Col d’Izoard – cycling routes and practical information

Col d’Izoard is a famous cycling climb located in the southern part of the French Alps. It was first used in the 1922 Tour de France and has featured 36 times since. The top of the climb reaches an altitude of 2,360m making it one of the higher elevations available in the French Alps. From Guillestre the climb to the summit is 30.5km in length at an average gradient of 4.8%. On the other side, the climb starts in Briançon and is 19.5km in length with an average gradient of 5.9%. When used in the Tour de France it is considered an HC climb meaning it is one of the most difficult.

Image sourced from – Pline / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Col d’Izoard – a long climb with steep gradients

This ride is a loop so you can choose to do it in either direction. Whichever side of the Izoard you choose to ascend you are in for a tough climb. Gradients reach double figures and the climb from either approach is a long one. Make sure to head off with plenty of food and water and allow the mountain landscape to distract you as you pedal your way to the top.

Casse Déserte – a lunar landscape on the Col d’Izoard

Iconic images of riders making their way through the lunar-like landscape of the Casse Déserte are synonymous with the climb of the Col d’Izoard and you will feel like you have pedaled your way to another planet once you reach this section of the climb. At over 2300m/7700ft in elevation at the summit, this is a truly epic climb of the Alps and you will appreciate its legendary status in the Tour de France. Take your time at the top to look at the museum which features tributes to cycling greats such as Fausto Coppi. Once you’ve caught your breath you can settle in for that long descent all the way back to Briançon.

Suggested cycling route

Distance: 87km / 54.2mi

Start elevation: 1,318m / 4,323ft

Max elevation: 2,360m / 7,743ft

Metres climbed: 2,203m / 7,229ft

Metres descended: 2,203m / 7,229ft

Categorised climbs: 1

Food and water

This is a challenging route so make sure you stock up with plenty of food and water before you leave Briançon.

You will have the opportunity to re-stock at Guillestre.

Highlights

* Riding through the infamous Casse Desert will have you at times wondering if you are riding on the moon.

* A ride to the summit of another infamous Tour de France peak over 2200m/7700ft

Col d’Izoard climb statistics and gradient profile

Gradient profile for Col d'Izoard from D947 turnoff

Col d’Izoard

Length: 30.5km / 18.9mi

Average gradient: 4.8%

Start point: Guillestre

Elevation at top: 2,360m / 7,743ft

Gradient profile for Col d'Izoard from Briancon

Col d’Izoard

Length: 19.5km / 12.1mi

Average gradient: 5.9%

Start point: Briançon

Elevation at top: 2,360m / 7,743ft


Everything you need to know about cycling the Col d’Izoard

How long will it take to cycle the climb?

Generally speaking, it will take a well-trained cyclist anywhere from 1hr 20min to 2hrs to climb the Col d’Izoard from the Briançon approach, and anywhere between 2hr to 3hrs from Guillestre.

How steep is the gradient of the climb?

The average gradient of the Col d’Izoard is 5.9% from Briançon and 4.8% from the Guillestre approach. Both sides of the climb do have very steep pitches which reach between 11 and 13% so be aware of this.

Can a beginner cycle the Col d’Izoard climb?

While it will be very difficult is certainly possible for a beginner to take on the challenge of riding to the top of the Col d’Izoard. If you do plan to cycle this climb and are a beginner we would recommend you practice riding some hills prior to your trip. Be sure to keep on top of your food and water on this ride. It is possible to also hire an e-bike which will make the climb a bit more manageable for beginners, just be aware to conserve the battery so that you have enough to get to the top of the climb and back.

How hard is the climb?

The Col d’Izoard is a difficult mountain pass and is rated as an Hors Categorie (HC) climb. This is the most difficult climb categorization owing to the steep gradients, length, and altitude of the climb.

What is the elevation at the summit of the Col d’Izoard?

The very top of the climb sits at an elevation of 2360m / 7743ft. It is one of the highest paved road passes in the Alps.

Where is the climb located?

The Col d’Izoard is located in the Hautes-Alpes in France. It is also very close to the border with Italy.

When is the best time of year to plan to cycle the climb?

Owing to its high elevation the road to the Col d’Izoard is normally late to be cleared of winter snow. Hence the best time to cycle the Col d’Izoard is during the summer months between June and September.

How many times has the Col d’Izoard climb been used in the Tour de France ?

The Col d’Izoard first featured in the Tour de France in 1922 and since then has featured a total of 35 times. Due to its proximity to Italy, the climb has also been used in the Giro d’Italia on 7 occasions.

What is the best way to travel to the climb?

Due to its location within the Hautes Alpes, the best way to travel to the base of the Col d’Izoard climb is either by car or alternatively, you can take a train to Briançon.

Are there any facilities at the top of the climb?

At the summit of the Col d’Izoard, there is a small cafe where you can resupply with food and water.

Where is the closest bike rental to the Col d’Izoard?

You will be able to hire a bike to cycle the Col d’Izoard from the base of the climb in both Briançon. and Guillestre

Where is the best place to base yourself to ride the climb?

We recommend basing yourself in the Serre Chevalier valley if you plan to cycle the Col d’Izoard. There are numerous options in Briançon itself and this will also allow you to ride other climbs in the surrounding area including the Col du Lautaret and Col du Galibier as well.

Discover our comprehensive guide to Cycling in the French Alps

The Col d’Izoard is just one of many great cycling routes you can choose to ride when holidaying in the French Alps.

If you are not familiar with the cycling on offer in the French Alps, 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 Nice
  • non-cycling attractions and activities in the region

Click here to see a list of cycling routes available in the French Alps Our cycling route suggestions start in Nice as we know from experience the majority of people visiting the area will stay in, or close to the city.