Oct 19, 2023
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Col de L’Iseran, French Alps

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The Col de l’Iseran is a mountain pass in the French Alps, considered one of the kings of the Alps. Although the height marked by the summit sign says it is 2,770 meters high, many official maps give it 2,764 meters, making it one of the highest mountain passes in Europe, specifically the fourth. It is also the second highest pass in the Alps, behind only the Bonette, and the highest paved pass in the Alps.

  • Height: 2,764 meters
  • Route: D 902 road
  • Location: Savoie, France
  • Mountain range: Alps
  • Coordinates: 45°25′1″N 07°01′51″E

Col de L’Iseran is part of the French D 902 road and is part of the mountain passes of the Great Alpine Tourist Route. The pass is located in the French department of Savoie, very close to the Italian border. The pass connects the Isère valley with the Arc river valley.

The Road

The north side of the road begins in Bourg-Saint-Maurice and covers a total of 48 kilometers. This route has several tunnels and a maximum gradient of 12% as it skirts Lake Signes. On this side, the climb is part of the D 902 road and has an elevation gain of almost 2,000 meters.

Col de L'iseran

The south side is less extreme, starting in Lanslebourg-Mont Cenis, it takes 33 kilometers to reach the summit and the elevation gain is 1,300 meters, with maximum gradients of 10%.

On both sides of the climb, there are stone posts that indicate the kilometers remaining to the summit, the current altitude, and the gradient of the next kilometer.

When to go to Col de l’Iseran

Due to snow and bad weather, Col de l’Iseran is closed from October to May. So, if you’re traveling in the Alps and want to reach the summit, by car or by bike, you’ll have to do it in the summer season. Even in summer, choose the day of your climb wisely, as you may encounter wind, fog, and even snow. The climb could be dangerous and you may have to turn back. On a good day, the climb is very busy, as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Alps. So, you’ll likely encounter many cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.

Col de L’Iseran in the Tour de France

The Col de l’Iseran has the honor of being the first mountain time trial in the history of the Tour de France. The stage ended in Bourg-Saint-Maurice and was won by the Belgian Sylvere Maes. It was 1939, although the Col de l’Iseran was first climbed in the Tour in 1938. On that occasion, the Belgian Felicien Vervaecke was the first cyclist to reach the summit, but the Italian Gino Bartali overtook him on the descent. Bartali took the yellow jersey that day and went on to win that Tour de France.

The Col de l’Iseran has been climbed seven times in the history of the Tour. In addition to the two mentioned above, it was also climbed in 1949, 1959, 1963, 1992, and 2007. On the latter occasion, it was climbed on the ninth stage, which finished in the French town of Briançon and was won by the Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych.

In the 1996 edition, the Col de l’Iseran was scheduled to be climbed, but it was cancelled along with the Col du Galibier due to bad weather. The stage was originally supposed to be 290 kilometers long, from Val-d’Isère to Sestriere, but it was reduced to 46. Bjarne Riis won that day and went on to win his first Tour de France, ending Miguel Indurain’s five-year winning streak.

20079Val-d'IsèreBriançon Yaroslav Popovych (UCR)
199213Saint-GervaisSestriere Claudio Chiappucci (ITA)
196316Grenoble Val-d'IsèreFernando Manzaneque (ESP)
195918Le Lautaret Saint-VincentAdolf Christian (AUT)
194917Briançon AostaGiuseppe Tacca (FRA)
193916Bonneval Bourg-Saint-MauriceSylvère Maes (BEL)
193815Briançon Aix-les-BainsFélicien Vervaecke (BEL)

Col de L’Iseran in Google Maps

Spanish version:  Col de L’Iseran, puerto de montaña de los Alpes franceses,

Europe · France

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