland Tourism website. You can also ride it as part of a 4 day self-guided tour that includes other great climbs such as the Col du Sanetsch, the Emosson dam and the Petite Forclaz. Click here for more information.
As an alternative, you can start the tour in the famous ski resort of Verbier and join the loop in Vollèges.
Leaving Saxon and the Rhone valley behind
The quiet road to Col du Lein
The gravel section. Take a left here to climb the Col des Planches from Sembrancher
The beautiful Alpes valaisannes
Stop at the buvette de l'alpage du Col des Planches and enjoy the planchette
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