The toughest climbs of the Tour de France 2024

The crucial mountains that could decide who will be wearing the yellow jersey in Nice at the end of the three-week race

Mountain passes are what give the Tour de France many of its iconic settings. They are witness to epic battles, legendary tales, and unexpected victories, dating right back to the very start of the race. These climbs have become pivotal in determining the wearer of the coveted yellow jersey, and ultimately, the champion of the prestigious Grand Tour. And while this year's route is more varied that the 2023 edition, the climbs will still have a pivotal role in deciding the victor.

Taking in all France has to offer, including the Alps and the Pyrenees, the 2024 edition of Le Tour features seven mountain stages, four of which include a summit finish. It is safe to say then that this year's route is designed for those who relish the challenges of climbing, and then climbing some more. From the very beginning, stage one presents an explosive opening from Florence to Rimini, with seven category two and three climbs. The first mountain stage then comes as early as stage four – so expect GC battles from the very beginning. 

With so many notorious climbs in the 111th edition of the Tour, as well as some climbs rarely featured throughout the Tour’s history, we’ve highlighted the toughest climbs the riders will have to tackle over the course of the race.

Col du Galibier - stage four

The first mountain test comes early on in the race on stage four as the route crosses the border from Italy into France via the Alps. It’s a triple crowning stage with the riders having to complete the category two Sestrière (39.9km at 3.7%) and Col de Montgenèvre (8.3km at 5.9%), before the hors categorie Col du Galibier (23km at 5.1%). The Galibier is a mountain pass in the southern region of the French Dauphiné Alps and was first introduced into the Tour in 1911. The climb has since then been a backdrop to some memorable Tour stages, most notably in 2011, when the Tour celebrated its 100th anniversary of the mountain range being visited by the peloton. Andy Schleck won the stage that year – the first time the Col du Galibier was featured as the stage’s summit finish. Since then, riders such as Primož Roglič (2017), Nairo Quintana (2019), and Jonas Vingegaard will have fond memories of stage victories featuring the Col du Galibier. 

Col du Galibier by Daniel Hughes 

Being the eighth highest paved roads in the Alps, the Col du Galibier is often the highest point of the race. However, the 2024 edition features an even higher point in the final week. The Col du Galibier will still nonetheless be the climb where the Souvenir Henri Desgrange prize money will be awarded to the first rider to crest the climb. It is set to be a stage that will really separate the cream from the crop as they will climb 3,600 metres over the course of 139.6 kilometres.

Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’adet - stage 14 / first summit finish 

The first summit finish of the race does not arrive until stage 14 when the Pyrenees make its first appearance. The Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’adet is a 10.6km climb at an average gradient of 7.9%, peaking at 11.7% in the climb’s opening ramps. The first time the climb was featured in the race was 50 years ago in 1974, when Raymond Poulidor won the 209km stage. It was last included in the 2014 edition with Rafał Majka winning the stage. Ten years on from its most recent appearance, the beautiful ski town of Saint-Lary 1700 will once again host the Tour finish line, 1,680 metres above sea level. It is a tough climb, made tougher by two monumental ascents before it, and pacing will be vital, especially on the climb’s opening kilometres. 

Col du Tourmalet - stage 14 

The Col du Tourmalet is one of the most famous mountain passes in the Tour de France having been visited the most times throughout the race’s history. It’s not the longest, the steepest or the tallest mountain climbed in the Tour, but perhaps the hardest combination of all three elements. The legendary climb, located in the French Pyrenees, made its debut in the Tour in 1910. Octave Lapize was the first to win having conquered its treacherous slopes, at times even dismounting to push his bike up the brutal inclines. Throughout its history, the Tourmalet has served as the finish line only three times, most recently in 2019, where Thibaut Pinot triumphed, delighting his French supporters on one of the country's most hallowed climbs. Prior to this, the Tourmalet hosted the finish in 2010, when Andy Schleck claimed the win, and 1974, when Jean-Pierre Danguillaume won. 

