2022 Tour De France: 5 Key Climbing Stages (& 2 Hidden Gems)

Every year the Tour de France tackles the toughest mountains. The 2022 Tour route is no exception. Here's a look at the Tour's five most important climbs, which will likely decide the race for the yellow jersey.

2022 Tour De France: 5 Key Climbing Stages (& 2 Hidden Gems)

Written by
Spencer Powlison

Published on

Posted in

Images courtesy ASO/Tour de France.

No disrespect to the sprinters or time trialists, but the Tour de France’s magic lives in the mountains. Amazingly, they raced for seven years before the first mountain stage was included in the 1910 edition, through the heart of the Pyrenees. To be fair, they were riding pig-iron frames with one gear and dubious brakes

Whatever the travails of the early Tour riders, the Alps and Pyrenees are now mandatory parts of every Tour de France. The race alternates between clockwise and counterclockwise routes around the hexagon in the heart of Europe. This dictates which mountain range is ridden in week two and which is ridden in week three. This year’s clockwise route means the Pyrenees will close out the race. 

The 2022 Tour de France route has six mountain stages with five summit finishes on the menu. That’s a lot of mountains. So which are the most notable climbs on the route? Here are my top five, plus two personal favorites that don’t get enough press.

[button]Shop road bikes[/button]

La Super Planche des Belles Filles - Stage 7, July 8

Super Planche des Belles Filles profile

7km at 8.7% average gradient

The first Friday of the Tour de France will be the first significant test for riders vying for the yellow jersey. Two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar will have fond memories of this hill, having won the stage 20 time trial here in 2020, seizing his first overall win in dramatic fashion. This will be a different game though with the climb continuing past where the pavement ends for the “super” variation of this steep hill in the Vosges mountains. 

[button]A beginner's guide to the Tour[/button]

Col du Galibier - Stage 11, July 13 & Stage 12, July 14

Col du Galibier profile

17.7km at 6.9% average gradient / 23km at 5.1% average gradient

Back in 1911 when the Galibier first made its appearance on the Tour route only three riders could make it over the top without walking. Ouch. This beast of a climb will be a double feature in the 2022 route with the first trip over being the “Souvenir Henri Desgrange” — a prize for the first rider over the highest point on the Tour’s route. That’s a nice little bonus for someone in the breakaway! The stage 11 ride over the Galibier could be pretty decisive as it comes 45km before the summit finish. Plus, the legs will be all softened up by the 12km Col du Telegraph that leads into the Galibier, a classic one-two combo. Stage 12’s ride over the Galibier should be a bit more tame as it’s not nearly as steep, and it comes at the start of the stage. That said, it should be a furious start to get in the early breakaway.


Alpe d’Huez - Stage 12, July 14

Alpe d'Huez

13.8km at 8.1% average gradient

You’ll have to excuse me for glossing over the Galibier in our final stage through the Alps but Alpe d’Huez really steals the show as this stage’s summit finish. This climb to the eponymous ski station first entered the fray in the 1952 Tour, where the great Fausto Coppi won the inaugural ascent. Since then, this has become the climb of the Tour. It attracts hordes of spectators who camp out days (even weeks) in advance to get prime spots. They crowd the road as the top riders pass through, lighting flares and making other questionable choices. Fortunately, security has gotten a bit tighter than it was back in 1999 when an amateur photographer knocked Gueseppi Guerini off his bike. The Italian won anyway, that day on Alpe d’Huez. 

Col d’Aubisque - Stage 18, July 21

Col d'Aubisque

16.4km at 7.1% average gradient

On to the Pyrenees! While stage 17 is the first proper run at the mountains straddling the Franco-Spanish border, I suspect most GC favorites will wait until stage 18, one final shot at glory in the high mountains. Col d’Aubisque was one of the mountains included in 1910, that first year the Tour began to climb. Legend has it, on this climb in stage 10 of that race, Octave Lapize harangued race officials for such a brutal climb, calling them “assassins!” Maybe he just didn’t take a minute to look around at the splendid meadows and imposing rock formation that looks down on this majestic climb. Or he could have been regretting his gear choice. No matter Lapize’s opinion, this climb is the second most popular in Tour history, being included 45 times in the race.

[button]Shop road bikes[/button]

Hautacam - Stage 18, July 21

Hautacam profile

13.6km at 7.8% average gradient

As wonderful as the Aubisque is, it’s merely a setup for the final showdown on this mountain stage, which culminates on the Hautacam. Unlike the Col d’Aubisque, this climb is a relative newcomer to the Tour, first appearing in 1994. Unfortunately, the climb has a bit of a checkered history. It was here that Bjarne Riis ended the reign of Miguel Indurain in 1996. In 2000, Lance Armstrong rode into the yellow jersey and kept it to the end. But let’s leave the bad old days behind. This steep climb will be a spectacular finale to the Tour’s mountain stages.

Underrated favorites:

Lacets de Montvernier - Stage 11, July 13

3.4km at 8.2% average gradient

In the Maurienne valley of the Haute Savoie, it’s tough to stand out as a climb. The little Lacets de Montvernier with its 17 neatly stacked switchbacks (see photo at the top), is usually overlooked in favor of the Col de la Madeleine or the Croix de Fer or the Glandon. It’s a pity, because this little bike path-wide road is delightful. I rode it back in 2015 with my wife. It was stunning to zig-zag our way out of this impossibly steep valley and pop out on the Col de Chaussy. I doubt the Tour will be won on the Lacets, but who cares! Those pro racers are too busy snarfing down gels and watching their power meters to enjoy (or deserve) a climb this picturesque. 

Col de Spandelles - Stage 18, July 21

10.3km at 8.3% average gradient

It’s always exciting when the Tour adds a fresh climb to the route. It’s even better when you’ve ridden it yourself! I fondly remember the Col de Spandelles from the 2017 Haute Route Pyrenees. It was a cool, damp morning, and we climbed out of the cloudy valley into the sun on this nasty, steep road. This climb will come right before the summit finish on the Hautacam, so unlike the Lacets de Montvernier, there’s strong chance we could see some action on this underrated Pyreneen climb. Plus, the descent into the Argeles-Gazost valley is hair-raising. Thank goodness they’re all riding disc brakes these days!

What are your favorite Tour de France climbs? Which have you ridden? Tell me about it in the comments!

More from Features

  • The National Champ Who Survived a TBI, Found a Mission
    Ben Frederick cyclocross

    The National Champ Who Survived a TBI, Found a Mission

  • Despite Pandemic & Wildfire, Whiskey Off-Road Bounced Back
    Whiskey Off-Road 2022. Photo: Scott Bideau

    Despite Pandemic & Wildfire, Whiskey Off-Road Bounced Back

  • Jack Ultracyclist's Uphill Odyssey for Mental Health
    Jack Ultracyclist Everesting

    Jack Ultracyclist's Uphill Odyssey for Mental Health

  • Q: What's Your Bucket List Bike Event?
    BC Bike Race

    Q: What's Your Bucket List Bike Event?

  • From Pro Racing to Pizza: Colavita's Commitment to Bike Outreach
    Colavita Cares pizza truck

    From Pro Racing to Pizza: Colavita's Commitment to Bike Outreach

New Arrivals


Newsletter Sign Up