Cycling Col d la Croix de Fer from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Fifth longest climb in France.
28.5 kilometers gaining 1602 meters at 5.2% average grade (6.5% climb only).
We feel this is the most scenic of the three approaches to the Iron Cross atop Col de la Croix de Fer. It is also the only approach to the col that does not substantially overlap Col du Glandon.
This fantastic climb begins in Saint Jean-de-Maurienne, which we consider to be the center of one of the great climbing areas of the world. Click here to read more about the Saint Jean-de-Maurienne climbing area and travels through the Saint Sorlin-d’Arves ski resort to the Iron Cross at the top of the climb. There are three routes to the Col de la Croix de Fer (“Pass of the Cross”) and we have charted those in the map in the menu bar at the bottom of this page.
Climb begins in St. Jean-de-Maurienne, the birthplace of Opinel knives.
There are three popular approaches to the Col: from the East, West, and North. The Northern and Western approaches overlap Col du Glandon. Here are the basic statistics for the three Croix de Fer climbs, together with the overlap information for Col du Glandon:
Spectacular views on this climb, one of the most scenic in all of France.
- Col de la Croix de Fer East (Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne) -- this is the only route that does not overlap Col du Glandon: 28.5 kilometers gaining 1602 meters at 5.2% average grade.
- Col de la Croix de Fer West (Le Verney): 24.2 kilometers gaining 1489 meters at 5.2%.
- Col du Glandon West (Le Verney): 22.5 kilometers gaining 1365 meters at 5% (all overlapping Croix de Fer West).
- Col de la Croix de Fer North (Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines): 23.2 kilometers gaining 1609 meters at 6.9%.
- Col du Glandon East (Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines): 19.6 kilometers gaining 1530 meters at 7.4% (all overlapping Croix de fer North).
Beautiful views over the first few kilometers after leaving Saint Jean de Maurienne.
Top left and bottom right photo: Aiguilles d’Arves
The Aiguilles d’Arves is a mountain in the Arves massif of the French Alps comprising three separate peaks. These peaks are visible early on in the climb to Col de Croix de Fer and continue to be visible as we make our way over the final few kilometers from Saint Sorlin-d’Arves to the col.
We reach the ski area of Saint Sorlin-d’Arves at kilometer 22.
This climb is one of the longest in the area at 29 kilometers, although there are 2 moderate descents along the route - 2.4 km -2.5% and 2.7 km -2%. The steepest 500 meter segment is 10.3% and steepest kilometer 9.8%.
There are six gorgeous kilometers of cycling between the ski resort and col.
Views over the last few kilometers.
Note Aiguilles d’Arves photo bottom left.
Kilometer monuments mark our route from Saint Jean de Maurienne to the top.
At 3 kilometers, stunning views of the valley below and Aiguilles d’Arves.
FINISH - COL DE CROIX DE FER (IRON CROSS)
The Pass of the Cross (Croix de Fer) has been featured in the Tour de France
21 times between 1947 and 2022 - #20 on Stage 12 2022 TdF
Chalet du Col de la Croix de Fer
4.1 rating on 53 Google Reviewds - we very much enjoyed our meal there.
TOUR DE FRANCE
TOP 10 MOST FREQUENT CLIMBS OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE
AND 10 FAMOUS ONES AFTER THAT
As of 2023 Col de la Croix de Fer has been featured in TdF 21 times.
Visit our 2023 Tour de France page
It was on the Croix de Fer on Stage 18 (July 22) of the 1986 Tour de France that Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault distanced themselves from the all others and dueled for the stage win. Hinault, in search of what would have been a record sixth Tour victory, was trying to make up three minutes lost the day earlier to Lemond on the Col d’Izoard on Stage 17. He attacked on Col du Galibier and Croix de Fer but could not shake Lemond and the two crossed the line in the same time with Hinault winning the stage, but Lemond the tour.
Gino Bartali and Louison Bobet - Croix de la Fer TdF 1948.
Photo: Silvano Bottaro, Pinterest
Greg Lemond on the Croix de Fer in 1989 (his second of three TdF wins).
Photo: Steve Selwood
Vincenzo Nibali took heat for looking back at disabled Froome on TdF 2015 Stage 19, then attacking.
Wikipedia has a good summary of this popular pass:
“Col de la Croix de Fer (English: Pass of the Iron Cross) (el. 2067 m.) is a high mountain pass in the French Alps linking Le Bourg-d'Oisans and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
The approach from the northeast from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is 29.5 km at an average gradient of 5.5% with some sections at 9.5%, and the one from the southwest from Rochetaillée 31.5 km at an average gradient of 5.75% with short sections in excess of 11%. When coming from Rochetaillée, the road forks 2.5 km before the summit, leading to the Col du Glandon. There is also an approach from the north from La Chambre via Col du Glandon which is the hardest: 22.7 km at an average gradient of 7.0% (this is the route used for the 2012 Tour de France).
The pass has featured in the Tour de France nineteen times since it was first passed in the 1947 tour when the race was led over the summit by Fermo Camellini. It was crossed on Stage 11 of the 2012 race, between Albertville and La Toussuire-Les Sybelles. In the 2015 race it was passed twice in the two finale mountain stages stage 19 between Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to La Toussuire - Les Sybelles, and from the other side in stage 20 between Modane to Alpe d'Huez. The route for stage 20 was changed in June 2015 caused by a landslide in April so Col de la Croix de Fer substitutes both Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier.”