The col du galibier is one of the most famous climbs in the world and a challenge that many cyclists set as a goal. It is located near to Briancon and Bourg d’Oisans. It is an amazing mountain pass with an average gradient of 6.9% and a maximum slope of 12%.
You can approach this climb from both the north and south but the northern side is the classic option. The road starts from the small town of Lautaret and winds up through alpine meadows and peaks to reach a false summit at 2 556m. Here is a monument to Henri Desgrange, the brains behind the Tour de France who laid out the route of this famous climb in 1903.
At this point the road begins to really steepen and you have to work hard to stay upright as you weave your way through the hairpins. It is a breathtaking ride up the mountains and if you are lucky enough to be there on a clear day you will have some of the best views in the French Alps.
As you reach the top of the pass at 2 558m you will see that the landscape changes completely, and there is a huge glacier to your right. You will also be able to see the massive peaks of the Ecrins massif and you might even spot Mont Blanc. The descent from the pass is absolutely stunning and it is well worth doing just to experience the incredible roads and scenery that cycling on this part of France has to offer.
The Col du Galibier is a tough and rewarding climb that has seen some of the greatest riders in the history of cycling put their skills to the test. It was the scene of Fausto Coppi’s career-defining move in 1952 as he raced up this famous col to win the stage from Alpe d’Huez to Sestriere. And it was where Marco Pantani won the 1998 Tour after a brilliant solo move that saw him leave a sodden peloton trailing in his wake, gliding up past them all as they wallowed in exhaustion. A memorial now stands to mark the point where he made his legendary attack.
This is a truly iconic climb that should be on every serious cyclist’s bucket list. If you are ever in the area then do not miss out on the opportunity to climb this awesome pass, just be sure to pick a good day and don’t linger too long as it can get pretty cold at the top! Happy climbing. col du galibier