Set in the heart of the Alps, the Col de la Madeleine connects the the climbs around Albertville to the Maurienne valley and is one of the great cols of the Tour de France. At over 25km, this is a long and challenging ride but the rewards at the top with incredible views of Mont Blanc make it very worthwhile and there are a number of cafes & restaurants to soak in the high mountains.
When to ride the Col de la Madeleine
The summit is at exactly 2,000m and is closed in the winter. The col normally opens late May / early June depending on the severity of the winter and closes in Oct / Nov. Parallel to the Madeleine is the much higher Col d’Iseran at 2,764m. When this is closed, the Madeleine is the main alternative route. Most of the motor traffic avoids the Madeleine so any time between early June and late September is ideal to ride this climb. The Tour de France comes through here every two or three years so there is always fresh graffiti on the road.
Riding the Col de la Madeleine
The start of the climb is in between Moutiers & Albertville. This is often ridden on an Alps Tour coming North to South taking in the Roseland to Bourg St Maurice and then across to the Moutiers at the base of Val Thorens, Meribel & Courchevel. The road is flat on the run up to the base of the climb so you can hit the start fresh. The very start is one of the toughest sections as the climb peels left off the valley road and immediately hits 7 hairpins in 3km. These is very similar to Alpe d’Huez with steep straight sections (up to 9%) and wide, flat corners. The road is flanked by tall trees so there is little to focus on apart from pushing slowly up.
After the initial steep section, the road flattens out for the next 6km to a gentle 3-6km as you go through the small village of Bonneval. There is a quick descent and couple of km in the big ring before you hit a sweeping right hand turn and the gradients go up to 7-9% for the next 7km. The scenery gets prettier as you ride through small Alpine villages and round picture perfect hairpins. As this road is very lightly used by cars, the road surface is not as good as some of the other climbs nearby but the payoff is peace and quiet in a glorious part of the Alps.
After another short flatter section, the last 4km is challenging but the most dramatic part of the ride. The scenery near the top is spectacular with huge views of the high mountains. There are six final hairpins in the last 3km and after the final left turn you can see a few cafes and a car park at the top. The summit is exactly 2000m and on a clear day gives you a great view of Mont Blanc and the valleys to both sides.
This is one of our favourite climbs in the Alps and the top section is glorious in both it’s views and quietness. Typically it is the middle climb in a tough day but well worth stopping for lunch at the summit to soak up this amazing place.