Col du Galibier via Col du Telegraph

Taking in two mountain passes this route is a big day out on the bikes. Both the Col du Télégraphe and the Col du Galibier are regulars in the Tour de France. Both climbs were first included in the 1911 edition. It is hard to fathom how riders back then made their way up this huge pass on dirt roads and with wheels made of wood! This ride will see you take on the climb from the Northern approach which begins at Saint Michel de Maurienne. This is a very difficult ride both in terms of length as well as elevation. There are not many roads in Europe that are higher than the summit of the Galibier so keep this in mind when you set off.

Two cyclists at the top of Col du Galibier

Suggested cycling route

Distance: 97.6km / 60.7mi

Start elevation: 574m / 1,882ft

Max elevation: 2,642m / 8,668ft

Metres climbed: 2,753m / 9,031ft

Metres descended: 2,753m / 9,031ft

Categorised climbs: 2

Climb no 1. Col du Télégraphe

From Saint Michel de Maurienne the climb to the Télégraphe is 11km/7mi long with an average gradient of 7.5%. So named due to the Télégraphe towers which are at the top of the pass there are no real magnificent views on the ascent to take your mind off the climbing. Whilst technically the pass of the Télégraphe is a climb in its own right, it is also really the beginning of the climb to the Galibier as well. Of course, if the legs aren’t feeling up to it you could choose to make this a shorter ride and turn around at the top of the Télégraphe instead. If you do decide to continue on you can let the legs recover on the short 5km/3mi descent before the climb of the Galibier begins.

Climb No 2. Col du Galibier

The climb of the Galibier begins once you reach the town of Valloire. Right from the outset, the going is hard with gradients of 12% straight up! You’ll no doubt certainly be feeling the climb of the Télégraphe in the legs by now. Like the approach from the southern side, the road on this first section of the Galibier is surrounded by lush green meadows. Once halfway up the climb gets harder once more. Many hairpins to negotiate and steep gradients which seem to go on forever. The scenery up ahead tells the story. Huge mountains up ahead of you as you can trace the line of the road to the summit. If you feel your breathing is more labored than normal it is no doubt due to the altitude. The Galibier is the fifth highest mountain pass in Europe and even in the middle of summer pockets of snow can be found at the top. Once you pass the car tunnel, you are near the top with just 100m/329ft of climbing left to negotiate. Both the views and the feeling of being at the summit are something to be savored.

Food and water

This is a challenging riding route so you definitely want to make sure you have enough food and water with you.

You can top up at various points along this ride. Saint Michel de Maurienne and Valloire each have options for resupply.

Halfway up the ascent of the Galibier is the L’Auberge de Plan Lachat where you will also be able to refuel with refreshments.

Highlights

  • The Galibier and Telegraph are both infamous climbs of the Tour de France. Reaching the summit is a bucket list item for sure!
  • Cycling to the top of the Galibier – the fifth highest road in Europe – not many rides take you higher than this.
  • Panoramic views of the Massif des Écrins from the summit of the Galibier.
Gradient profile for Cold du Telégraphe from Saint Michelle de Maurienne

Col du Télégraphe

Length: 11.3km / 7mi

Average gradient: 7.5%

Start point: Saint Michelle de Maurienne

Elevation at top: 1,566m / 5,138ft

Gradient profile for Col du Galibier from Valloir

Col du Galibier

Length: 18km / 11.2mi

Average gradient: 6.87%

Start point: Valloire

Elevation at top: 2,642m / 8,668ft

Discover our comprehensive guide to Cycling in the French Alps

The ride of the Galibier and Telegraph is just one of many great cycling routes you can discover in the French Alps. This mountainous region is very popular with cyclists year-round.

If you are not familiar with the cycling available in the French Alps then our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:

  • a map of the French Alps with climbs and towns marked
  • where to base yourself whist on your cycling holiday
  • cycling hotels and lodges
  • bike hire outlets
  • getting to and from the main cycling hubs in the French Alps, including public transport connections
  • non-cycling attractions and activities in the region

Click here to see a list of cycling routes available in the French Alps.