Col d'Izoard (Arveux) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

8.2
FIETS
8.8 mi
DISTANCE
3,284 ft
GAINED
7 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

Page Contributor(s): Ard Oostra, Montreux, Switzerland

INTRO

Col d’Izoard is a famous climb in the southeastern Hautes-Alpes Department near the French/Italian border. There is a northern (Briancon) and southern (near Chateau-Ville-Vielle) to the famous colle which sits at an elevation of 7,748 and has a gift and small snack shop at the top.

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CLIMB SUMMARY

Road painted to read "Tour de France Arrivee 2017"

Cycling Col d’Izoard, Arveuz

Ride 14.2 kilometers gaining 1,003 meters at 7% average grade.

photo collage shows street signs, route overview signs, large yellow banner across roadway

How important is Col d’Izoard to bicycle racing?  Earth from the I’zoard was placed in the legendary Fausto Coppi’s tomb in Castellania, Italy, upon his untimely death from malaria at age 40 in 1960.  Clearly this climb has great significance within the community.

road sign reads "Route des Grandes Alpes"

Col d’Izoard is part of the Route des Grandes Alpes, a tourist itinerary that begins in Thonon-les-Bains and travels over many of the most spectacular passes in France and Europe, including Col de L’Iseran, Galibier, and Bonette; the alternate route includes Croix de Fer and Madeleine.

photo collage shows sharp mountain peaks, large s curves in roadway

bike parked in front of sign for La Casse Deserte; steep, dusty, white scree slope mountains in background

Col d’Izoard and Mont Ventoux have unique and extraordinary white scree slopes in common.  Whereas Ventoux is referred to as the “Bald Mountain” for its acres of white scree at the top, d'Izoard’s scree is mixed with protruding pinnacles consisting of cargneule rock, which are seen from the viewpoint La Casse Déserte about 1.3 meters from the top of the climb.

photo collage shows white scree slopes combined with pinnacles of green evergreen trees 

Our good friend and PJAMM ambassador Erwan Treguier, who happens to be a French-English interpreter, tells us what “La Casse Desert” means in English:

"casse" refers to a place full of broken things... but here it's to be taken in the 'geological sense': a bit like a 'geological junkyard' (there are massive screes, and of course the picturesque eroded pillars that you probably noticed... and enjoyed!)

- "déserte" means... desert (almost no vegetation/fauna... or very scarce at best)

When I was doing research about Mars, a fellow researcher used this 'casse déserte' as a terrestrial analogue to explain the Martian geology... so the fame of the Izoard isn't limited to Earth as you can see!

yellow and white km markers along the route

KM markers each kilometer after turning left to continue on D902 at the intersection of 902/947.

yellow and white km markers along the route

large stone with memorial plaques for Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet

There are wonderful hairpins over the last three miles of both the northern and southern ascents, exceptional views, and a memorial to Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet (the only man to win a stage featuring Col d’Izoard three times; Coppi did that twice) at the Col.

large stone pillar at summit with white plaque

altitude sign at summit reads 2360 m

Col d’Izoard has been the highest point in a Tour de France nine times.

view looking back over climb finish from summit; sharp mountain peaks in distance

Looking back at the climb finish from top of climb.

TOUR DE FRANCE HISTORY

TOP 10 MOST FREQUENT CLIMBS OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE

AND 10 FAMOUS ONES AFTER THAT

Climb name

Mountain Range

Times Featured in Tour de France

Most recent

First included

Col du Tourmalet

Pyrenees

88

2021

1910

Col d'Aspin

Pyrenees

73

2022

1910

Col d'Aubisque

Pyrenees

73

2022

1910

Col de Peyresourde

Pyrenees

68

2021

1910

Col du Galibier

Alps

63

2022

1911

Col de Portet d'Aspet

Pyrenees

58

2021

1910

Col des Aravis

Alps

41

2020

1911

Col d'Izoard

Alps

36

2019

1922

Col de Vars

Alps

35

2019

1922

Col d'Allos

Alps

34

2015

1911

Alpe d'Huez

Alps

32

2022

1952

Col du Télégraphe

Alps

31

2022

1911

Col de la Madeleine

Alps

29

2020

1969

Col de la Croix de Fer

Alps

21

2022

1947

Mont Ventoux

Alps

18

2021

1951

Col du Soulor

Pyrenees

16

2019

1912

Col du Glandon

Alps

14

2015

1947

Puy de Dome

Massif Central

12

1988

1952

Luz Ardiden

Pyrenees

9

2021

1985

Col de l'Iseran

Alps

8

2019

1938

As of 2022 Col d’Izoard has been featured in more TdF’s than all but eight other climbs.

©  PJAMMCycing.com

Also see Top 10 Highest Points of the TdF

© Climb name

Elevation (meters)

Times highest point of TdF (as of 2022)

Mountain Range

Times Featured in Tour de France

Most recent

First included

Cime de la Bonette

2,802m

4

Alps

4

2008

1962

Col de l'Iseran

2,770m

8

Alps

8

2019

1938

Col Agnel

2,744m

1

Alps

2

2011

2008

Col du Galibier

2,642m

50

Alps

63

2022

1911

Col du Granon

2,413m

0

Alps

2

2022

1986

Top five high points of the Tour de France

Col d’Izoard has also been the highest point in nine TdFs.

Also see Top 10 Highest Points of the TdF

What was the greatest day on the Col d’Izoard?  Well, for Frenchman Warren Baruguil it was July 20, 2017, Bastille Day.  On this day, Baruguil became a national hero and the first French rider in 12 years to win a TdF stage on Bastille Day.  It was a life changing, emotional day for him, he was quoted saying, "it's a huge day for me. I'm living in a dream at the moment. I'm on a cloud and my feet aren't touching the ground. It's crazy after all the bad luck I had. I think I showed my true ability to everyone, and my work paid off" (Cyclingnews.com).