Col du Tourmalet by Michael Blann 

In this year’s race, the Tourmalet makes its appearance on stage 14, in a stage that goes from Pau to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’Adet over 151.9 kilometres, climbing nearly 4,000 metres in elevation. The 19km climb with an average gradient of 7.5%, kicks off a brutal day for the riders as the Tourmalet is the first of three mountains, including the Hourquette d’Ancizan and summit finish to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d’Adet. 

Plateau de Beille - stage 15 

Stage 15 is arguably the toughest stage of the race with five mountain passes totalling a whooping 5,000 metres of climbing across 197.7 kilometres. Held on Bastille Day, stage 15 will be a crucial stage and could win or lose someone’s Tour de France. The peloton climbs from the start of the day, with the category one Col de Peyresourde starting from the very beginning. The 6.9km climb at an average gradient of 7.8% will be a prompt reminder of what is to come. The Col de Menté (9.3km at 9.1%) follows, then the Col de Portet-d’Aspet (4.3km at 9.6%) and Col d’Agnes (10km at 8.2%). And if four category one climbs were not enough, the 197.7km-long stage finishes atop the Plateau de Beille, a 15.8km climb at an average gradient of 7.9%. It was first featured in 1998 after being discovered by the Route du Sud (now the Route d’Occitanie) in 1995 and the Tour has since finished at the ski resort in the Ariège department six times. 

Col de la Bonette - stage 19 

Stage 19 will be a prime opportunity for the peloton’s pure climbers to showcase their very best as the riders will take on three climbs that ascend above 2,000 metres. The biggest test of the stage however, will be the Col de la Bonette, which comes at 63km into the stage and after having already climbed the hors categorie Col de Vars. The Col de la Bonette claims to be the highest paved road in Europe (though not strictly speaking a pass), reaching an elevation of 2,802 metres above sea level, and is this year’s roof of the entire race. It is a long, steady climb at 22.9 kilometres long and has an average gradient of 6.8% that slightly steepens near the top of the climb, with a 10.3% sting as the riders crest the summit. 

Col de la Bonette by Michael Blann

Thankfully, for the riders, once they have summited the Col de la Bonette, they’ll be rewarded with an equally long descent to the town of Isola. But it is here that they will be greeted with one final challenge – a 16.1km-long climb to the finish at the Isola 2000 ski resort in the southern French Alps. Only two stages remain of the race by this point, and a stage like this could see some dramatic changes in the GC. 

Col de Turini - stage 20 

The Col de Turini in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France has only been featured in the Tour de France four times: 1948, 1950, 1973 and 2020. However, the mountain pass has never been featured on the penultimate stage of the race. The Col de Turini comes in the middle of stage 20, starting 35km into the day. Overall, the climb is 20.7 kilometers in length and has an average gradient of 5.7%, but is also sandwiched between a category two (Col de Braus) and category one (Col de la Colmiane) climb. The stage is constantly up and down, with little to no respite in the build up to the race’s final summit finish. 

Col de la Couillole - stage 20

And rounding off that relentless stage is the Col de la Couillole – the final summit finish of the three-week race. The category one climb is 15.7km long and has a steady average gradient of 7.1% that, luckily for the riders, remains pretty much level throughout. It has only been featured twice in the Tour – once in 1973 and again in 1975 – but is regular feature in Paris-Nice, so many of the riders in the peloton will know the demands of this climb. The most recent winner atop the Col de la Couillole is Tadej Pogačar in the 2023 edition of the Race to the Sun, who will be hoping he is in the yellow jersey once again at the summit of this climb, just this time, the maillot jaune of the Tour. 

Col de la Couillole by Alex Broadway/

Col d’Eze - stage 21 

Instead of the usual flat procession around Paris, the 2024 Tour de France ends on an individual time trial from Monaco to Nice. And not only that, it is a time trial which sees 650 metres of climbing over 34km. The Col d’Èze will be the major sticking point for many riders who do not boast the same climbing legs as some of their rivals. The climb is halfway through the stage and is 1.6km in length with an average gradient of 8.1%. It is another climb which is a regular feature in Paris-Nice (thought from the longer, harder side), most commonly featuring in the race’s final ITT of years gone by, and now it's final loop around the city. Pacing will be important here before the long downhill stretch into Nice.

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