Cycling / Biking / The Alps

The best Tour de France routes in the Alps

The routes of the Tour de France are a dream for cycling enthusiasts around the globe! In the Alps, road cycling has established itself as a key activity – and for good reason! These massifs are full of unmissable Alpine routes which will challenge all abilities.

Read on to discover the most beautiful routes where you can follow the tracks of some of the world’s most renowned cyclists!

Routes for experienced cyclists

A black and white photo of cyclist Andrès Gandarias
Follow in the tracks of Andrès Gandarias © Office de Tourisme de Valmorel

The most technical, the best turns

The Col du Glandon | Saint-Colomban-des-Villards

A road zigzags up a mountain, with flowers in the foreground
Roads like this are an exciting challenge for keen cyclists © Alpes4ever

📏 Length: 21.3km for the north side

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 20 – the first in 1947 and the latest in 2015

🚨 Difficulty: Difficult with an average slope of 7.2%

🚩 Final altitude: 1,924 metres

📈 Elevation gain (sum of cumulative altitude differences while climbing): 1,472 metres

Starting from the station of La Chambre or St-Etienne de Cuines, this wild alpine route is climbed in two stages. The first part is done in the cool of the forest, while the second climbs into the mountain pastures.

Regularly with a gradient of more than 8%, this route sometimes reaches more than 10% in the final kilometres. All this in a setting between villages and summits at the foot of the Belledonne massif.

Once at the top, you can see Mont Blanc in the distance. The Glandon, less well known than its neighbour, the Col de la Croix de Fer, is no less impressive with its dizzying twists and turns. S-shaped bends force every cyclist to change direction radically, with the hairpins giving these routes their unique Alpine characteristic!

The Col de la Madeleine | Valmorel

Cyclists head for a hairpin bend in the mountains
Roads like this are a challenge for the legs but a treat for the eyes © Office de Tourisme de Valmorel

📏 Length: 19.3km for the south face

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 27 – the first in 1969 and the latest in 2020

🚨 Difficulty: One of the hardest, it is rated as a non-category due to its length and incline. The average gradient is 8%, with passages at 11%.

🚩Final altitude: 1,993 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 1,522 metres

This pass at an altitude of almost 2,000 metres has thrilled Tour de France cyclists for many years now. The Spaniard Andrès Gandarias was the first to reach the summit in snow showers in 1969, during the 10th stage of the Tour de France.

This mountain peak is one of the three most popular uncategorised climbs in the Tour de France. The start of the southern slope also leaves from La Chambre station.

There is very little respite during this demanding climb, which takes you through meadows with a clear view over the valley. A small section of this alpine route passes through the forest, finishing in mountain pastures.

The cyclist Le Varois holds the speed record, having climbed this summit in 56 minutes.

The Col de Joux Plane | Samoëns

Three cyclists on a path around a lake, with snowy peaks behind them
A magnificent view of Mont Blanc © Christian Martelet/mescolsetsouvenirsdutourdefrance

📏 Length: 11.6km for the south face

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 13 – the first in 1978 and the latest in 2016 (passage planned in the 14th stage of the Tour de France 2023).

🚨 Difficulty: Difficult, with an average gradient of 8.5%

🚩 Final altitude: 1,691 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 989 metres

This is the ascent of the southern slope, the best known, and the one used by the Tour de France. Starting from Samoëns, this mountain biking route offers a breathtaking view of Mont Blanc. Beginning in the mountain pastures, then travelling through the forest, the panorama then opens up onto the summits and at the Joux Plane pass, the lake welcomes you.

This is a perfect alpine route in spring, when you can escape the heat of the sun. However, there are still plenty of cyclists and walkers in the summer. The mid-season is therefore ideal if you want to make the most of the calm and the wonderful colours of the mountains.

An interesting fact – it was after the ascent of the Col de la Joux Plane that the rider Floyd Landis declared positive for doping, and was disqualified in 2006. It’s a climb described by the greatest as very difficult. Make sure you warm up!

Find a chalet in Samoëns


The Col de la Colombière | Le Grand Bornand

A road passes through the mountains on a sunny day
A beautiful route through the mountains © Office de Tourisme Le Grand Bornand

📏 Length: 16.3km for the north-east side

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 23- the first in 1960 and the latest in 2021

🚨Difficulty: the longer and more tricky north-eastern side, with an average gradient of 6.8% and a maximum of over 10%

🚩 Final altitude: 1,613 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 1,108 metres

This ascent of the north side from Scionzier is much less easy than the south side from Le Grand Bornand.

The first two kilometres are important to warm up because the rest of the climb will not be easy! The most striking aspect of this alpine route is the trompe-l’oeil at the end. When you get to the last part, you will think you can see the chalet at the finish quite close, but that’s not the case!

This optical effect can discourage some, but prolongs the pleasure for others. The magnificent landscapes of the Aravis range will, briefly, distract from the difficulty.

