Col du Galibier (Briancon) Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

6.4
FIETS
20.8 mi
DISTANCE
4,182 ft
GAINED
3.8 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

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

INTRO

This year the Col du Galibier will be climbed twice, from the Valloire side in Stage 11 and from Briancon in Stage 12.
See the 2022 Tour de France page for more details on these stages.

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via our interactive Profile Tool.
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CLIMB SUMMARY

panoramic view shows road winding through hills and valley below, snow-capped mountains in background

Cycling Col du Galibier from Col du Lautaret

Ride 8.6 kilometers gaining 569 meters at 6.7% average grade.

This is the southern approach to Col du Galibier.

A longer route is from Briancon and overlaps Col du Lautaret (route).

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

  • From Valloire: most popular;  climbed by 53,445 Strava members as of 01/25/20;
  • From Villar-D’arene: 11,154 Strava members as of 01/25/20; and
  • From from Lautaret: 37,338 as of 01/08/22.

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 is it

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

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

photo collage shows views in and around Col du Lautaret, wildflowers, grand alps, ski chalet-style buildings, signs for Col du Galibier, Valloire, St. Michel de Mne

In and around Col du Lautaret.

Briancon to Lautaret:  24.7 kilometers gaining 718 meters at 2.8% average grade.

The route from Briancon to Col du Galibier is really a combination of two climbs:  Briancon to Col du Lautaret, and Col du Lautaret to Col du Galibier. There is one 400-meter avalanche tunnel between Briancon and Col du Lautaret, but it is open on one side and does not create a hazard for cyclists, although there is no significant bike lane through it.

photo collage shows bike parked at various points along the route, grand alps in distance, street signs for Col du Lautaret

view looking back toward Col du Lautaret partway up Col du Galibier; bike parked next to signs for Sommet of Col du Galibier

View back to Col du Lautaret from 600 meters up Col du Galibier.

photo collage shows bike parked near different Summit signs along the way, grand alps, green grass along hillsides and valley below

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

As with all routes to Col du Galibier, the scenery along the way is simply stunning.

large tan stone monument to Henri Desgrange, founder of Tour de France

The monument in honor and to the memory of Henri Desgrange is one kilometer 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).

photo collage shows entrance to tunnel (refuge du Galibier), one kilometer from climb finish

The old tunnel is one kilometer from the top.

views of grand alps looking back toward Col du Lautaret near the finish of the climb; road can be seen in distance

Views back toward Col du Lautaret near the top of the climb.

photo collage shows of Col du Galibier, including many street and road signs, roadway snaking down mountainside

Views from and at Col du Galibier.

TOUR DE FRANCE

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 du Galibier has been featured in more TdFs than all but four other climbs.

©  PJAMMCycing.com

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

Col du Galibier has been featured in the Tour de France 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.

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:  Dr. Jean-Pierre de Mondenard 


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.”

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