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The Alpine monster – Col du Galibier

Written and photographed by Daniel Hughes for Epic Cols.

The stats: 

  • Distance 34.8 km
  • Ascent 1,924 m
  • Average gradient 5.5%
  • Max gradient 12%

 

Considered the most iconic road bike climb in the French Alps, the Col du Galibier has featured many times in the Tour de France. This huge ascent is often favoured by WorldTour teams as a fitness test before the Tour. 

The scale of Galibier is vast. Nestled in the southern region of the Dauphine Alps, to reach the summit at 2,642 m from either the north or south, you must climb another col first. 34.8 km long, gaining 2,120 m, and with a maximum gradient of 12%, the ascent from the north is the more famous and challenging side. This route starts from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and also includes the Col du Télégraphe.

In short, the Col du Télégraphe is a constant zig-zag up 840 metres through tall trees, with a restaurant for coffee and to fill your bottles at the top. Then there’s a 4 km descent to the beginning of the main event, so you lose 165 metres of elevation before tackling it all again. This intermediate descent is hard to really enjoy, knowing you’ll have to earn those metres back again.

From the ski resort of Valloire, the next 10 km feature wide bends and magnificent views with gradients between 2-9%. Once up above the treeline and nearing the 8 km to go marker, the road conspicuously turns up the side of the mountain and the notorious Galibier battleground starts to unfold. Here the jagged and raw mountain landscape is revealed, surrounded by high peaks.

At 3 km to go, the hairpin bends cut sharply into the mountainside, where you’ll really feel the steepness of this road and shortness of your breath. Traces of snow are reminders of the high altitude, along with cooler temperatures even in summer.

Persistently steep, but with great views of the climb ahead, there is an option to take the tunnel straight on to the other side of the mountain with just 1 km to go. That might be tempting since you’re already at 2,556 m altitude and have over 100 metres remaining to climb, but is that really an option?! By this point your legs will be screaming but the reward is huge.

You’re about to summit one of the greats, to take in incredible views of both ascents from the north and south and of course get the mandatory shot of your bike against the sign.

Tour de France riders don’t have this luxury of stopping, and at best they might receive a feed musette. In 1911 only three riders made it to the top without walking their bikes, a sure indicator of the challenge that the Galibier poses.

@danielhughesuk Equipment:

Shimano Dura-Ace R9170

Di2 hydraulic groupset

System engineering at its peak. Each of the components magnifies the qualities of the others for an unparalleled level of performance.


Optimizing input to maximize output. That's how it achieves supremacy.

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Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P

Dual Sided Power meter

The choice of the world's best climbers, sprinters, and time trialists, the DURA-ACE R9100 crank drops weigh while maximizing power transfer. The new design, and its iconic look, is adapted for race specific disc brake systems while still offering a wide range of gearing and crank arm length options. The addition of a reliable, accurate, waterproof power meter makes this crank an even more valuable tool to serious cyclists. With a rechargeable Li-ion battery, left/right balance, and Bluetooth LE and ANT+ connectivity, the SHIMANO DURA-ACE Power Meter sets a new standard in cycling data collection.

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PRO Vibe Aero

Handlebar

An ultra-high performance handlebar constructed with Innegra fibers to ride the most punishing conditions. The new PRO Vibe Aero handlebar is built to meet cycling’s highest demands using state of the art technology. The Vibe Aero is developed with Di2 in mind offering ultimate integration for maximum aerodynamic performance and ultra-clean styling.

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PRO Vibe Carbon

Stem

High-end, full carbon stem

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Shimano Dura-Ace R9100

Pedals

  • Optimized balance of weight and rigidity
  •  
  • Injection-molded carbon-composite body
  •  
  • Extra-wide platform for stability and power transfer
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  • Wide bearing placement for uniform load distribution
  •  
  • Customize the entry and release tension settings
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  • SHIMANO 3-year limited warranty
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  • 4 mm longer axle model available

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@caralimccall Equipment:

Shimano Ultegra R8070

Di2 hydraulic groupset

ULTEGRA R8000 series is "pro-proven" as it is a direct trickle down from DURA-ACE groupset. As road bike component, the stress-free operation is one of the most important feature to lead all day riding comfort with braking and shifting.

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PRO Vibe Carbon

Stem

High-end, full carbon stem

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