This is another pass which is more pleasant to climb in spring, to avoid the scorching temperatures of summer. And the snowy summits make for breathtaking views during this period.

Book your stay in Le Grand Bornand


The Tour de France’s most iconic routes

The Col du Galibier | Valloire

Cyclists tackle a steep climb in front of snowy peaks
An emblematic climb that your legs will remember! © Tim de Waele

📏 Length: 18km from Valloire, north side

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 37 – the first in 1947 and the latest in 2022

🚨Difficulty: Very difficult, uncategorised with an average slope of 6%

🚩 Final altitude: 2,645 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 1,289 metres

This is one of the most emblematic passes of the Tour de France.

The Galibier is the second most-used pass after the Tourmalet and is an institution in road cycling. In fact, it was on this very route that Marco Pantani pedalled to victory in 1998.

It consists of three stages. The first one shows the pace. The second is still impressive, in a wild setting. And for the third, much shorter stage, the famous phrase “it’s all in the mind” takes on its full meaning! You’ll have to tackle a steep slope with a view of the summit, which can deter some!

For amateur cyclists, some training is necessary before taking on this pass. For hardened climbers, it’s a pure challenge! Vertiginous roads guaranteed.

The Col de l’Iseran | Tignes

Cyclists climbing a road surrounded by snow-capped mountains
Climb this magical pass © David Savary

📏 Length: 32km for the south face, 47.6km for the north face

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 8 – the first in 1938 and the latest in 2019

🚨 Difficulty: Very hard, it is the longest pass in France with an average slope of 4.1% for the north side, shorter, but with an average slope of more than 5% for the south side.

🚩 Final altitude: 2,764 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 2,000 metres for the north side, 1,446 metres for the south side

This iconic route of the Tour de France in the Vanoise National Park is one of the highest roads in the French Alps.

The north side, considered the longest, is less authentic than the south side. It passes through Bonneval-sur-Arc, which is listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.

The south face, from Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis, offers a more irregular ascent, leading to endless hairpins.

The north face, from Bourg-Saint-Maurice, offers slower progress with more traffic, but it is no less emblematic.

In the heart of the high mountains, this marvellous Alpine route is a must for cycling enthusiasts. If you want to reduce the journey time, the route can start from intermediate villages. On the north side, you can start from Val d’Isère, and on the south side, from Bonneval-sur-Arc.

Alpe d’Huez | Alpe d’Huez resort

A series of hairpin bends on a mountain road
Tackle Alpe d’Huez’s notorious hairpin bends on your bike! © Laurent Salino/Alpe d’Huez Tourisme

📏 Length: 13.1km

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 31 – the first in 1952 and the latest in 2022

🚨 Difficulty: regular, but complex with an average gradient of 8.2%

🚩 Final altitude: 1,850 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 1,073 metres

The Alpe d’Huez route is a legendary challenge for any cyclist. With its 21 twists and turns, it requires a certain regularity from its starting point at Bourg-d’Oisans.

At each bend, there is a numbered sign showing the name of a winner of this Tour de France route with the corresponding year – ideal to encourage riders!

One of the most important achievements of this route is that of the Spaniard Carlos Sastre. In 2008, he embarked on an unforgettable ascent, alone, which earned him the yellow jersey. The legs get hot, but it’s worth it, just to be in the shoes of the great names of cycling, if only briefly!

The Col de la Croix de Fer | Les Sybelles

A chairlift passes overhead as a cyclist takes on a mountain road on a hot day
An ascent that takes you through wonderful scenery © Cyclist

📏 Length: 28.2km from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 21 – the first in 1947 and the latest in 2022

🚨 Difficulty: One of the most irregular passes, with an average gradient of 5.23%

🚩 Final altitude: 2,067 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 1,475 metres

This Tour de France route offers breathtaking landscapes, as well as its length and irregularity!

While you’re pedalling, you can marvel at the Argentière peaks, the Belledonne mountain range, the Arves peaks and numerous waterfalls.

It’s a glorious setting, but expect a high number of cyclists due to the mythical nature of this Alpine route. Historically, no cyclist has ever crossed the pass in the lead twice in a row… are you ready for the challenge?

The more accessible Alpine routes

A winding road, a chalet and mountains as far as the eye can see
Mountains as far as the eye can see © mauritius images / Plamen Petrov / Alamy

Challenge yourself

The Col des Aravis | La Clusaz

Two cyclists pass a sign for the Col des Aravis
The cycle might be hard but the views are stunning © Office de Tourisme Savoie Mont-Blanc

📏 Length: 18.9km from Thônes

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 40 – the first in 1922 and the latest in 2020 (planned for the Tour de France 2023)

🚨 Difficulty: Not very difficult and fairly regular, with an average gradient of 4.58%

🚩 Final altitude: 1,486 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 866 metres

This mountain bike route crosses the Aravis mountain range and passes through several well-known resorts such as St Jean de Sixt, Le Grand Bornand and La Clusaz.

