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Col du Galibier
Never fun but it is Epic
  • France
  • 2.645m
  • 35.1km

About the Climb

Col du Galibier (2.645m) can be reached via Col du Télégraphe and Col du Lautaret. Although the Col du Galibier can be climbed from both sides, the traditional ascent is from the north starting in Valloire. The Col du Galibier is “never fun”, according to the world’s best cyclists. Not opened the full year, you can ride this climb between the beginning of June until probably October.

There is one former pro cyclist, that makes this climb look easy. It was in the Tour de France of 1954. Federico Bahamontes, also known as the ‘The Eagle of Toledo’, was riding up the climb that fast so on the summit he took a break to get an ice cream while waiting on the rest of the pack. He only won the Tour de France once as he wasn’t that great in the descent.

The climb via Col du Lautaret towards the top has some beautiful windings. Henri Desgrange is the founder and first director of the Tour de France. In 1949, just underneath the top when climbing via the south side, a memorial in the form of a chimney had been revealed with the following text;

“A la gloire de Henri Desgrange (1865-1940), ancient directeur du journal l’Auto, createur du Tour de France cycliste.”

It was in 1911 when the Tour de France organization decided to take up the Col du Galibier in the route. In 2011, 100 years after, this fact is honored by the Tour de France organization. The Galibier is one of the most intimidating obstacles of the Tour de France, which is why Henri Desgrange, a man who once said that his ideal Tour would see only one heroic rider survive to Paris, loved it so much.

Andy Schleck launched a brutal attack 60 kilometers from the finish.

One of the stages in 2011 finished on top of Col du Galibier, which made it the highest point ever to finish a stage. Andy Schleck won this stage, which had a cruel combination of climbs. An epic route took the peloton over the Col Angel, which peaked at 2.744m, ten across some of the steepest sections of the Col d’Izoard followed by Col du Lauraret to finish the stage at the Col du Galibier. Andy Schleck launched a brutal attack 60 kilometers from the finish. There was no hesitation from Schleck. This was it. Win or bust.

Coming out of Valloire there’s a steep upwards section of plus 10%, then you got about four kilometers of false flat. It’s like entering another world, a huge open valley, bare of trees and edged with high peaks. The road ahead barely twists. The real climb starts when you pass the restaurant Plan Lachat. You will now pass the 2.000 meter border and the climb becomes steeper and steeper. The average does not fall below 8% and you often see white and black snow here. The last kilometers continue to be murderous, up to 9%. Proper clothing is key, as close to the top you could be facing a freezing wind from the Savoy, so make sure you can grab a jacket to keep yourself warm.

After all there aren’t many that climb much higher than Col du Galibier

You can reach the snowcapped summit via this side also after you first climbed Col du Télégraphe, this will be a tough challenge with 2.000 altimeters over 35km. One of the toughest cycling events, Marmotte Granfondo Alpes, is organized each year and climbs this full distance as well having an end of day finish on top of the Alpe d’Huez.

After all there aren’t many that climb much higher than Col du Galibier, but if you are after the highest mountains to climb, you can try Col d’Iseran (2.770m) and Col de la Bonette (2.802m) in France, or in Italy Col d’Agnello (2.774m) and Passo dello Stelvio (2.758m).

Video of the climb

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