THE NEW PHOTO ESSAY OF THE IZOARD IS HERE »
It is rated a HC climb for a reason, as all the great climbs should be. It is breath taking in its beauty, and the effort it takes to conquer it. The 14km of the climb are the roads that have made legends in our sport. Coppi, Bobet and Thevenet in the glory days of steel. Chiappucci, Van Impe, Botero, and Garzelli in the modern era of lightweight and carbon. It is a very unique place, with a harsh beauty that bakes you in the summer sun and I can only imagine would batter you in a rain storm. The day we climbed it was a blistering 93 degrees. There is no place to hide, no shade, no respite. For the few weeks around when we were in Guillestre the stunning ravine section along the Guil river just out of the village was closed for repaving (apparently there is this race called the “Tour” going through there). Instead we were treated to a steep 5km climb detour that took us up and over the ravine and dropped us down at the Barrage, which marks the start of a steady 10km climb up to the foot of the Izoard. Nobody really mentions the 12km of climbing before the 14km of climbing. That happened a lot on this trip. Just because it might be slightly easier doesn’t mean it is not climbing. It is good to mention these things when trying to convince others to ride HC climbs.
The early part of the climb did make me ask what all the fuss was about? Then again we had been spoiled already on this trip as far as scenery goes. The road after the village of Cervieres is an 8-9% drag strip up the valley into a headwind, and if you are brave enough to raise your head off your front wheel what you will see up above you is the imposing peaks looming over the Casse Deserte. When you get yourself around those hairpins that last corner before the Deserte will do one of two things to you. It is the sort of view that will stop you in your tracks and will make your heart sore, or drop it down right into your cleats. There in front of you will be one of the most desolate beautiful scenes in the Alps, and a perfect view of the last 5km 0f 9-10% of climbing through the iconic Casse Deserte to the summit. You really need to ride the Deserte twice to take it all in. It is like a huge natural amphitheater that has seen some of the greatest showdowns in cycling. They couldn’t have picked a more perfect stage for maybe this years Tour decider. I can’t imagine what this climb would have felt like if I had the Col D’Angel in my legs as well.
A special note for my wife Nina. This was her challenge of the trip, her first HC climb. We couldn’t have picked a harder day with the heat and the headwind. She made it! Did it at her speed and took it all in. Couldn’t have been prouder seeing her crest the summit next to the Coppi monument.