Col d'Izoard

Col d'Izoard, a 5 stars road in the French Alps

Col d'Izoard is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.360m (7,746ft) above the sea level located in the Hautes-Alpes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of south-eastern France. Traversed by the scenic Route des Grandes Alpes, it’s one of the great passes of the French Alps.

The road to the summit is totally paved. It’s called D902. The pass is 19.8 km (12.30 miles) long running north-south from Cervières to Arvieux. Few Alpine passes are more mythic than the Izoard. The first road over the otherworldly, lunar landscape of the Col d’Izoard was constructed in 1710, and the current one was built between 1893 and 1897 by an army General, Henry Berge. At a certain altitude, the scenery completely changes and becomes wide spread and rocky.

The Col d'Izoard is one of the most famous mountain passes in the history. While it’s rightly famous for the part it has played in Tour de France history, the Giro d'Italia has ascended it several times. Also known as the Casse Desert, hosted many great duels in the 1950s between the legendary Italian Fausto Coppi (the first to win the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in the same year) and the French Louison Bobet (the first to win three Tours in succession in 1953, 1954 and 1955) on the Col d’Izoard. A small cycling museum is at the summit, and on the southern side of the Col d'Izoard, 2 kms from the top, there’s a memorial to Fausto Coppi and Louison Bobet in the Casse Deserte.

The road to the summit is steep, hitting a maximum gradient of 12.0% through some of the ramps. It gets a decent amount of traffic in summer. To reach the summit there are 2 possible routes. From Guillestre the ascent is 15.9 km long and the gain is 1.095 meters with an average percentage of 6.9 %. And from Briançon, the ascent is 20 km long, with a gain of 1.141 meters and an average percentage of 5.7 %. This pass is open only in summer. From the green wooded mountainsides above Briançon, to the sandy coloured, eroded cliffs above the Casse Deserte and the Col, the scenery is amazing. There are certain climbs in the world of cycling that capture the imagination, not just because of their difficulty and/or beauty, but because of their place in the annals of cycling history.

 

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