The mythical Col du Galibier straddles the regions of Hautes Alpes and Savoie. It is extremely hard for cyclists to climb, but the ordeal has its compensations as the view from the top (2,545m) is absolutely amazing, coupled with the immense satisfaction of having made it to the top ! Col du Galibier is the Holy Grail of cycling in France ! The Tour de France has been there 59 times, more frequently than any other col so all self-respecting cyclists simply have to have a go !
Col du Lautaret (2,058m) is the highest French mountain pass open to traffic all year round. It is THE crossing point between Oisans and Briançonnais and also one of the lowest points along the frontier which separates the Massif des Ecrins of the northern Alps from the Massif des Arves of the south.
By the way, don’t miss the memorial to Henri Desgrange where the old and new roads meet at the top of Galibier. Henri Desgrange organised the Tour de France from its beginning in 1903. The Souvenir Henri Desgrange prize is awarded each year to the first rider who reaches the top of Col du Galibier or the highest col in the race if Galibier is not on the itinerary.
Col Izoard (2,361m), near the village of Arvieux, is one of the gateways to the valley and Regional Natural Park du Queyras, marking the separation between the Briançonnais and Queyras. It owes its legendary fame to the Casse Déserte on its southern slopes.
Talking of which, we strongly recommend you stop to take a look at the lunar-like landscape of the Casse Déserte, a geological curiosity of fallen rocks and scree and also the site of a memorial to legendary cyclists Fausto Copi and Louison Bobet. Film buffs may recognize the scenery as the backdrop of a scene from the famous French film « Les Valseuses » starring Miou-Miou, Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere.
NB. It is important to check when Col du Galibier and Col Izoard are open to traffic as they are closed during the winter, along with several others.