Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Greatest cycling climbs #6 Col du Galibier

Location: French Dauphiné, Rhone-Alpes, France
Altitude: 2645 m

Col du Galibier (2645 m) is a mountain pass in the southern region of the French Dauphiné Alps near Grenoble. It is the ninth highest paved road in the Alps and the sixth highest mountain pass. It is often the highest point of the Tour de France. The Galibier can only be reached after the Col du Télégraphe or the Col du Lautaret and it is one of the toughest cols in professional cycling history.

Photo: Touho Häkkinen

This was one of the Tour de France 2011 key moments: Cadel Evans realized he had to take the chance and push hard from Lautaret to the top of the Galibier. Cadel had to attack for maintaining his option to the overall competition - Andy Schleck was riding alone ahead and the time loss should be minimized.

The Cadel Evans move!

IB Times San Francisco wrote:
"...with 60 km to go on Stage 18, Andy Schleck made the biggest move at that point in the Tour de France by attacking the peloton with two HC summits to go.
As Schleck approached the final climb up the Col du Galibier, the gap to Evans opened up to over four minutes and Evans' Tour hopes were beginning to disappear. With over 11 km to go, Evans had no BMC teammates to help him against the daunting climb ahead. As he looked around the sizable peloton, none of the other contenders were going to help him. This included defending champion Alberto Contador, who was already on the ropes at that point.
That is when Evans looked straight ahead at the four minute gap to Schleck and decided his Tour would be won or lost depending on how well he could chase down Schleck. With over two dozen of the best riders in the world behind him, Evans began pulling the entire peloton over those final kilometers of the treacherous climb.
One by one, riders fell off the peloton as Evans kept driving forward kilometers by kilometer, never looking behind him for help, but only looking forward as he began closing Schleck's gap down to three minutes.
Soon, Evans' was left with only a handful of riders including Contador and eventual King of the Mountains jersey holder Samuel Sanchez.
With a few kilometers, Sanchez was the first to crack and then it was formidable Contador who finally faltered and fell off the pace.
As Schleck crossed the 1 km mark to go, the steepest part of the Gablibier climb came and Schleck began to falter, his legs crumbling, pace slowing, just trying to reach towards the end. Schleck crossed the line, winning the stage in an incredible breakaway fashion, but the question remained, what the gap would be to Evans.
Evans approached the 1 km to go mark, with strength still in his legs. He conquered that kilometer, sprinting to the finish, and pushed down the gap to just over two minutes. The overall general classification deficit to Schleck remained at a manageable 57 seconds."

From north, starting at Le Châtelard (Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne) and including the Col du Télégraphe, the climb is 34.8 km long, gaining 2120 m in height (average 6.1 %). The actual climb to the summit starts at Valloire and is 18.1 km long at an average of 6.9 % (height gain 1245 m). The maximum gradient is 10.1 % at the summit.


From north ( Le Châtelard):
Length: 34.8 km (starting from Valloire 18.1 km)
Elevation: from 718 m to 2645 m
Total height gain: 2120 m (from Valloire 1245 m)
Average gradient: 6.1 % (from Valloire 6.9 %)
Maximum gradient: 10.1 %

From south, the climb starts from the Col du Lautaret (el. 2058 m.) and is 8.5 km long at an average gradient of 6.9 % (height gain: 585 m) with a maximum of 12.1 % at the summit. Coming from Briançon, there is already
before Col du Lauraret 10 km easier climbing - but still more than 4 % gradient all the way. This was the way of the Tour de France stage 2011 finishing at the Col du Galibier summit.


From south (Col du Lautaret):
Length: 8.52 km
Elevation: from 2058 m to 2645 m
Height gain: 587 m
Average gradient: 6.9 %
Maximum gradient: 12.4 %

The Col du Galibier is named after Le Grand Galibier, the mountain peak at 3228 metres that towers over the Col. Galaubié in 1183, Galiberi in 1516, Galeibier in 1660, and Galibié by the 18th century: the origin of the word Galibier has evolved  from  ”Galbert” who was a German in the region near the end of the first millenium (according to “Dictionnaire Étymologique” by Adolphe Gros).

The original summit was at 2556 m. While the tunnel was closed from 1976 until 2002, the tour route went over the pass loser to the mountain peak at 2645 m. In 2011, the Tour de France went through the tunnel during the 19th stage from Modane Valfréjus to L'Alpe d'Huez.

At the edge of the road at the south portal of the tunnel, there is a monument to Henri Desgrange, father and first director of the Tour de France. The memorial was inaugurated when the tour passed on 19 July 1949. Whenever the tour crosses the Col du Galibier, a wreath is laid on the memorial. The "Souvenir Henri Desgrange" is awarded to the first rider across the summit of the highest mountain in each year's tour - and that is normally the Col du Galibier.

The Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911; the first rider over the summit was Emile Georget, who, with Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou were the only riders not to walk. The Galibier has appeared 57 times in the Tour de France, the most of any col in the Alps but still fewer times than several cols in the Pyrénées.

It was scheduled to be used in 1996, but was left out at the last minute due to bad weather. As a result of snow on both the Col de l'Iseran and the Col du Galibier, the scheduled 190 km stage from Val-d'Isère to Sestriere in Italy was reduced to a 46 km sprint from Le-Monetier-les-Bains which was claimed by Bjarne Riis, resulting in him taking the yellow jersey which he retained to the finish in Paris.

Photo: Touho Häkkinen

Andy Schleck pushing for a magnificent stage win the last part from Lautaret 2011 - but it was not enough for the overall victory. The 2011 Tour climbed the Col du Galibier twice to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the pass in the Tour de France, including the first ever summit finish, won by Andy Schleck. This was the highest ever stage finish in the Tour de France.

Leaders at the Cold du Galibier summit since 2000:
2011/2 Andy Schleck, LUX
2011/1 Andy Schleck, LUX
2008 Stefan Schumacher, GER
2007 Mauricio Soler, COL
2006 Michael Rasmussen, DEN
2005 Alexandre Vinokourov, KAZ
2003 Stefano Garzelli, ITA
2002 Santiago Botero, COL
2000 Pascal Hervé, FRA

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