The Alps are home to legendary climbs turned household names by the annual visit of Tour de France. Pro riders battle up the likes of the Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier, Col de la Madeleine and the Alpe d’Huez.

These iconic summits present the ideal location for those wishing to make a cycling pilgrimage and suffer on the slopes of these giants of cycling.

The Alpine ranges span eight eight countries: France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Liechtenstein and Monaco.

The Alps Cycling Highlights

Alpe d'Huez

From Bourg d’Oisans

The 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez may not be the toughest, steepest, longest or most beautiful, but they provide what must be one of the most iconic stretches of climbing in cycling history.

El Pirata, Marco Pantani, holds the record for the fastest ever ascent at 37 mins 35 seconds. Mere mortals fulled on jam sandwiches and espresso can aim for the hour as being an exceptionally good time.

top 1,850 m


14.45 km


1,071 m elevation gain


8.1 % average gradient


11.5 % max gradient


Col du Galibier (via the Télégraphe)

From St Michel-de-Maurienne

The Galibier is one of the toughest climbs in cycling history. It’s most famous ascent is from the northern side and is an epic 34 km long. To reach the pass you must climb via the Télégraphe. After this the road gets steeper & steeper en route to a mighty summit at 2,642 m.

top 2,642 m


34 km


1,924 m elevation gain


5.5 % average gradient


12 % max gradient


Col de la Madeleine

South from la Chambre

The Col de la Madeleine is one of the most beautiful climbs in the Alps but it’s also one of the toughest. A brutal 19.2km at an average of 8% with 40 hairpins offers no respite, the saving grace is that the gradient remains pretty constant throughout meaning you can get into a (painful) rhythm.

The climb regularly features in the Tour de France but was last used five years ago in 2013 on Stage 19 between Bourg d’Oisans and Le Grand-Bornand meaning it’s long overdue a visit!

top 1,999 m


19.2 km


1,529 m elevation gain


8 % average gradient


12 % max gradient


Col d'Izoard

South from Guillestre

Col d’Izoard is steeped in cycling history, the Tour de France has featured the climb on 35 occasions but surprisingly only one of those was a summit finish. That finish was in 2017 and was won by French rider and polka-dot jersey winner Warren Barguil. On that same day even more history was made as the women’s pro peloton also raced to the summit with Dutch rider Annemiek Van Vleuten taking the win and posting a faster time than all but two male riders that day…

The climb itself has a deceptively low average gradient of 4.3% which is due to the gradual lower slopes, but the climb proper begins after around 15 kilometres whereafter the gradient pushes up to between 7 and 11%. The scenery alone is worth summiting the Izoard for, from the dramatic Casse Déserte to the panoramic Alpine views that can be seen from the top.

top 2,361 m


34.4 km


1,538 m elevation gain


4.3 % average gradient


11.5 % max gradient


Col de la Colombière

North from Scionzier

In the Arve valley near to the town of Cluses, Scionzer is where the Colombière starts proper. The climb can be split into two parts as there is an ‘easier’ point around half way with a plateau. The first section is under the cover of the forest and rises gradually from 3% up to 8% in the last few kilometres before it levels off. After, the road becomes a lot steeper with the gradient rising and rising up to the 10-11% slopes at the top. The rocky landscape gives way to make the summit visible from around 3km to go which can be both a blessing and a curse depending on how long the final few kms feel!



top 1,613 m


16.3 km


1,108 m elevation gain


6.8 % average gradient


10.2 % max gradient



Picture Postcard Alpine Town

In the Haute Savoie region of the Alps overlooking the snow-capped mountains and nestled next to the beautiful lake is the town of Annecy.

Cycling-wise Annecy is perfectly situated; a stone’s throw away from some of the most iconic climbs in the sport it is an ideal base for tackling the classic Alpine Cols. Post-ride activities are also aplenty including a walk along the canals which run through the pastel-coloured town giving it the nickname: ‘the Venice of the Alps’.

The vast beauty of ‘le lac d’Annecy’ is something that needs to be seen to be believed. So blue is the lake and so unrealistically perfect the snow-topped mountains that it’s hard to believe it isn’t in fact a painting. Indeed, the French artist Cézanne, despite sneeringly describing the view as one which “young lady travellers like to sketch in their albums”, painted it anyway, an indication of just how stunning it is.

Browse our Alps Cycling Tours

French Alps Cycling Tour

Alps Classic Climbs

Advanced | Road

Blogs from the Alps

Vuelta vs Tour de France Cycling in SpainTour de FranceWorld Tour
August 19, 2018

Is the Vuelta better than the Tour? Here’s 6 Reasons Why We Think It Is

It’s late summer in Europe, the season is drawing to a close, the classics are a distant memory, the excitement of the Giro and the Tour are behind us and…
Tour de France
July 21, 2018

Paddy Bevin Tour de France Diary; “Getting in the break is about skill, horsepower and luck”

Tour de France Diary Stage 13, Bourg d´Oisans to Valence, 170k We´re edging higher into the double digits for stages completed and thankfully, yesterday offered a little more respite than…
Tour de France
July 20, 2018

Paddy Bevin Tour de France Diary: “It was one of the most memorable climbs I´ve ever done”

Tour de France Diary: Stage 12, Bourg Sant Maurice Les Arcs - Alpe d´Huez, 175k When I eventually hang up my racing wheels, yesterday is one of the days I´ll…
Read More

Bespoke Cycling Tours

Perfectly crafted tours tailored just for you

Our trip was beyond fantastic and we give ESC many kudos. Thank you ESC for going above and beyond.

Remme, ChigacoBeyond Fantastic

ESC's local knowledge created a cycling trip that we won't soon forget. You just can't get this kind of attention and personalised catering from larger tour companies. I highly recommend booking your next cycling adventure with ESC. We're already looking forward to being with ESC in 2018. Chapeau, ESC!