Stage 1: Crans-Montana – Crans-Montana
118KM / 3500M+
With fewer than 20 kilometres of flat roads in a 118-kilometre day, Stage 1 of Haute Route Crans-Montana is going to be as challenging as it is stunning. Descending from the resort in the morning you’ll have a view across the valley toward the Valais peaks. From the town of Chalais, the climb has four parts. The first 10 kilometres take you up to the village of Vercorin. Through Vercorin you’ll experience a few kilometres of flat road, followed by a short but steep descent. Another two-kilometres of climbing gets you to the second summit and a 5-kilometre descent to Mayoux. Enjoy the downhill, because the next 13 kilometres climb up to the Barrage de Moiry (Moiry Dam). This section starts out moderate, and then climbs steep switchbacks after you pass through the typical village of Grimentz, before the high wall of the dam comes into view. A steep pitch and tunnel take you up to the level of Lake Moiry, at which point grade lessens considerably for the remaining 4 kilometres to the base of the stunning Glacier de Moiry.
Enjoy flying back down the way you came, until you get to Grimentz and take a right turn. Instead of climbing the short descents you experienced early on the Barrage de Moiry climb, this route to the valley is all downhill, including a tight set of switchbacks right near the bottom. After a few kilometres cruising along the valley floor, you’ll cross the Rhône River and start climbing through the vineyards on your way back to Crans-Montana via Flanthey. This final climb ascends nearly 1000 metres over 15 kilometres, leading you to the finish line and a well-deserved rest.
Stage 2: Crans-Montana – Col du Sanetsch
101KM / 3,500M+
Transition: 49km and 500M+ of climbing to Sierre
Stage 2 begins with a descent from Crans-Montana, but before reaching the valley floor you’ll start heading up a 7-kilometre ascent to Anzère. The ensuing 24-kilometre descent and valley road brings you to the foot of the 8-kilometre climb to Ovronnaz. You’ll be climbing the steep side, with ramps through the forest in the middle reaching 15%. Both the Anzère and Ovronnaz climbs have been featured in the Tour de Romandie pro race. Following the technical descent from Ovronnaz, you’ll have about 10 kilometres to get ready for the biggest challenge of Stage 2, the imposing 26-kilometre climb of the Col du Sanetsch. With 1,770 metres of climbing, the Col du Sanetsch is one of the toughest climbs in Swiss Romande and is more difficult than many of its more famous counterparts like the Col du Galibier in the French Alps.
The Col du Sanetsch starts out steep in the first two kilometres as you climb through beautiful terraced vineyards. After passing through the village of Erde, the grade lessens for about 5 kilometres. As the houses and sidestreets disappear, the road steepens and heads into the canyon. The next 5 kilometres feature a steady 7-10% grade. When this section levels off, catch your breath for 2 kilometres and get ready for a series of steep switchbacks that will take you out of the forest and into open pastures. A bit further up the climb you’ll pass through a narrow tunnel and ride on a gravel road for about 200 metres, after which you’ll have a view of the glaciers above. The upper reaches of the Col du Sanetsch are quiet and wild, because this is essentially a dead-end road. Once you reach the top of the pass, the timing stops for the stage. There’s a short descent that leads to Lac de Sénin and our turnaround point. With the stage complete, the last 49 kilometres of transition are mostly downhill and flat as you cruise to Sierre. Once you reached Sierre, you will head back to Crans-Montana by cable car.
Stage 3: ITT Sierre – Col de Crans-Montana
16.5KM / 1,280M+
The 16.5-kilometre time trial up the Col de Crans-Montana is the perfect way to finish off a great Swiss cycling experience. Even if you will have climbed to the resort of Crans-Montana on Day 1, the time trial will follow a totally different road. The climb starts in Sierre, Switzerland’s sunniest city, and climbs at a steady 6-9% through the vineyards as you leave town. Through Venthône you’ll have about 1.5 kilometres of nearly flat road. Enjoy it, because the grade stays at 6-13% for the remainder of the climb. You’ll be in the forest until you reach Aminona, at which point you’ll see the panoramic view of the 4000M+ Valais peaks, including the Weisshorn, the Zinalrothorn, the Ober Gabelhorn, the Matterhorn, and the Dent Blanche. Be sure to save something in your legs for two steep ramps in the final 500 metres, and then look out over the valley as a Finisher of Haute Route Crans-Montana!