Col du Galibier

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Col du Galibier
Col du Galibier (North view)
Elevation 2,642 m (8,668 ft)
Traversed byD902B
Location Savoie/Hautes-Alpes, France
Range Graian Alps
Coordinates 45°03′50.4″N06°24′28.8″E / 45.064000°N 6.408000°E / 45.064000; 6.408000 Coordinates: 45°03′50.4″N06°24′28.8″E / 45.064000°N 6.408000°E / 45.064000; 6.408000
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Col du Galibier
Location of Col du Galibier
Signpost at the Col du Galibier Col du Galibier 3.jpg
Signpost at the Col du Galibier
Col du Galibier (view of the northern side) Col du Galibier 090919.jpg
Col du Galibier (view of the northern side)

The Col du Galibier (el. 2,642 metres (8,668 ft)) [1] is a mountain pass in the southern region of the French Dauphiné Alps near Grenoble. It is the eighth highest paved road in the Alps, and recurrently the highest point of the Tour de France.


It connects Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and Briançon via the col du Télégraphe and the Col du Lautaret. The pass is closed during the winter. It is located between the massif d'Arvan-Villards and the massif des Cerces, taking its name from the secondary chain of mountains known as the Galibier.

Before 1976, the tunnel was the only point of passage at the top, at an altitude of 2556 m. The tunnel was closed for restoration until 2002, and a new road was constructed over the summit. The re-opened tunnel is a single lane controlled by traffic lights, which are among the highest such installations in Europe.


In 1876 the first passable road was opened between Maurienne and Briançon in the Oisans region. In the north the pass road begins in Valloire, only reachable via the Col du Télégraphe which is before Galibier and connects Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne with Valloire. In the south, the road begins at a level of 2,057 m Col du Lautaret, which connects Grenoble in the west with Briançon in the east. The highest point of this road was at an altitude of 2,658 m, 16 meters higher than nowadays. The road between Col du Lautaret is 24,5 kilometers long, 16 kilometers is the northern part, 8,5 kilometers is the south part. The road over the Galibier was first a natural road, later asphalted.

Construction and opening of crest tunnel 1890/1891

In the area of the summit it was hard to travel. This was the reason why in 1890 a crest tunnel (363 meters) was built, which was opened in 1891. The tube is four meters broad, a single track which can be passed only alternately. The new tunnel is at an altitude of 2556 meters, this is the reason why the highest point is now 102 meters lower. New build tunnel shortens the distance to 23 kilometers. 15 kilometers is the north part, 7,5 Kilometer is the south part and 0,5 kilometers is the crest tunnel.

Details of the climb

The last mountain pass cycling milestones along the climb from Valloire 2015 Mountain pass cycling milestone - Galibier from Valloire.jpg
The last mountain pass cycling milestones along the climb from Valloire

From the north, starting at Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne (including the Col du Télégraphe), the climb is 34.8 kilometres (21.6 mi) long, gaining 2,120 metres (6,960 ft) in height (an average of 6.1%). The actual climb to the summit starts at Valloire and is 18.1 kilometres (11.2 mi) long at an average of 6.9% (height gain: 1,245 metres (4,085 ft)). The maximum gradient is 10.1% at the summit.

From the south, the climb starts from the Col du Lautaret (el. 2,058 metres (6,752 ft)) and is 8.5 kilometres (5.3 mi) long at an average gradient of 6.9% (height gain: 585 metres (1,919 ft)) with a maximum of 12.1% at the summit.

On both sides of the Col du Galibier mountain pass cycling milestones are placed every kilometre. They indicate the distance to the summit, the current altitude, and the average slope in the following kilometre.

The Tour de France

The Col du Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911; the first rider over the summit was Emile Georget, who, with Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou were the only riders not to walk. [2]

The original summit was at 2556 m.; while the tunnel was closed from 1976 until 2002, the tour route went only over the pass closer to the mountain peak at 2645 m. In 2011, the Tour de France went through the tunnel for the first time during the 19th stage from Modane Valfréjus to L'Alpe d'Huez.

At the south portal of the tunnel, at the edge of the road, there is a monument to Henri Desgrange, instigator and first director of the Tour de France. The memorial was inaugurated when the tour passed on 19 July 1949. Whenever the tour crosses the Col du Galibier, a wreath is laid on the memorial. The Souvenir Henri Desgrange is awarded to the first rider across the summit of the highest mountain in each year's tour. In 2006, the prize of 5,000 euros was claimed on the Col du Galibier by Michael Rasmussen.

