Col du Galibier (Valloire) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

9.8
FIETS
10.8 mi
DISTANCE
3,906 ft
GAINED
6.9 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

Col du Galibier is fabulously famous because it has been justifiably blessed by the Tour de France on many occasions (35 times since its first post WWII appearance in 1947, which was the first TdF since 1940). Most recently (as of 2020) Galibier was featured in The Tour in 2019.  The Valloire approach is the more scenic and difficult approach to Col du Galibier. We cannot express enough how utterly spectacular this bike climb is - it is worth boxing your bike and flying across the Atlantic to do!

This year it will be included in Stage 11 of the 2022 Tour de France
Average grade is 6.9% - ride 17 kilometers gaining 1,200 meters with 0 descent.  23% of the climb is at 0-5% grade, 72% is at 5-10%, and 5% is at 10-15%.  The steepest 500 meters is 10.5% and steepest kilometer 10.1%. 

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button.
Roadway:  Two lane Route 902 in excellent condition with a broken center white line and no shoulder up to the fork for the tunnel (right) or summit (left) at kilometer 16.4  The final kilometer is on similarly pristine pavement over a two lane road with no center striping or shoulder. 

Traffic:  Mild to mild-moderate.

Parking:  Park on the right side of the street leading to the climb start (MapStreet View). 
Provisions:   La Ferme du Galibier at kilometer 13 has local products - cheese, meats and more (Google Map + Reviews). 

Weather and Gear: We travel to one of the highest finishes of the Tour de France (2642 m) so be sure to consult the PJAMM "Full Forecast" feature for the time you expect to arrive at the finish to assess what clothing to bring on your ride.
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
If you want one heck of a cycling day do this climb and Col du Galibier (Briancon) as an out and back - 100 kilometers gaining 2,540 meters (Map), or the monster Cols du Télégraphe & Galibier + Col du Galibier (Briancon) out and back - 137 kilometers gaining 3,882 meters (Map). 

Stay in either of these world cycling hubs for one of the greatest cycling trips you could ever imagine: Le Bourg-d'Oisans, France or Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, France.

Use the “Routes in Area” button on the menu bar to see other bike climbs in this area. 

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CLIMB SUMMARY

panoramic view looking down from top of climb; French Pyrenees, snow dotted mountains

Cycling Col du Galibier from Valloire

Ride 17.4 kilometers gaining 1,199 meters at 6.9% average grade.

Col du Galibier is located in the French Alps and is the 4th highest paved pass in Europe after Col de l'Iseran (2,764 meters), the Col Agnel (2,744 meters) and the Col de la Bonette (2,715 meters).

photo collage, cyclists climb on two-lane roadway toward snow dotted mountain tops, PJAMM Cyclist stands with bike in front of green mountain views, road sign for Galibier 

Cycling Col du Galibier, one of the world’s most scenic cycling climbs.

World Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Climb.

This one is one of the world’s great cycling climbs.  Col du Galibier is located in one of the great climbing areas of the world and is a must if you’re in or near France’s southeastern Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Region or Savoie Department.  Of course, a 5-7 day climbing trip to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is an experience of a lifetime and would definitely include this exceptional Col. The pass is named after Le Grand Galibier which towers over the Col and is the highest mountain in the Massif des Cerces of the French Alps (3.228 metres). The route from Valloire is the most popular route up Col de Galibier.

photo collage, signs for Galibier, KM marker, large statue of elk

Climb begins in the ski resort of Valloire

Valloire is a commune in the Savoie Department, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region.

Population 1,132 (2014), elevation 735 m.

photo collage; scenic and pastoral French Alps landscape, blue sky, white clouds, green grass with yellow wildflowers

This is one of three common routes to Col du Galibier:  

  • From Valloire (most popular: climbed by 53,445 Strava members as of January 25, 2020);
  • From Villar-D’arene (11,154 Strava members); and
  • From Briancon (5,511 Strava members).

views looking down on set of six hairpins in the road

There is a 2km set six hairpins at 8.5% beginning at km 10.

Col du Galibier 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, d’Izoard, and Bonette; the alternate route includes Croix de Fer and Madeleine.

stone bricks next to sign for Route des Grandes Alpes

This sign is on Col du Télégraphe on the way to Valloire and the beginning of the Galibier climb.

livestock crossing roadway and heading up grassy hillside

Livestock aplenty on the climb.

photo collage shows views along the climb, lush green hillsides, sharp French Alps mountains, old stone farm buildings, small creeks

La Ferme du Galibier

Km 13 of Col du Galibier from Valloire.

photo collage shows beautiful mountainous French Alps scenery along the climb: sharp mountaintops, lush green hillsides, roadways snaking through the idyllic mountain; yellow & white KM markers

Stunning scenery the entire route.

There are no permanent residents on the mountains after passing the village of Bonnenuit at kilometer 5 at 1670 meters.

photo collage shows PJAMM Cyclists riding toward snow capped mountain peaks, KM marker signs for Galibier

Stay left at the fork (photo top right).

 Tunnel (no) to the right, Col du Galibier (yes) to the left.

final set of haripins before the finish

Final set of hairpins before the summit.

