95th Tour de France - The Major Mountains & Climbs 2
The Big Mountains of the 2008 Tour de France and Comparable U.S. Ascents. Stages
16 & 17...
By John Summerson
As is usually the case, the mountains of the Tour de France will likely play
a big role in determining the race winner. Even with a bit less climbing
compared to years past, the 2008 route contains some epic hills including some
old favorites that viewers and climbers will recognize.
Difficult climbs make their first appearance in stage 9 with two that are
particularly challenging. Stage 10 contains the legendary ascents of the
Toumalet and Hautacam. Big mountains return for stages 15 and 16 and the last
mountain stage, stage 17, gets the nod for the most difficult of the race.
While many of the major European tour climbs are as famous as the races they
are included within, the U.S. has only a handful that are well known to the
cycling community. However, many are comparable to those used in the major
In case you want to test yourself on hills comparable to what the pros will
be suffering on over the next few weeks let’s take a look at each major climb in
the 2008 Tour and some of their American counterparts. Similar American climbs
to those on this year’s route are located in Utah, California, Wyoming, Arizona,
New York and Massachusetts.
Stage 16 (Tuesday July 22) Cuneo - Jausiers,
The first of two giant climbs in stage 16 is the Col de la Lombarde. For those
looking for its American version, summit Mt Baldy near Los Angeles, California
and you will have ridden a comparable hill.
Mount Baldy in Southern California and one of its many switchbacks. More details
on the Mount Baldy climb
Photo © 2008 John
The 2nd big climb of the day is up the Col de la Bonnette-Restefond and it is a
tough one. Unusually long for a major tour, its grade is also a challenge and is
one of the most difficult in France. The southern Sierra climb of the west side
of Sherman Pass is a similar test although just a bit shorter but steeper.
Sherman Pass (West)
Total elevation - 5,316 ft Length - 15.2 miles
Average Grade - 6.6% (10%) Rating - 4.06 (hors)
The west side of Sherman Pass is one of the toughest climbs in the US. Isolated,
beginning at the Kern River, the road immediately heads up a drainage at a
steady grade. Be prepared as this hill will test you through multiple
switchbacks and the listed stats end just shy of the actual pass (just beyond
the cattleguard). Desert-like at the bottom, you ride among big trees near the
Sherman Pass is also longer and almost as steep as another TdF classic,
Mont Ventoux (closed in winter - Sequoia National Forest - 661 548-6503).
Directions - From Kernville, CA head north along the Kern River on Sierra Way
for ~18 miles to its junction with Sherman Pass Rd (on the right) where the
Facilities - Kernville, CA Airport - Bakersfield, CA
Photo © 2008 John
Stage 17 (Wednesday July 23) Embrun - L'Alpe d'Huez,
This is the most difficult stage of the 2008 TdF. Although the easier side is
used in 2008, the climb up the scenic and historic Galibier will be the first
real test of stage 17 but the easiest major hill of the day. The west side of
Utah’s isolated Route 31, which begins in the tiny town of Fairview in central
Utah, matches this side of the famous French climb pedal stroke for pedal
2006 Tour Gruppo on the Galibier. Photo ©
2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti
The next major climb of the stage is a tougher test up the Col de Croix de Fer.
Wyoming’s mighty Alternate 14 is a similar climb, both statistically and in
spectacular mountain scenery. Located near Lovell near the Montana border,
Alternate 14 is likely the most difficult climb in Wyoming and travels through
quite isolated terrain.
Alternate 14 (Wyoming)
Total elevation - 5,315 ft Length - 18.6 miles
Average Grade - 5.4% (11%) Rating - 3.34 (hors/cat 1)
The most difficult climb in Wyoming, the isolated route starts out on a shallow,
steady grade. For the first few miles the road is very straight and you can
clearly see your objective ahead. After 6 miles the grade increases as you begin
to switchback up the hill. Eventually the road clings to the side of a cliff
with great views.
Wyoming's Alternate 14 - 18 miles... lord have mercy.
Photo © 2008 John
After entering a gorge, the grade eases, there is a small
descent, climbing resumes and then the climb ends (unmarked) at a brake check
area for cars which is on your left as you ascend. After a small descent the
road continues to gain in elevation but significant climbing has ended. The
lower half of this route will be hot in the afternoons in summer as it faces
west and is exposed all the way
(closed in winter - Bighorn National Forest -
Directions - From Lovell, WY head east on Alternate Route 14. Once you cross the
Big Horn River continue 2.3 miles to the Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management
Area on the right where you can park. The climb starts just beyond the parking
area at the bridge over a normally dry wash.
Facilities - Cody, WY Airport - Billings, MT
Photo © 2008 John
Perhaps the most well known climb in the world, L’Alpe d’Huez finishes off the
queen stage of the 2008 Tour. New York’s Whiteface Mountain is more than its
match regarding difficulty. A difference between these climbs is that Whiteface
primarily goes straight up while d’Huez switchbacks up the hill.
Total elevation - 3,566 ft Length - 7.9 miles
Average Grade - 8.6% (12%) Rating - 3.13 (hors/cat 1)
Whiteface Mountain, which is closed to bikes until 5PM, is a very solid climb up
to a castle-like visitor’s center. At the three mile mark you come to a toll
booth and the following few miles are the most difficult of this very steep
climb. The grade eases a bit and good views arrive near the top. It is also a
lightning fast descent and there is an annual race on its slopes.
winter - Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway - 518 946-2223).
Directions - In Wilmington, NY the climb begins at the junction of routes 86 and
431 by heading up 431.
Facilities - Lake Placid, NY Airport - Burlington, VT
Photo © 2008 John
d'Italia - Giro Climbs & Comparable USA Climbs - 1
d'Italia - Giro Climbs & Comparable USA Climbs - 2
John Summerson is a cyclist who collects climbs the
way a connoisseur might collect fine art; with one difference; John finds,
measures and conquers the mountains savoring the suffering and challenge of each
and then writes about them.
John is the author of The Complete Guide to
Climbing (By Bike) "A guide to cycling, climbing and the most difficult hill
climbs in the Unites States" Read our review of the
book here. For more
information on the book go to the
website where there are more climb profiles and
a link to purchase the book.
All photo & elevation
graphics © 2008 John Summerson
- Discuss this race and the sport with other cycling fans from around the world
on the Daily Peloton.com Forums
and Chat Room.
the daily peloton & advertise your product -
- Join the Daily Peloton crew, writers, photographers and techs with a
passion for cycling and a yen to write: long hours, demanding work and lots of