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Col de l'Iseran

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Rider Review

Col de l’Iseran is a cycling climb located in France and is the highest paved pass in the Alps. The route can be extremely long at 47.4 kilometres distance, climbing 2,770 metres with a relatively relaxed average gradient of 4.3%.

When to ride Col de l’Iseran

As with many climbs in the French Alps, conditions are best enjoyed in the summer months, with many climbs closed in the winter. As is traditional, the core summer months of June – August can prove to be extremely busy, so May and September often prove to be the best time to cycle. If you choose to travel the full 47.4km of this route, the initial part of the climb on the D902 can be a busy and challenging road. Starting from Val d’Isère is advised for a quieter journey. On selected days in the summer, the road is entirely closed to road traffic, allowing for cyclists only.

Riding Col de l’Iseran

Col de l’Iseran is purportedly one of the highest paved roads in Europe. As previously mentioned, the climb can be started from Bourg-Saint-Maurice to take in the full 47km, or you can start from the popular skiing resort of Val d’Isère for a quieter, easier ride. The full length road to Val d’Isère is relatively flat, featuring a number of tunnels. From there, the climb begins to get a lot tougher – taking on a further 16km of climbing with an average gradient of 6%.

The first kilometre is relatively easy, with scenic, tree-lined views of the climb ahead and the area you have just departed from down below. After this, tougher sections begin to take hold. Gradients differ between 5 and 8% (hence the average gradient of 6%) for the next 10 or so kilometres, with some flat and even downhill sections to keep riders on their toes. On top of that, there are a number of beautiful but challenging hairpins and switchbacks to spice things up. Before you know it though, you are at the summit – remember to take in the beautiful views, some of the best in the Alps.

At the top there are a small number of amenities, including a restaurant and gift shop. Although this isn’t the steepest climb in the world, the long consistent ascent makes it a persistent challenge for riders.

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