Since 1947, the Col de Galibier has been crossed 31 times by the Tour de France. It was scheduled to be used in 1996, but was left out at the last minute due to bad weather. As a result of snow on both the Col de l'Iseran and the Col du Galibier, the scheduled 190 km stage from Val-d'Isère to Sestriere in Italy was reduced to a 46 km sprint from Le-Monetier-les-Bains which was claimed by Bjarne Riis, resulting in him taking the yellow jersey which he retained to the finish in Paris.

In the 2008 Tour, the Col du Galibier had been crossed on 23 July in the 210 km stage 17 from Embrun to Alpe d'Huez.

The 2011 Tour climbed the Col du Galibier twice to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the pass in the Tour de France, including the first ever summit finish, won by Andy Schleck after a 60 km solo breakaway. This was the highest ever stage finish in the Tour de France. [3] It was scheduled to be used again in stage 20 of the 2015 Tour, but was left out nine days before the race start due to landslides in the Chambon Tunnel, situated towards the bottom of the descent of the climb.

Appearances in the Tour de France (since 1947)

YearStageCategoryStartFinishLeader at the summit
1947 81 Grenoble Briançon Fermo Camellini
1948 142 Briançon Aix-les-Bains Lucien Teisseire
1952 111 Le Bourg-d'Oisans Sestrières Fausto Coppi
1954 191 Briançon Aix-les-Bains Federico Bahamontes
1955 81 Thonon-les-Bains Briançon Charly Gaul
1957 101 Thonon-les-Bains Briançon Marcel Janssens
1959 182 Grenoble St-Vincent-d'Aoste Charly Gaul
1964 81 Thonon-les-Bains Briançon Federico Bahamontes
1966 161 Le Bourg-d'Oisans Briançon Julio Jiménez
1967 101 Divonne-les-Bains Briançon Julio Jiménez
1969 101 Chamonix Briançon Eddy Merckx
1972 14a1 Briançon Valloire Joop Zoetemelk
1973 81 Moûtiers Les Orres Luis Ocaña
1974 111 Aix-les-Bains Serre-Chevalier Vicente Lopez-Carril
1979 17 HC Les Menuires Alpe d'Huez Lucien Van Impe
1980 17 HC Serre-Chevalier Morzine Johan De Muynck
1984 18 HC Alpe d'Huez La Plagne Francisco Rodríguez
1986 18 HC Briançon Alpe d'Huez Luis Herrera
1987 21 HC Le Bourg-d'Oisans La Plagne Pedro Muñoz
1989 17 HC Briançon Alpe d'Huez Gert-Jan Theunisse
1992 14 HC Sestrières Alpe d'Huez Franco Chioccioli
1993 10 HC Villard-de-Lans Serre-Chevalier Tony Rominger
1998 15 HC Grenoble Les Deux Alpes Marco Pantani
1999 9 HC Le Grand-Bornand Sestrières José Luis Arrieta
2000 15 HC Briançon Courchevel Pascal Hervé
2002 16 HC Les Deux Alpes La Plagne Santiago Botero
2003 8 HC Sallanches Alpe d'Huez Stefano Garzelli
2005 11 HC Courchevel Briançon Alexander Vinokourov
2006 16 HC Le Bourg-d'Oisans La Toussuire Michael Rasmussen
2007 9 HC Val-d'Isère Briançon Mauricio Soler
2008 17 HC Embrun Alpe d'Huez Rémy Di Gregorio
2011 18 HC Pinerolo Col du Galibier Andy Schleck
2011 19 HC Modane Alpe d'Huez Andy Schleck
2017 17 HC La Mure Serre-Chevalier Primož Roglič
2019 18 HC Embrun Valloire Nairo Quintana

The Giro d'Italia

The 2013 Giro d'Italia climbed the Col du Galibier, although the stage had to be shortened by 4 km due to heavy snowfall.

See also

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  1. "Cols du Télégraphe et du Galibier".
  2. Woodland, Les (2003). The Yellow Jersey companion to the Tour de France. Random House. p. 151. ISBN   0-224-06318-9.
  3. "Tour de France organisers unveil 2011 route to suit climbers". 19 October 2010.