The winding route will reward you with some incredible panoramic views. At the top, you’ll find a few shops and above all an incredible view of Mont Blanc – a great excuse to catch your breath and rest your calves! This is an ideal mountain road for training before tackling the more technical passes.

Cycling friendly chalets in the Aravis


Le petit Saint-Bernard | La Rosière

A cyclist on a road above cloud level, with mountain tops
Rise above the clouds! © Office de Tourisme Savoie Mont-Blanc

📏 Length: 30km from Bourg-Saint-Maurice

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 4 – the first in 1949 and the latest in 2009

🚨Difficulty: Not very difficult, with an average gradient of almost 5%

🚩Final altitude: 2,188 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 1,379 metres

This mountain pass links France and Italy. The first few kilometres are fairly hard, then the road becomes straighter. The climb is then very regular, with more than 20 hairpins.

Wonderful views follow one another until you get to the high mountain resort of La Rosière. Here the road is rolling and pleasant, making it the perfect way to tackle a 2,000-metre peak. A real invitation to cross into Italy.

The Cormet de Roselend | Les Arcs

Six cyclists pass a pretty chapel on the edge of a lake
A beautiful view of the Lac de Roselend © Le Républicain Lorrain

📏 Length: 20.3km from Beaufort

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 12 the first in 1979 and the latest in 2021 (planned for the Tour de France 2023)

🚨 Difficulty: Quite difficult, with an average gradient of 6%.

🚩 Final altitude: 1,968 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 1,227 metres

Le Cormet de Roselend is one of the most beautiful Alpine routes. The wonderful mountain scenery, the clear waters of the Lac du Roselend and the cheese farm at the top make this route a must!

The first part of the climb takes you through the woods and hides the biggest challenges. The second part follows the Lac du Roselend and climbs to the pass through the mountain pastures.

Open from mid-October to mid-May, this is a biking route to be discovered as early as you can in the low season.

Autumn and spring will offer you sublime landscapes with unique colours! And of course, there will always be less traffic compared to the summer.

An introduction to cycling in the mountains

The Col du Lautaret | Serre-Chevalier

A cycle rests against a signpost at the top of a climb
Getting to the top makes the ride worth the effort! © Pierre J

📏 Length: 26.1km from Briançon

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 42 – the first in 1950 and the latest in 2019

🚨 Difficulty: No particular difficulty despite its length. Its average slope is 3%

🚩 Final altitude: 2,057 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 800 metres

The only difficulty of this alpine route lies in its length and its exposure to the wind. The ascent is fairly linear with nice straight lines, which is a treat for cyclists! You’ll cycle up the Guisiane valley, surrounded by mountain scenery, between the Cerces and Écrins massifs.

This ride is often a crossing point for the contestants of the Tour de France, the final goal being the Col du Galibier. So it’s a great test for your legs and your endurance!

The Col du Télégraphe | Valloire

A close-up of Tour de France cyclists
Even the riders in the Tour de France find these roads a challenge ©

📏 Length: 11.8 km from Saint Michel de Maurienne

🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 36 – the first in 1911 and the latest in 2022

🚨 Difficulty: Not very difficult and regular, with an average gradient of 7.25%

🚩 Final altitude: 1,566 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 856 metres

A springboard to the Galibier pass, this alpine road is wide and regular. Winding through the hairpins is a great opportunity to test your ability on the link from Saint Michel de Maurienne to Valloire.

A word of advice: in summer, this pass is very busy with traffic, so opt for autumn or spring for a successful experience! The breathtaking views from the summit will provide the perfect balance between sporting challenge and visual pleasure.

The Col des Gets | Les Gets

A group of cyclists speed down a mountain road
Are your legs ready for this? © Office de Tourisme des Gets

📏 Length: 7.4km from Morzine

 🚴 Number of times featured in the Tour de France: 11 – the first in 1975 and the latest in 2010 (village stage for the Tour de France 2023)

🚨 Difficulty: Fairly easy with an average gradient of 4%

🚩 Final altitude: 1,163 metres

📈 Elevation gain: 277 metres

If you want a gentle introduction to alpine cycling, this route is a great place to start. It’s fairly short, with an easy gradient, so it’s ideal for beginners. Plus, the road remains wide throughout, ensuring your safety from traffic!

With plenty of shade, there is little risk of extreme heat, but beware of the crowds – it’s best to stick to the low season when it’s quieter. A good first pass to put you in the shoes of the Tour de France riders…

The French Alps are full of Alpine roads that are familiar to the Tour de France. Whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned rider, it’s the perfect place for a cycling holiday, with twists and turns, scenery, steep climbs and beautiful descents.

The “cols réservés” scheme, for experienced cyclists, allows you to discover the most beautiful roads of the Tour de France in the Alps. As the roads are closed to motorised vehicles, you can ride freely – it’s a golden opportunity to train and have the most fun!

Would you like to know more about sporting events in the mountains such as the Tour de France? Then the following topics should appeal to you:

Cycling friendly chalets in the Alps


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