Col du Glandon- East Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Col du Glandon- East

France

One of the great climbs in the climbing mecca of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

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Climb Summary


Cycling Col du Glandon from Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines

Ride 19.6 kilometers gaining 1530 meters at 7.4% average grade.

Col du Glandon from the east and west completely overlap Col de la Croix de Fer.  A map of the Glandon and Croix de Fer ascents is located here.  Here are the basic statistics for the three Croix de Fer climbs, together with the overlap information for Col du Glandon:

  • 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).

Col du Glandon has been included in the Tour de France 13 times since it was first introduced in 1947.  Glandon was not included after 1947 until 1977 and has been included sparingly thereafter (averaging about once every four years, 11 times in the 43 years between 1977 and 2020).  As of 2020, the last time Glandon had been included in the Tour was 2013.

The Glandon climbs are in the bike climbing mecca of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne which, in addition to Glandon, includes Telegraphe, Galibier, Chaussy, Madeleine, Croix de Fer and the Granddaddy of them all, Alpe d’Huez!,

The Col du Glandon eastern approach begins in Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines (population 1,198 as of 2014).  The climb passes through several villages over its 20 kilometers until reaching the col at 1,924 m (6,312’). As with nearly all the climbs in this area, the roadway is generally one wide or two narrow lanes but very safe for bike travel.  

Cycling Col du Glandon - col sign

Start in Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines.

WWI Memorial.

Narrow but safe and peaceful roadway.

TOUR DE FRANCE

It was on this legendary climb that one of the greatest cyclists of all time, Eddy Merckx, began to accept his decline:

“In the mythology of the Tour de France, he is the romantic hero, a sort of lion-hearted Don Quixote who is spurred on by his grand ideals and aggressive mood swings. Whatever his goals, the climber revels in testing his mettle on the most punishing slopes, and it is this archaic face-off with the high mountains that reveals him in his true splendour. Yet his enduring fascination lies in the fact that he is a rebel at heart, a non-conformist capable of overturning in a single day even the most static hierarchy. It always comes down to the mountain stages. It is there that champions meet their destiny and later, without further delegation, their decline.The greatest climbers accept this rule as the natural, inevitable order of things. Louison Bobet bade the Tour farewell in 1959 from the top of the Col de l’Iseran, the highest pass in the Alps, and the Belgian Eddy Merckx sensed the end was nigh on the Col du Glandon during the 1977 Tour de France where the once-mighty shadow he had cast over cycling had dwindled to a dance of death on wheels”  (Philippe Brunel, Born to Climb, The Mountains Made Their Name, Then Swallowed Them Alive, L’Equipe Explore, p. 1) [Emphasis added].

Cycling Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer sign, PJAMM cycling, bicycle

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.

Cycling Col du Glandon, Col de la Croix de Fer sign, PJAMM cycling, bicycle

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.[1] 

The Look, Alpe d’Huez Stage 10 2001 Tour de France.

Photo from J Barber and F Ruggeri as published in Masculine Heart.

Col du Glandon’s years of inclusion in the Tour de France:

Year

Stage

Category

Start

Finish

Leader at the summit

2013

19

HC

Le Bourg-d'Oisans

Le Grand-Bornand

 Ryder Hesjedal (CAN)

2004

17

1

Le Bourg-d'Oisans

Le Grand-Bornand

 Gilberto Simoni (ITA)

2001

10

HC

Aix-les-Bains

Alpe d'Huez

 Laurent Roux (FRA)

1997

14

1

Le Bourg-d'Oisans

Courchevel

 Richard Virenque (FRA)

1994

17

1

Le Bourg-d'Oisans

Val Thorens

 Richard Virenque (FRA)

1993

10

1

Villard-de-Lans

Serre-Chevalier

 Stefano Colagè (ITA)

1990

11

1

Saint-Gervais-les-Bains

Alpe d'Huez

 Thierry Claveyrolat (FRA)

1988

12

HC

Morzine

Alpe d'Huez

 Steven Rooks (NED)

1983

18

1

Le Bourg-d'Oisans

Morzine

 Serge Demierre (SUI)

1983

17

1

La Tour-du-Pin

Alpe d'Huez

 Lucien Van Impe (BEL)

1981

19

HC

Morzine

Alpe d'Huez

 Lucien Van Impe (BEL)

1977

17

1

Chamonix

Alpe d'Huez

 Lucien Van Impe (BEL)

1947

8

3

Grenoble

Briançon

 Edward Klabiński (POL)

(Wikipedia - Col du Glandon)


[1] 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.