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%
Col du Télégraphe (1 566 m) & Col du Galibier (2 642 m)
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.
In this pass, we touch the sublime, with snow at the summit . . . we don't need to attack, it's the opponents who crack.Lucien Van Impe A pure climber, untouchable in the mountains who completed 15 Tours de France between 1969 and 1985 (second in 1981 at age 35).
A little history
Built by the Army of the Alps*, the Galibier road was part of the “pharaonic project” aimed at connecting the large valleys via high passes.
*The Army of the Alps was one of the armies of the French Revolution facing Italy. This name was in existence until the Second World War.
Galibier instantly gained mythical status from its first appearance in the Tour De France in 1911 when the riders raced up the giant col for the very first time. The road was unpaved and terribly steep. Remember, that at the time, there were no front or rear derailleurs. They were banned for 34 years, riders had to constantly pedal on a fixed gear, with no freehub to allow the riders to coast.
During its first appearance in the TDF, only three cyclists had defeated the monster (Geoget, Duboc and Garrigou) without setting a foot on the ground and walking.
A regular feature of the Tour de France, the Galibier often makes its appearance on the Queen stage of the Tour or as HC Hors Category climb, the most difficult climb of a stage. The Col du Galibier can determine the final podium in Paris for the leaders of the Tour.
This giant is certainly the most popular in our region. Legends are made everytime a rider wins on the Galiber. No pass in France, even the Tourmalet, can boast of having such notoriety and such attendance. On the Galibier, it is impossible to hide. It will make you or break you.
The Galibier climb from Valloire on TV8 Mont-Blanc
“La Maurienne, the largest cycling area in the world”!
Discover the climb of the legendary Galibier pass from Valloire. Broadcast produced by TV8 Mont-Blanc