Col du Galibier (Villar-d'Arène) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Col du Galibier (Villar-d'Arène)


One of three routes to Col du Galibier - a spectacular climb!

Explore this Climb

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Climb Summary

Col du Galibier from Villar-D’arene

Ride 15.6 kilometers gaining 971 meters at 6.2% average grade.

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

  • From Valloire (most popular:  climbed by 53,445 Strava members as of 1-25-20);
  • From Villar-D’arene (11,154 Strava members); and
  • From Briancon (5,511 Strava members).

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; alternate route includes Croix de Fer and Madeleine.

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

Coppi sending it back to Bartali - the debate rages . . .  


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.” - Henri Desgrange (translation Marvin Faure). - Col du Galibier

When first crossed in 1911 by the Tour de France, no tour rider had ever ridden higher.  

The climb from Villar-D’arene (population 311 in 2017) to Col du Galibier can be broken into 2 segments - the first is from Villar-D’arene to Col du Lautaret and the second from Col du Lautaret to Col du Galibier.


Villar-D’arene to Col du Lautaret

Ride 7.1 kilometers gaining 388 meters at 5.4% average grade.

In and around Col du Lautaret

It is 8.7 kilometers and 583 meters at 6.9% from Col du Lautaret to Col du Galibier.

The monument in honor and to the memory of Henri Desgrange is 1 km from the top.

The bubble is PJAMM experimenting with 3D photography.

Henri Desgrange and Géo Lefèvre created the Tour de France in 1903 and Desgrange was tour director from the beginning until WWII prevented the tour from occurring in 1940.  Desgrange died in 1940 and was succeeded by Jacque Goddet as director (1947 to 1986 - co-director with Felix Levitan from 1962 to 1986).   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.   Wikipedia 


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

Andy Schleck Stage 18 2011 Tour de France

Col du Galibier - highest mountain top finish ever


Galibier has been included 35 times since its first post WWII appearance in 1947 which was the first TdF since 1940 due to WWII.  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.


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


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.

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.”