Cycling Col du Glandon West
Ride 29 kilometers gaining 1,363 meters at 4.1% average grade (5.4% climb only).
Col de la Croix de Fer from the east and west completely follows the same route as Col du Glandon but for the last 2.5 kilometers at 5.3% average grade. Both are famed climbs which have been included in the Tour de France many times.
Here are the basic statistics for the three Croix de Fer climbs, together with the overlap information for Col du Glandon:
- Col du Glandon West (Le Verney): 29 kilometers gaining 1363 meters at 4.1% (5.6% climb only; all overlapping Croix de Fer West).
- Col du Glandon East (Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines): 20.2 kilometers gaining 1,461 meters at 7.3% (all overlapping Croix de fer North).
The approach to Col du Glandon from the west begins by riding north on D526 at the 30 kilometer sign (start of the TdF climb) just after crossing the Romanche River and Route D44. The jewel of this climb is the earthen dam, coupled with the beautiful blue waters of Lac de Grand Maison, the glacially formed lake we ride by from kilometers 22 to 26.
FIRST SEGMENT - START TO LAC DE GRAND MAISON (KM 22.2)
Pass Lac du Verney from kilometer 3.5 to 5.6
The actual ascent doesn’t commence until the seventh kilometer, with the initial seven kilometers having an average gradient of 1.1%. We start our route at at the 30 km marker because this point marks the commencement of the Tour de France route and its kilometer markers.
This route services both Col du Glandon and Col de la Croix de Fer (the Iron Cross).
Scenes along the first half of the climb.
We descent 700 meters and 4 hairpins at kilometer 14.8 (photo top left)
SEGMENT 2 - LAC DE GRAND MAISON
We reach Lac de Grand Maison at kilometer 22.2 and ride along its northern edge for the next 3.7 kilometers. The first 2.2 kilometers are uphill, averaging 4% grade while the last 1.5 kilometers are at an average -3.6% grade.
This earthen dam is among our favorites, distinguished by its picturesque surroundings, prominent visibility upon approach, and the conspicuous series of five hairpin turns ascending its face
We can ride right up to the dam, although there is a gate blocking the road across it. After observing several hikers walk across the dam, we did venture out onto it.
The Lac de Grand Maison is a man-made reservoir located in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, specifically in the Isère department. The lake was constructed between 1978 and 1985 and is positioned in a mountainous area that is renowned for its picturesque surroundings. It was formed by the damming of the Eau d'Olle river and is primarily used for hydropower generation. Due to its elevated location, the lake is also a popular destination for hiking and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
The reservoir is at 1,698 meters elevation.
SEGMENT 3 - NORTHERN END OF LAC DE GRAND MAISON (KM 25.5)
TO COL DU GLANDON
We are bordered by gentle hillsides as we climb the remaining 3 kilometers at 7.3% average grade from the reservoir to Col du Glandon.
Turn left at the fork at kilometer 28.6 (right to Col de la Croix de Fer)
It is 100 meters from the final turn to Col du Glandon. Stay straight instead of turning left to Col du Glandon and climb another 2.5 kilometers at 5.5% average grade to Col de la Croix de Fer.
As of 2023 there is a snack shack at the finish.
We strongly recommend that you continue the 2.6 km to from Col du Glandon to Col de la Croix de Fer if you choose to undertake either ot the Glandon climbs -- you will not regret it!
TOUR DE FRANCE
As of 2023, Col du Glandon has been included in the Tour de France 14 times since it was first introduced in 1947, most recently in 2015. After its inaugural year, Glandon was not included again until 1977, and has been included sparingly thereafter (averaging about once every four years, 12 times in the 46 years between 1977 and 2023).
Merckx realized his mortality on Glandon, Stage 18 1977 TdF.
The king of Col du Glandon is unquestionably Lucien Van Impe (winner 1976 Tour de France). Van Impe participated in each TdF from 1969 to 1981 and Glandon was featured in three of those tours (1977, 1981, and 1983). Van Impe was first across the col on each of those stages, on his way to winning the mountain classification each time.
Lucien Van Impe, the King of the Mountains, and Col du Glandon
Photo: Philippe B.
Col du Glandon was the prologue to one of the most famous (or rather, infamous?) cycling moments of all time. Col du Glandon was the middle climb of three on Stage 10 July 17, 2001 (Col dd Madeleine, Col du Glandon, Alpe d’Huez). Lance Armstrong had dropped from 5:56 back after Stage 7 to 35:43 back after a disastrous Stage 8 which saw a freak breakaway won by Erik Dekker, Alto Gonzalez and Servais Knaven. Armstrong was 20:07 back after Stage 9 and his main rival that year, Jan Ullrich, was at 22:41 going into Stage 10.
Armstrong appeared weak on Col de Madeleine which led Ullrich and his Team Telekom to begin an insane sprint up Col du Glandon, leaving Armstrong barely(?) hanging on to the rear of this lead group. However, just a couple kilometers up Alpe d’Huez and with 11 kilometers remaining, Armstrong surged to the front of the group past Ullrich and then, in a moment of Tour lore, looked back (“The Look”) at Ullrich, fixed his gaze on him momentarily, then put the hammer down and accelerated away from a broken Jan Ullrich to victory and his third Tour de France victory of 7.
The Look: Alpe d’Huez Stage 10 2001 Tour de France.
Photo from J Barber and F Ruggeri as published in Masculine Heart.
 We all know, but it is necessary to mention here, that Lance Armstrong’s seven tour victories were all stripped due to the use of PEDs.