Bicycle climb Col d’Izoard from Briancon - Warren Baruguil wins 2017 TdF Stage 18

Warren Baruguil wins 2017 TdF Stage 18 (Photo from Cyclingnews.com)

Baruguil finished 10th in the Tour in 2017.

The d’Izoard was first included in the Tour de France in 1922.  Race director Henry Desgranges chose to include Col d’Izoard in the Tour on a 170 mile stage from Nice to Briancon (Briancon has since become a hub of exceptional bicycle climbs).  1922 was a different era of bike racing: equipment, roads, tactic... and... honor...

Bicycling to Col d’Izoard Guillestre - Tour de France writing on roadway at the col 

Back in the day...

Ottavio Bottecchia - Col d’Izoard 1925 TdF

Photo The Guardian [OlycomSpa/Rex/Shutterstock]

Cycling Col d’Izoard bike at in square in Briancon

Gino Bartali, stage 14 July 22, 1938 TdF

Bartali wins 1938 Tour (148:29:12 / 18:27 margin)

Photo - Tour de France, Twitter

Gino Bartali was a devout Christian.  Fausto Coppi was a confirmed atheist.  Yet the two were teammates and respectful rivals on the Italian team for years.  Coppi was born in 1919 and came to be known as “Champion of Champions” while Bartali was born five years earlier and was known as Gino the Pious.  Bartali represented traditional Italy, while Coppi was seen as the modern representative of the progressive Italian state.  Both had heroic WWII experiences, Coppi as a British prisoner of war and Bartali by assisting the resistance and helping Jewish refugees escape tyranny and death (see, Road to Valor, 2012; Yad Vashem awarded Bartali the honor Righteous Among the Nations).

Road to Valor book cover

Although both lost much valuable time during their prime cycling years due to WWII, they would remain and become two of the greatest legends the sport has ever had.  Coppi’s career included wins in TdF (1949, 1952), Giro (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952-53), Milan-San Remo (3), Paris-Roubaix (1) and Giro di Lombardia (5).  Coppi is one of only four men to win TdF and Giro “King of the Mountains” in the same year.  Bartali (along with Federico Bahamontes) has more Grand Tour wins (9) than anyone in history and the TdF (1938, 1948), Giro (1936, 1937, 1946; mountain classification a record seven times, three more than anyone in history -- Giro not held five years from 1941-1945), Milan-San Remo (4) and Giro di Lombardia (3).

Gino Bartali won the 1948 Tour de France for a nation.

One of the most famous days in sports history (rivaling Babe Ruth’s called home run in game three of the 1932 World Series) was July 15, 1948, Stage 13 of the Tour de France -- 274 km from Cannes to Briancon, climbing Allos, Vars and d’Izoard.  After Stage 12 on July 13, 1948 the great Gino Bartali (five days before his 34th birthday) was 21:28 behind 23-year-old rising star Louison Bobet of France.  It is reported that Bartali was contemplating withdrawing from the tour after stage 12 and was in a poor mood when he received a telephone call in his hotel room from his old friend and now Italian parliamentary president Alcide de Gasperi who informed him that the leader of the Italian Communist Party, Palmiro Togliatti had been shot in the neck leaving parliament that day and the country was on the verge of civil war.  When he asked what he could do to help, Gasperi said something to the effect of “do what you know best, win stages...it’s important for Italy, for all of us.”  Bartali delivered for his country, crushing the field the next day on the d’Izoard and winning Stage 13 by 06:18, Stage 14 over Galibier and Croix de Fer by 05:53 and stage 15 (Aravis, Forclaz) by 01:47.  Bartali went on to win the 1948 TdF by 26:16 over Albébric Schotte of Belgium and seal his mythical standing in cycling and Italian lore.

Jean Robic once implied he was unbeatable by stating “I’ve got a Coppi and a Bartali in each leg.”  That is how revered the two were. Bartali and Coppi were heralded as climbers and such would define their respective legacies.

Bartali handing Coppi a water bottle on the Galibier in the 1952 TdF

(or Coppi sending it back to Bartali, the debate rages…)  

Photo:  iconicphotos.com

GIRO D’ ITALIA HISTORY

Due to its close proximity to the northwestern border of Italy, Col d’Izoard from Briancon has been included in the Giro d’Italia several times.

IMG_0968.JPG

Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi fought it out up the I’zoard on Stage 16 1949 Giro.

Pinterest - Raffaele Spiazi

This climb has been the Cima Coppi of the Giro once since that designation was first introduced in 1965 to honor arguably the Giro’s greatest participant of all time:

“The Cima Coppi is the title given to the highest peak in the yearly running of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tour races. The mountain that is given this title each year awards more mountains classification points to the first rider than any of the other categorized mountains in the race.

The categorization was first introduced for the 1965 Giro d'Italia in honor of the late Fausto Coppi who won five editions of the Giro d'Italia and three mountain classification titles during his career. It was first announced on 22 April 1965 by then race director Vicenzo Torriani that the highest peak would award two times as many mountains classification points. Torriani thought of possibly awarding time bonuses to the first to summit the mountain; however, after many dissenting opinions, he opted to go award more mountains classification points.

The Cima Coppi changes from year to year, depending on the altitude profile of the Giro d'Italia, but the Cima Coppi par excellence is the Stelvio Pass, which at 2758 m is the highest point ever reached by the Giro. The Stelvio has been used in the 1972, 1975, 1980, 1994, 2005, 2012, 2014 and 2017 editions. It was also scheduled in 1965, 1988, and 2013, but in each case the course was modified due to weather conditions, with various effects on the Cima Coppi designation”  (
Wikipedia - Cima Coppi).

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