The French Alps are a highly popular tourist area, known largely in part for being a major winter destination for skiing. Another major claim the French Alps have on fame is being an integral sight of the Tour de France. Other popular activities within the Alps include: snowshoeing and snowboarding during the winter months, and during the summer months, hiking, rock climbing, and even paragliding. Clearly athletes of all types flock to this area, and for good reason.
THE MOST FAMOUS BIKE CLIMB IN THE FRENCH ALPS,
AND THE WORLD!
Of the hundreds of climbs we have documented for PJAMM Cycling, Alpe d’Huez needs the least introduction -- everyone has heard of this most famous of all World Climbs! The finish is inauspicious (other than during the TdF of course), but it is the 21 well-known switchbacks and its rich TdF history that makes this ride “The One”!
Bernard Hinault sealed his 5th Tour victory on Alpe d’Huez 1985
Alpe d’Huez has become “the summit of the modern era,” and no other stage of the Tour de France has such presence. With its 21 bends, steep ramps, and massive crowds, it has become the “Hollywood climb,” according to the ride’s official historian, Jacques Augendre. Each year that this climb is included in the TdF, thousands of spectators flock to the area. The massive crowds create what some participants in the ride have described as a feeling of both fear and exhilaration, and as French journalist Philippe Brunel described the look of the road during Marco Pantani’s victorious ascent in the 1995 race, “that thin ribbon of burning asphalt, covered in graffiti, between two deafening walls of spectators, which threaded between his wheels.” Alpe d’Huez has been included in the Tour de France 29 times between its first appearance in 1952 (including two appearances in 1979 and 2013). Each of the 21 hairpins of this climb has been named after one or more of the winners of the 29 Tour de France stages to finish here. Of note, the first stage up this exceptional climb was fittingly won by the incomparable climber Fausto Coppi. Only three cyclists have won the Alpe d’Huez stage more than once: Marco Pantani (1995, 1997), Gianni Bugno (1990, 1991), and Hennie Kuiper (1977, 1978).
Fausto Coppi became the first stage winner of Alpe d’Huez -- Stage 10 1952 TdF
YouTube video of Coppi win
Photo: dw.com - 10 most memorable moments on Alpe d’Huez.
The Look, Alpe d’Huez Stage 10, 2001 Tour de France
Photo from J Barber and F Ruggeri as published in Masculine Heart.
Representing PJAMM Cycling on this awesome climb.
THE HARDEST BIKE CLIMB IN THE ALPS
COL DE LA MADELEINE SOUTH
FEATURED 25 TIMES IN THE TOUR DE FRANCE SINCE 1969
The southern approach of Col de Madeleine is very strenuous and a Top 100 World Climb, while the northern route is less difficult but extraordinarily beautiful. Although each is a little more of one than the other, both climbs are considered challenging and beautiful. If one finds themselves in the French Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Region and certainly in the Savoie Department of eastern France, this is simply a must-do set of climbs.
Begin climb in La Chambre.
Nice scenery -- but not what you get on the north side.
Saint-Francois-Longchamp ski area at km 11.
OUR FAVORITE CYCLING SEGMENT OF THE FRENCH ALPS
COL DE L'ISERAN FROM BONNEVAL-SUR-ARC
Col de l’Iseran, located in the French Alps, is a magnificent cycling climb.
This is the highest paved pass in Europe and has been included seven times in the Tour de France as of 2019.
Col de L’Iseran 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.
Col de L’Iseran is #30 in Hugh Merrick’s book The Great Motor Highways of the Alps, in which he writes that “the impression that emerges, rather like the stunning vistas of the Chalanson and Albaron glaciers as one nears the summit from the southern side, is of a feat of road building that was also in part a vanity project.”
Start of climb at Bonneval-Sur-Arc.
Road to the pass.
Looking back on the roadway below at 10 kilometers.
It’s pretty cool from Val-d’Isere as well.
BEST CYCLING HUB IN THE FRENCH ALPS
THE CENTER OF CYCLING IN THE FRENCH ALPS
If the genie in the bottle granted you one cycling wish, choose Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne because it HAS IT ALL! This area is abundant in fame, beauty and challenge. Hmmm, have you ever heard of Alpe d’Huez, Galibier,Télégraphe, The Iron Cross, Madeleine, I’Zoard, Glandon and Lacets de Montvernier?