Le Cure would be nothing without the iconic climbs we cycle up. The route is different every year, but we never shirk on the mountains. Steeped in the lore of the Tour de France, here are a few of our “favourite” climbs:
The 21 hairpins of the Alpe are Le Cure’s spiritual home. The Tour’s first visit to Alpe d’Huez was won by the legendary Fausto Coppi, since when the 13.8km, 8.1% climb – including a savage first 3km – has seen several epic stages, most notably in 1986 when Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond crossed arm in arm. Winners also include the infamous Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani and, most recently, Britain’s Geraint Thomas.
In 2019, Le Cure will undertake a double summit of Alpe d’Huez for the first time!
Col du Glandon
There’s no getting away from it: the top of the Glandon is a brute. Le Cure (2015, 2018) has twice climbed all 21.3km of the Glandon. The average gradient of 7% does nothing to prepare riders for the last 3km though, which are >11%.
While never a summit finish, the Glandon has 14 times appeared on the Tour often in conjunction with the Croix de Fer.
Col du Galibier
The Tour has been ascending the Galibier since 1911, which at an imposing altitude of 2,642m, makes it one of the most revered climbs in cycling. The Galibier has featured on the Tour a staggering 59 times. Le Cure has ascended Galibier in both directions and, alongside the Col du Telegraphe, it will return in Stage 3 of Le Cure 2019.
“Oh, Sappey ! Oh, Laffrey ! Oh, Col Bayard ! Oh, Tourmalet ! I will not fail in my duty in proclaiming that next to the Galibier you are as weak as dishwater: before this giant there’s nothing one can do but doff one’s hat and bow down low.” – Henri Desgrange
Col de l’Iseran
Ascended from both sides by Le Cure (2015, 2018), the Iseran is the highest mountain pass and longest climb in Europe. Reaching an altitude of 2,770m the climb offers stunning views over the ski resort of Val d’isere… when you can see. In 2018 Curistas reached the ascent in freezing fog, rain and occasional snow flurries. Thankfully there is a handy cafe at the top!
The Iseran first featured in the Tour in 1938 and was home to the first mountain time trial in 1939. It has only been included five times since, but will return for the Tour’s 100th edition in 2019.
Col de la Madeleine
Curistas will tackle the Madeleine for the second time in 2019 (previously 2015). Bradley Wiggins described the 25km climb as “beautiful, but heartbreaking” and it was after the Madeleine that Jens Voight famously coined the phrase, “shut up legs.”
A 26-time Tour favourite, Pierre Rolland described the Madeleine as “…one of the iconic Tour climbs. It’s very long, and very tough.” Which just about sums it up.
The route from Feissons-sur-isere to 2,000m has a steep start, a steep finish and steep sections in the middle.
The Izoard has featured in the Tour an impressive 34 times, with the mountain home to some epic battles including those between Coppi and Bartali. Despite that the Izoard has only seen one summit finish (in 2017), which was won by Warren Barguil. Le Cure has twice (2014, 2018) crested the Izoard and for many Curistas has been one of the toughest climbs.
As if the 31.5km climb to 2,360m isn’t enough to contend with, the brief downhill section in the barren and windswept Casse Déserte only serves to sap the legs of riders before the punishing run to the summit.
Ventoux – the Giant of Provence at 1,912m – will always have a special place in Curistas’ hearts. Back in 2014 it was our first ever climb. 27 nervous Curistas took on one of the Tour’s toughest climbs with no idea what to expect. The classic route is 21.8km and an average gradient of 7.5% with long sections over 10%.
It was here in 1967 that Britain’s Tom Simpson collapsed and died on the mountainside, still clipped into his pedals. Note to Curistas: amphetamines and cycling don’t mix. Chris Froome won on Ventoux in 2013 en route to his maiden Tour victory.
Col de Joux Plane
The climb from Samoens featured on Le Cure in 2016. It’s a gruelling 11.6km with an average grade of 8.5% and a demanding maximum of 12.5%. Nestled in the shadow of Mt Blanc it is a truly beautiful mountain pass.
The Joux Plane has been used by the Tour 12 times since its first outing in 1978 and was the scene of an amazing chase by eventual winner Laurent Fignon in 1983. It was also on the Joux Plane that Floyd Landis made an extraordinary solo break in 2006 to win the stage. Unfortunately it was a little too extraordinary and he tested positive for testosterone a few days later.
