The Greatest Cycling Climbs – Col de La Madeleine

Written by Robyn Oppenheimer on 21st May, 2019

As one of the routes regularly featured in the Tour de France since its establishment, the Col de la Madeleine is unquestionably one of our favourite cycling rides in Europe.  This iconic climb, often prefixed by the word ‘majestic’, will take you through the magnificent valley floor and across the snowy peaks of the nearby Alpine climbs. 

The Location

The Col de La Madeleine is located in the Savoie region of France and connects La Chambre in Maurienne with La Lechere in Tarentaise.

Cycling the Col de la Madeleine, The Greatest Cycling Climbs – Col de La Madeleine

Why the Col de La Madeleine?

This deceptively tough Alpine climb offers a varied, erratic gradient climbing up through the clouds, with magnificent views across the Alps when you summit. The climb has been a feature of the Tour for years but it has very recent history too as it was the climb that was due to feature in the 2019 Tour de France before mudslides and hail forced the organisers to abandon the stage. The shortened route effectively sealed the yellow jersey for Egan Bernal.

The Stats

One option is to take the longer northern route from Feissons-sur-Isere, which is 25.3km with a 6.2% average gradient. This side is preferred by many as it is far less developed and the scenery is spectacular.  The route has an immediate incline as you ascend up a series of switchbacks through beautiful woodland.  From Bonneval you will hit one of the easier parts between 9-11km of this route, where you can rest and admire the beautiful waterfalls.  As you head through the picturesque villages of La Thuile and Celliers you may be forgiven if you fail to take in the pretty stone bridges and houses as you average a 7.5% gradient.  There will be another short respite between 19-21km up, however it is then back to the grind with gradients of 9% as you head to the summit.

Cycling the Col de la Madeleine, The Greatest Cycling Climbs – Col de La Madeleine

Alternatively, you can opt for the shorter southern route, which is a more challenging, technical 19km at an average gradient of 8%.  There are no breaks on the southern route but you will find yourself in hairpin heaven (or hell!). The ski station of Saint-Francois-Longchamp is three kilometres from the summit and the final stretch heads up the ski slopes.

Off the Bike

If you fancy a detour, La Chambre is a a quiet sleepy village at the foot of the Glandon and Madeleine passes.   Here you can visit the Maison de la Tour with its central part dating from the 17th and 18th centuries and the tower dating from the 13th and 14th centuries.  The Savoie area is also well known for its production of cheese.  The famous Beaufort cheese is also produced at the cheese dairy cooperative in La Chambre.

Col de la Madeleine

If you have been inspired to cycle the Col de La Madeleine, why not give our cycling specialists a call? Our specialists can help you build your perfect cycling holiday.  Whether you want to join a training camp, use an electric bike, or ride our GPX routes independently, we are able to tailor your trip to you.