A classic mountain pass of the French Dauphine Alps. It connects Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne in the north (via Col du Telegraphe) and Briancon in the south (via Col du Lautaret). It is the 8th highest paved road in the Alps and recurrently one of the highest points of the Tour de France route.
It is also the final climb in this year’s Marmotte cyclosportive, and for good reason. It is a monster of a climb, but one that is well worth undertaking for its sheer beauty and challenge.
The Galibier is a long and steady climb, with an almost perpetual incline. The first section, from Valloire to Plan Lachat, is fairly easy and you can find a nice rhythm and cadence. From there, the climb becomes steeper and more brutal. The last km to the summit are particularly hard work. This is a grueling climb even for experienced riders, so don’t underestimate it.
On the other hand, it is a wonderful place to ride because the views are simply stunning. Once you reach the top, you can see all the way back to the valley from which you started, as well as the high peaks of the Alps that surround you. The Galibier is a classic that should be on everyone’s cycling bucket list.
It was first included in the Tour de France in 1903, and climbed twice this year to celebrate its centenary. It is also included on the course for next year’s Tour, which will climb both sides of it as part of Stage 18. It has featured in the race many times since then, and some famous attacks have been launched on this infamous road. One of the most memorable was by Fausto Coppi in 1952, when he attacked with 15km to go and gained a massive three minutes on the next competitor. It was enough to give him the overall victory and he held on to it for the rest of the tour.
The road over the Galibier is closed in winter. However, it is possible to reach the pass on foot and take a short path that leads to the top from the parking area.
The summit offers an incredible panorama of the massifs of La Meije and the Guisane Valley, as well as the Barre des Ecrins and Le Pelvoux. It is also the highest point along the famous Alpe d’Huez route. On a clear day, you can even glimpse Mont Blanc from the top of the Galibier! It is also a great destination for picnics. There is a cafe near the tunnel entrance at the top, which can be very busy on Tour days or during other major races. The best time to visit the Col is in the autumn when it is not so crowded. col du galibier