Col de la Madeleine

The adjective often used to describe Col de la Madeleine is ‘majestic’ – on account of the beauty and grace of the road that leads to this high mountain pass in the Savoie region of France. Yet, to some cyclists a more apt adjective is ‘monstrous’. In terms of scale it is certainly one of the monsters of the Alps. It is also one of those climbs that involves a major journey, transporting cyclists from deep, lush valleys to the roof of Europe with amazing views of the summit of Mont Blanc and the Lauzière massif.

This history of the road linking the Maurienne and Tarentaise valleys began with a stone track built by Spanish refugees in 1938, though the mountain pass was known about in Roman times. Work on the current road began in 1949. The Tour de France marked the completion of this road in 1969, featuring the climb for the first time.

The Climb in Detail

“It's such a long climb that no matter how good you're feeling, you know you're going to be spending a long time working your way up its slopes" - David Millar


The Ascents

The only road linking the Maurienne and Tarentaise valleys, and one of only two roads to cross the Vanoise Alps (the other is Col d’Iseran), the Madeleine soars to a giddy 1,993 m. Then there’s the length of the climb: from Aigueblanche to the north, the road from foot to summit measures 28.3 kilometres with an altitude gain of 1,533 metres. From La Chambre in the south, the climb is shorter - a mere 19.3 kilometres - but it’s steeper with an average gradient of 8% rising to 11 per cent in places.

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The Descent

The descent of the Madeleine is steep and technical, switching back and forth through Alpine meadows as it plunges down towards La Chambre. 

It’s place at the Tour de France

The Col de la Madeleine, often referred to as a ‘climbers’ climb’, has become an icon of the Tour de France, featuring 25 times since its first inclusion in 1969 when the Spaniard Andrés Gandarias went over the top in the lead. The Col has been part of many exciting stages with some of the best climbers of each generation showcasing their talents on the challenging terrain. Two prolific winners of the ‘King of the Mountains’ title, Richard Virenque and Lucien Van Impe both bagged a hat-trick of stages featuring Col de la Madeleine. 

"Perhaps the best endorsement of the Madeleine's credentials as a 'climbers climb' is the fact that the two most prolific winners of the King of the Mountians title have both won a hat trick of stages that have featured ascents" - Mountain High 

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