23rd September, 2011
One of the great cols of the Tour de France included here with the prequel up the Télegraphe giving over 2000m of climbing and finishing at 2645m.
This superb col is almost as big as they come. The sustained climbing effort over first the Télegraphe, and then the Galibier itself, is a major trip for any road-biker. Although never desperately steep it is unrelenting and a bigger undertaking than other giants like Mont Ventoux from Bedoin. The scenery is spectacular and follows the familiar pattern for a lot of Alpine road climbs - start in the trees (and usually extreme heat) and wind upwards higher and higher until you cross the tree-line. Then things usually get even hotter. With the Galibier though you actually get so high that it starts getting cold again. On our ascent the temperature was 35 degrees at the base of the Télegraphe and 5 degress on the summit of the col. Choosing the correct clothing for this can be quite tricky especially since you want to be as light as possible. A good windproof layer is essential, something with a bit of warmth in it will be very welcome on the descent. The route itself is easy to follow since it is extremely well signed, and if you can't follow those then follow the other road-bikers. This route card, together with the Croix de la Fer and Alpe d'Huez, make up the three big climbs on the Marmotte tour. This annual event starts in Bourg de Oisans at the foot of Alpe d'Huez, then takes the huge road loop round the afore-mentioned climbs before dropping down to the Col de Lautaret and back down through La Grave to Bourg de Oisans. To top it all off you finish up Alpe d'Huez. Although the event is on a single day, the course itself is a target for road-bikers all summer long. Having ridden all three major climbs of the Marmotte on separate days I under no illusion as to how hard this massive circuit is! A route card will follow if I ever get round to it.
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Distance: 21.23 miles (34.17 km)
Total ascent: 2,200m
Steepest Gradient: 19% (1 in 5)
Time: 2:30 – 5 hours (Road biking)
Additional InformationStart Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, Savoie, France, 45.2157, 6.4749; Finish The Col du Galibier (2545m), 45.0640, 6.4081
Name of the town nearest to the start of this route
Very good quality road surfaces due to it being a frequent stage in the TdF. The roads are wide and pleasant to cycle without too much bad traffic.
The Galibier itself often has a dusting of snow in July and August so this is strictly summer only. The downside of that is you are likely to be hot on much of the ride but the summit is almost always cold.
Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne is not such a tourist spot. It may have bike hire but I haven't been able to find it. Valloire certainly does offer bike hire both road and mountain.
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by Alan James - UKC and UKH