The 2016 Tour de France route will be unveiled next Tuesday, October 20. There are plenty of rumours and speculation as to which climbs will be included. In fact, a few days ago, the official Tour de France twitter feed even hinted that Col du Galibier might be the highest point in the 2016 race - see here.
This led to a grouchy response from your author (a huge Galibier fan).
Galibier has been in the Tour de France 59 times, Iseran 7, Agnel 1, Lombarde 1, Bonette 4, Tourmalet 77 — Prudhomme get creative— cyclingchallenge (@cyclingalps) October 8, 2015
Let's face it: We seem to see the same few climbs over and over. Col de Peyresourde has been in sixty-four Grande Boucles. WTF? But trust me. France is big. There are countless wonderful roads that have rarely or never made an appearance.
As I wrote last year, broadly, there are three primary reasons why great roads get ignored.
- Tradition. People like familiarity. Who can't wait for Kirby to tell us about Eugène Christophe and his forge story for the millionth time when Col du Tourmalet is climbed for the 80th time (or so) next summer.
- Lac Cap de Long - the best climb in the Pyrénées (zero TdF appearances)
- Col de l'Iseran - the highest paved pass in Europe (five)
- Col des Glières - site of the National Monument de la Resistance (zero )
- Three of the steepest long climbs in France - Col du Granon (one), Mont du Chat (one), and Grand Colombier which was finally included in the Tour after Monsieur Prudhomme visited Podium Café. Merci.
Note, The (great) Inner Ring blog also recently wrote a similar article - see here.
My latest list would certainly have included three super high roads: Col Agnel, Col de la Bonette, and Col de la Lombarde, as they are all magnificent and have largely been ignored by the Tour (see tweet at start of article). But amazingly all three will appear in the 2016 Giro d'Italia. Yes, the best French climbs in a Grand Tour next year will likely be during the Giro. Which led to another grouchy tweet:
Strange that the Giro will use 3 great FRENCH climbs that the unimaginative Tour de France has mainly ignored: Agnel, Lombarde, Bonette— cyclingchallenge (@cyclingalps) October 6, 2015
I briefly discussed all three here after the Giro route was announced.
Anyway, below I'll discuss some different roads, perhaps some that you may not know.
More Climbs Ignored by the Tour de France
#1 Mont Colombis
In the Haute-Alpes, just 15 kilometres north of Gap (one of the most used Tour de Franc start/finish towns), Le Cycle magazine calls Mont Colombis one of the toughest climbs in France. It's a dead-end with fabulous views from the summit. It has never appeared in the Tour de France. Never. Blog post here.
Lac de Serre Ponçon in distance:
People always seem to stereotype Italy as having much steeper roads than France. Mont Colombis is plenty steep:
#2 Col du Joly
The Beaufortain region of France is known for its cheese and its cycling. Beaufort is the start village for the stunning climb to Cormet de Roselend (ten Tour appearances). But it's also the start of the amazing road up to Col du Joly. The summit at 1990 metres is in the face of Mont Blanc. Beautiful. Zero Tour de France appearances. Zero.
The Col is in the middle of the Espace Diamant ski domaine - linking five small ski stations. I bet you have never heard of Espace Diamant. Come on people, host a stage and buy some advertising.
Blog post here. Allez Jamaica!
Nice view of an alpine lake/dam:
#3 Plan du Lac
In the Haute Maurienne, further up the valley from Col du Galibier and Mont Cenis, is this often-ignored but beautiful road that also happens to be the 7th highest paved road in France. Plan du Lac has never been in the Tour. La honte. Blog post here.
The lake itself: Narrow road but plenty of room for fans, campers, etc.
#4 Col de la Moutière
In the shadows of Cime de la Bonette, Col de la Moutière is the fourth highest paved road in France. It heads up through a quiet, undeveloped valley, the road is easily viewable from the summit of Bonette. The paved road ends at Col de la Moutière, but with just a little work, the three kilometre gravel extension to Faux Col de Restefond (and then Bonette itself) would make a great serrata extension. Come on Prudhomme! Blog post here.
View of part of Col de la Moutière from Cime de la Bonette:
#5 Signal de Bisanne
Col des Saisies is in the heart of Les Saisies ski station, on the route des Grandes Alpes, and has appeared 11 times in the Tour. But less well known, above the village is the road to Signal de Bisanne.
This is another challenging climb with long stretches well above 10%. The Beaufort region has 20 or so signed biking routes for every level – flattish to Hors Categorie. And the Beaufort tourist office sells very nice route cards for all the routes (see here). Only two of the routes merit the "Mythic" label. Signal de Bisanne and Col du Pré. Even the Cormet de Roselend doesn’t merit this designation.
Blog post here. Broerie only beat me by 35 minutes to the summit:
A Final Thought
I know there is more to a good Tour route than the climbs. And I'll be excited if Ventoux - as rumoured - is in the 2016 route. But I often get emails from people asking for route advice, with far too many of them heading to Alpe d'Huez for their first visit to the Alps. I just want to keep reminding people that there are countless great mountain roads beyond the few that keep re-appearing every year in the Tour de France.