Hairpin 11 after 2018 TdF Stage 12.
The Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne area of the French Alps has the greatest concentration of famous Tour de France bike climbs than any other area of France. We travelled to this area twice to document the top climbs there and hope to return many more times. This area is without a doubt a “must visit” location for any cyclist interested in experiencing some of the greatest bike climbs in the world.
THE MOST FAMOUS CLIMB IN THE
FEATURED 29 TIMES IN THE TOUR DE FRANCE
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 HARDEST CLIMB IN THE
COL DE LA MADELEINE SOUTH
Cycling Col de la Madeleine
Ride 18.8 kilometers gaining 1,477 meters to 1,957 meters at 8% average grade.
Included 24 times in the TdF between 1969-2018.
Col de Madeleine is one of the many exceptional HC climbs in the Saint Jean-de-Maurienne area. Add that as of 2019, it has been featured in the Tour de France 27 times since 1969 (admittedly late on the scene), and you have a true bucket list extraordinary climb!
Two cafes at the top.
THE MOST EPIC CLIMB IN THE
COL DU GALIBIER (VALLOIRE)
Col du Galibier -- one of the world’s epic cycling climbs.
As with many of the challenging and beautiful climbs of France, Galibier is fabulously famous because it has been blessed by the Tour de France justifiably many times (34 times since its first post WWII appearance in 1947 which was the first TdF since 1940 due to WWII). Most recently (as of 2017) Galibier was featured in The Tour in 2017 when debutante Primoz Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a TdF stage.
Bartali handing Coppi a water bottle on the Galibier in the 1952 TdF . . . or
Coppi sending it back to Bartali - the debate rages . . .