Col de Joux-Verte
At 14.4km and a maximum gradient of 12.1% the Joux-Verte is another serious climb. In 2000 Lance Armstrong described a stage finishing with the Joux Plane as “the hardest day of my life – on a bike.” The enthusiastic can carry on up beyond the Col to the ski resort of Avoriaz, where there have been six summit finishes in the Tour where winners have included Andy Schleck in 2010 when he went on to win the race after Bertie Contador was disqualified. It was on the Joux-Verte in 2016 that Le Cure experienced its first rainstorm, making for treacherous conditions on the descent and well-earned beers in the bar.
Soaring high above the west bank of Lake Annecy, the Semnoz was a tough start to Le Cure 2018. One turn out of town and it’s a 17.4km climb to the summit over an average gradient of 7% with a steep slog to the top. The road eventually snakes its way up above the woods and Curistas were rewarded with spectacular views of the lake.
Semnoz hosted a summit finish in the 2013 Tour. Nairo Quintana won, putting 29 seconds into third placed Chris Froome. However Froome was a comfortable 5 minutes ahead in the overall classification and went on to claim his first yellow jersey. Semnoz has only featured in the Tour on two other occasions – when the peloton went on strike in 1998 in the wake of the Festina affair and for a short mountain time trial won by Alberto Contador in 2009.
Fun fact: Semnoz got its name from the Romans – who thought the mountain looked like a salmon.
Cormet de Roselend
A total climb of 1,227m over 20km, the Roselend lies between the Beaufortain and Mont Blanc mountain ranges. The Roselend has featured in the Tour 11 times, including 2018 and will again in 2019. Le Cure crossed the Roselend in 2018, but poor weather meant we missed the stunning views from the Roselend Dam.
It was here in 1996 that the now disgraced Johan Bruyneel rode off a cliff and somehow lived to tell the tale.
The 6% average gradient of the Toussuire can lead you into a false sense of security. There are some flatter sections, but with the climb spanning 18.5km there’s plenty of time for some tough, steep sections as well and it was a tough opener for Curistas on Stage 3, 2015.
La Toussuire has a limited, but infamous, Tour history: it was here that Floyd Landis famously cracked in 2006, before his “miraculous” recovery and attack on the Joux Plane the following day. Michael Rasmussen (ahem) went on to take the stage at the Toussuire summit finish. In 2012 Pierre Rolland won Stage 11, but the stage is more famous for Chris Froome appearing to desert his team leader, Bradley Wiggins, in pursuit of a stage win, before being given orders by Team Sky to wait for the eventual yellow jersey. In 2015, Nairo Quintana soloed to victory, but couldn’t overhaul race winner Chris Froome in the overall standings.
Col de la Colombière
This 16km climb averages 6.8% but has a real sting in the tail as Curistas found our in 2016. The final 4km is barren and mountainous with gradients all above 9% and stretches at 11%.
The Colombière is a Tour regular, featuring 22 times, most recently in 2018, but its role is normally to sap the legs of the peloton before they head to more famous summit finishes. Some famous and infamous (Pantani, Landis) names have led over the Colombière, but the only Brit to do so was Barry Hoban back in 1968.
Col de la Croix de Fer
At 2,067m high, the Croix de Fer deserves to be taken seriously. The climb is the best part of 30km long with sections above 9%. The Croix de Fer featured on Le Cure in 2016.
The Croix de Fer has a rich Tour history. It has featured 20 times starting in 1947. Such luminaries as Gino Bartili (1948), Fausto Coppi (1952) and Bernard Hinault (1986) have led over the top.
Col des Aravis
Featuring on Le Cure in 2016 and 2018, the Aravis is a beautiful climb into Alpine pastures. While perhaps not an epic Col by Tour de France standards, it has been crossed by the Tour an astonishing 40 times.
For both of Le Cure’s outings, we started in La Clusaz which is where the proper climbing starts with gradients of 5-7% up to the summit.
Lacets de Montvernier
By Le Cure standards, this is a tiddler – 3.7km at 8% – but what a tiddler it is.
Le Cure has been up (2015) and down (2016) the “shoelaces” and will return in 2019.