There really is no shortage of great climbs if you’re cycling in the French Alps. From iconic Tour de France routes to the roads less travelled, the Alps offer the very best of devilish hairpins and beastly gradients to satisfy any cyclist’s appetite for a challenge. Here are our Top Five epic alpine climbs.
5. Col d’Izoard
At 19km and with an average gradient of 6% it doesn’t sound too daunting, but this beautiful climb offers a great challenge starting in the foothills outside Briancon and increasing in steepness as you hit the sandy coloured cliffs and Casse Deserte near the summit. Simply stunning.
4. Col de la Bonette.
This is a long one at 24km and included in many of our trips. Starting from Jausiers the climb is steady and steep but the gradients are never too difficult. What makes this one special is the remoteness, scenery and altitude (top is at 2800m). The average gradient is 6.6%. The descent over the other side as you make your way towards the Cote d’Azur is one of the best in the Alps.
3. Col de la Madeleine.
This alpine monster is on our doorstep! Starting on the south side at La Chambre it’s 19km at 8%. There is no respite with some steeper sections just before you hit the ski station of St Francois Longchamp. It does flatten (ever so slightly) in the last 5km but with 14km in the legs already it certainly doesn’t feel like it! This Tour de France regular offers great scenery and serious challenge. If you have the energy you could always ride the Lacets de Montvernier as an appetiser!
2. Alpe d’Huez.
Needs no introduction and a ‘must do’ for any cyclist. It’s relatively short at 14km (average 8%) but steep and, with 21 hairpins, it’s an epic ride. The first five hairpins are very tough at over 10% and it’s a brutal start. However, it does ease off slightly! The fact you can see the village in the distance offers inspiration as you struggle towards the summit. You can compare your time with Marco Pantani’s 37-minute ascent in 2007!
1. Col de Galibier.
Our number one! This is a true monster! Starting in St Michel de Maurienne it’s 35km to the summit at over 2600m. The first 12km take you up the Col de Telegraph which in itself is quite a climb. There is a short descent to Valloire before you hit some serious gradients and heavy roads as you leave the village. There is some respite before you reach the restaurant at Plan Lachat when the roads steepens and you cycle into the high mountains at over 2000m. It’s a torturous yet beautiful climb and certainly one for the bucket list.
We’d love to know what would be on your list. Maybe you’ve cycled some of these, or perhaps they’re on your own bucket list. Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.