Home
Col Collective visits the highest paved pass in the Alps, an occasional inclusion in the Tour de France for 80 years

For the latest Col Collective video, Mike Cotty heads to the highest paved pass in the Alps - the Col de l'Iseran.

First used in the Tour de France in 1938, the 2,764-metre pass has featured in the race six times since then.

The first of those was in the following year when it was on the route of an individual time trial from  Briancon to Aix-les-Bains.

It returned in 1949, but since then has figured only sporadically - most recently in 2007 - and never as a summer finish.

Here are Cotty's thoughts on the climb.

Linking the Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys in the Savoie department of the French Alps, climbing the Col de L'Iseran is a journey into the wonders of the Vanoise, the country's oldest national park. Although the purists may prefer to start from Bourg Saint Maurice, for the full 48km ascent, in doing so you have to contend with the first stretch of the D902 which is a busy road, heavy with traffic and tunnels. From the famous ski resort of Val d'Isère to the summit the road is much quieter and if you pick your moment then there's every chance you'll have it all to yourself.

Just one of a whole host of mythical climbs on the fabulous Route des Grandes Alpes stretching from Lake Geneva all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, it's not often that you really get a true sense that you're climbing all the way to the very top of the highest peaks around you, but that's exactly what makes the Iseran so special, and at 2,764 metres elevation it's the highest road pass in Europe and the true giant of the Alps.

Vital Statistics

Start: Val d'Isère

Length: 16 km

Summitt: 2,764m

Start Elevation: 1,854m

Elevation gain: 910m

Max gradient: 10%

Average gradient: 6%

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.