Cycling Col de la Croix de Fer North (Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines)
Ride 23 kilometers gaining 1609 meters at 6.9% average grade.
This is a wonderful and scenic climb near Saint Jean-de-Maurienne, which we consider to be the center of one of the great climbing areas of the world (Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne). There are three routes to the Col de la Croix de Fer (name means “Pass of the Cross”) and we have charted those in the “Routes in Area” selection for this Climb Page. The northern approach to this pass is by far the most difficult of the three. The climb is often featured in, and thus made famous by, the Tour de France.
Climb begins in Saint-Etienne-de-Cuines.
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:
Overlap Col du Glandon for the first 19.6 km.
Final 3.5 km is strictly Croix de Fer.
Les Sybelles is one of the largest skiable domains in France.
Visible through the frame are the 3 peaks of Aiguilles d’ARves (3,514 meters/11,529’).
The Croix de Fer (Iron Cross)
TOUR DE FRANCE
Gino Bartali and Louison Bobet -- Croix de la Fer TdF 1948.
Photo: Silvano Bottaro, Pinterest
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.
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.
Col de la Croix de Fer has appeared in the Tour de France 19 times between 1947 and 2017 (see bottom of page for details).
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” (Wikipedia - Col de la Croix de Fer).
Leader at the summit
Thomas De Gendt (BEL)
Alexandre Geniez (FRA)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE)
Peter Velits (SVK)
Michael Rasmussen (DEN)
Stéphane Heulot (FRA)
Rodolfo Massi (ITA)
Richard Virenque (FRA)
Eric Boyer (FRA)
Gert-Jan Theunisse (NED)
Bernard Hinault (FRA)
Joaquim Galera (ESP)
Federico Bahamontes (ESP)
Guy Ignolin (FRA)
René Marigil (ESP)
Fausto Coppi (ITA)
Gino Bartali (ITA)
Fermo Camellini (ITA)