Seven hairpins for 1.3 km at 9.3% near the top then 400 meters straight at 10.6% to the finish.

photo collage shows various yellow and white KM markers throughout the climb

There are markers nearly every kilometer of the climb.

photo collage shows various yellow and white KM markers throughout the climb

photo collage shows various yellow and white KM markers throughout the climb

The steepest kilometer is the last, averaging 10.5%.

PJAMM Cyclist John Johnson stands with bike at climb's summit in front of street signs for Col du Galibier, altitude 2642 m

COL DU GALIBIER 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’Galibier has been featured 64 times in the TdF

More TdF’s than all but 4 other climbs.

©  PJAMMCycing.com

© 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 5 high points of the Tour de France

Col du Galibier has also been the highest point in a TdF 50 times.

Also see Top 10 Highest Points of the TdF

 Included in the Tour 63 times from 1911 through 2022  Galibier was passed as the highest point in the Tour each year from 1911-1914 (suspended 1915-1918 WWI) and 1919-1937.  In all, Col du Galibier has been the highest point in any individual TdF significantly more times than any other climb (50;  Col de L’Iseran is second with 8).

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

Haute Route quotes Henri Desgrange in his praise of this climb:

The Galibier became a legend at the very first time it was used by the Tour de France, in 1911. This is how Henri Desgrange, creator of the Tour de France, introduced it to his readers: “Oh! Sappey! Oh! Laffrey! Oh! Col Bayard! Oh! Tourmalet! I will not fail in my duty in proclaiming that next to the Galibier you are as weak as dishwater: before this giant there’s nothing one can do but doff one’s hat and bow down low” (translation by Marvin Faure) (Hauteroute.org - Col du Galibier).

When first crossed in 1911 by the Tour de France, no tour rider had ever ridden higher. The Galibier route until 1976 passed through the lower tunnel at 2,556 meters, but from 1976, the Tour has gone over the pass at the top which is 2,642 meters.

   

Cycling Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier - John Johnson and PJAMM with bike at Col du Telegraphe.

Andy Schleck, Stage 18 of the 2011 Tour de France.

Col du Galibier -- highest mountain top finish ever.

Photo: roadbikereview.com

As with many of the challenging and beautiful climbs of France, Galibier is fabulously famous because it has been justifiably blessed by the Tour de France on many occasions (35 times since its first post WWII appearance in 1947, which was the first TdF since 1940).  Most recently (as of 2020) Galibier was featured in The Tour in 2019 (Nairo Quintana won the stage from Embrun to Valloire).  In 2017 debutante Primoz Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a TdF stage when he came out on top in Stage 17 from La Mure to Serre-Chevalier.

Cycling Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier - John Johnson and PJAMM with bike at Col du Telegraphe.

Primoz Roglic, Stage 17 Tour de France.

First Slovenian to win a TdF stage.

Photo:  Cyclingtips.com

Of Galibier and the Tour de France, Wikipedia writes:

The Col du Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911; the first rider over the summit was Emile Georget, who, with Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou were the only riders not to walk.

Emile Georget, Col du Galibier, 1911

Photo: Emile Georget. 


The original summit was at 2556 m; while the tunnel was closed from 1976 until 2002, the tour route went only over the pass closer to the mountain peak at 2645 m. In 2011, the Tour de France went through the tunnel for the first time during the 19th stage from Modane Valfréjus to L'Alpe d'Huez.

At the south portal of the tunnel, at the edge of the road, there is a monument to Henri Desgrange, instigator and first director of the Tour de France. The memorial was inaugurated when the tour passed on 19 July 1949. Whenever the tour crosses the Col du Galibier, a wreath is laid on the memorial. The "Souvenir Henri Desgrange" is awarded to the first rider across the summit of the highest mountain in each year's tour. In 2006, the prize of 5,000 euros was claimed on the Col du Galibier by Michael Rasmussen.


Since 1947, the Col de Galibier has been crossed 31 times by the Tour de France. It was scheduled to be used in 1996, but was left out at the last minute due to bad weather. As a result of snow on both the Col de l'Iseran and the Col du Galibier, the scheduled 190 km stage from Val-d'Isère to Sestriere in Italy was reduced to a 46 km sprint from Le-Monetier-les-Bains which was claimed by Bjarne Riis, resulting in him taking the yellow jersey which he retained to the finish in Paris.

In the 2008 Tour, the Col du Galibier had been crossed on 23 July in the 210 km stage 17 from Embrun to Alpe d'Huez.

The 2011 Tour climbed the Col du Galibier twice to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the pass in the Tour de France, including the first ever summit finish, won by Andy Schleck after a 60 km solo breakaway. This was the highest ever stage finish in the Tour de France. It was scheduled to be used again in stage 20 of the 2015 Tour, but was left out nine days before the race start due to landslides in the Chambon Tunnel, situated towards the bottom of the descent of the climb.”

The Telegraphe, and Galibier, are the scene of the greatest racing day in the life of Marco Pantani.  It was here and in this Stage 15 of the 1998 TdF that Pantini attacked on the Galibier and ultimately turned a three minute deficit into an 11 minute lead against Jan Ullrich.  Pantini went on to win the Tour de France that year.  

Pantani attacks 4.2 km from Galibier summit.

Photo:  Cycling-passion.com

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