Col du Télégraphe (1 566 m) & Col du Galibier (2 642 m)
To conquer Galibier you must first climb the Telegraphe . The Col du Telegraphe is your warm-up before the real challenge, so pace yourself and save some energy for the mighty Col du Galibier. On paper, it doesn’t look so daunting, 35kms with an average gradient of 5.5%, but that includes the descent of the Telegraphe into Valloire and valley road before the looming walls of the Galibier start to appear as you approach the real start to the Galibier.
For all cycling lovers, the Galibier is mythical! Connecting the Maurienne to Briançonnais and Oisans , this essential pass for all mountain lovers is the Mecca of cycling in France. To reach its 2,645 m of altitude, you will first have to cross the Col du Télégraphe (1,566 m) from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne. The climb takes you through the forest and ever the changing colours of leaves. The distance is 11.8kms with an average gradient of 7.3%
The descent into Valloire and the ride through the valley road is a good opportunity to recover and take in the views of the changing landscapes and valley river. The true start of the Galibier is marked by a right-hand turn at the Plan Lachat refuge, crossing the Valloirette river, the real climbing begins. 8kms of climbing to the top, mostly at 9%. The Landscape is wild, the trees have been replaced with rocks, there are no barriers on the road, you are climbing all the time, there is no respite as the road gets narrower. Towards the summit you pass through a narrow tunnel and you start to see the names of tour champions painted on the roads. You are now riding in history as you reach the summit.
The pass was first opened to traffic in 1911, the year the Tour de France crossed the Galibier for the first time. Émile Georget stage winner, climbs to the top, dismounting only to sign for the winners cheque and cool off, admitting “never to have I seen anything harder!”.
Marked at 2642m by the road, the pass is frequently the highest point of the Tour de France, the other giant col in the Maurienne is the Col de l’Iseran (2764 m). The Col du Galibier has been crossed a total of 60 times by the Tour de France, including 35 since 1947, making it the pass most often used by the event.