Col d'Izoard

The otherworldly, lunar landscape of the Col d’Izoard has ignited fierce debate since the roads construction in 1897. Some have called the Izoard beautiful, others diabolical. Jacques Goddet, Tour de France director from 1936 to 1986 dubbed the Izoard ‘a new version of Hell’.

One thing for certain is that the Col d’Izoard and its Casse Déserte vista is an iconic mountain and one to be ridden. At 2360m above sea-level the Col d’Izoard is not the highest mountain in the region nor the most visited but from its use at the cycling Grand Tours of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia it has gained a notoriety in cycling folklore.

From either Guillestre to the south or Briançon in the north, the Casse Déserte and the Izoard are staging posts on a cyclist’s journey into a new dimension of torture. 

The Climb in Detail

““At the moment you’re about to let out a sigh of relief, the Izoard hits you in the legs with a ramp that would make a mule whimper,” - Ottavio Bottecchia (yellow Jersey 1923


The Ascents

The traditional ascent towards the peak of the Col d’Izoard is considered for cyclists to be from the south and the start point in Guillestre/Les Moulins. This has been where most battles in the Grand Tours have taken place and where recently the Tour de France and Etape du Tour rode. Gaining over 1000m in its full 16 km, the climb has a punchier finish then coming from the North and Briançon where the climb is a steadier and a more sheltered rendition of the Izoard. 


The man alone, in the wild gorge

In 1949, the Giro rode the Izoard on a typically Spring Alpine day and led to one of the most famous piece of radio commentary in Italian sport – Antonio Ferretti’s ‘One man is alone at the head of the race; his jersey is white and sky-blue; his name is Fausto Coppi’. Bartali, Coppis main Italian rival was caught and had to give way to Coppi and was the beginning of the end of Bartalis illustrious career. 

It’s place at the Tour de France

First introduced in 1922 on a formidable 274-kilometre stage from Nice to Briançon the southern ascent of the Izoard inspired terror in the riders that looked to conquer it. The Izoards Casse Déserte at its summit has since been the backdrop to some of cycling’s most iconic performances including Gino Bartalis 2 wins 10 years apart, Louison Bobets 3 summits and Eddy Merckx in 1972. More recently the Frenchman Warren Barguil took the mountain top finish and with it the famed polka dot jersey.

“It was so steep, like this wall looking at you, saying ‘climb me’. It never went away, you’ve got no respite. It was a bitch, a constant struggle to put one pedal in front of the other" - Zak Dempster, NetApp-Endura

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