The Col Du Galibier

The Galibier is one of the hardest road passes in Europe, and for good reason. It’s been the scene of many legendary moments in cycling history, including Fausto Coppi’s career-defining solo attack in 1952 and Marco Pantani’s Tour de France winning move in 1998 (he was actually the first to the top of this pass, a bit more modest than the north side).

Rising 2,645 metres (8,668 ft), the Galibier is located in the Dauphine Alps and connects Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne with Briancon over the Col du Telegraphe and Col du Lautaret. It is the eighth highest paved mountain pass in the Alps, and a recurrent fixture on the Tour de France.

With an average gradient of over six per cent the Galibier is no easy ride, but fortunately the first few kilometers are relatively easy and allow you to warm up and get into a climbing rhythm. The landscape starts to change at the halfway point with a series of beautiful hairpins. Above 2,000m the air is thinner and you’ll certainly feel the difference in your breathing, but it doesn’t take long to reach the summit, a stunningly beautiful spot with commanding views over the high mountains of the Alps.

You’ll find cafes, restaurants and a couple of toilets on the top, which are well worth a stop to enjoy the spectacular scenery and take in the feeling of achievement that you have reached one of the most important road climbs in the world. You can also admire the monument to the great Marco Pantani, whose last Tour de France victory on this col in 1998 was a truly remarkable moment in the sport of cycling.

The col is a true gem, especially on a sunny day. The roads are incredibly quiet, so you can enjoy the incredible views and the magnificent feeling that you have conquered one of the toughest mountain passes in the world.

The Col du Galibier is a must-do for any cyclist visiting the Alps. It’s very tough from the north side, but the breathtaking views and its reputation as a regular feature of the Tour de France make it worth climbing even for a non-professional cyclist.  col du galibier