Le Tour de France features one of the hardest parcours in recent memory, with five mountain-top finishes and a special focus on longer ascents and high altitude. The most decisive climbs of the race, Col du Granon, Alpe d’Huez and Hautacam are all in the 35-40 minute range, a stark contrast to the 2021 edition, in which the race was decided on 25 minute climbs.
In this article we will preview the most important climbs of the Tour de France 2022, with previous performances, expected watts and predictions on which riders each climb is suited towards. All watts and times are calculated using standard values for wind, draft, temperature and weight.
La Super Planche des Belles Filles, Stage 7
The ascent to La Planche des Belles Filles will be the first serious climb of the race, just like it was utilised a few times in the last decade already. With the added one km of partly gravel roads, the ascent reaches a duration of 6,93km at 8,83% (longer than the version used in the decisive Tour de France 2020 time trial). This extended ascent has only been used once before, when Geraint Thomas set the record of 20’02min, a time that is very likely to be beaten this year. With the position of this stage as the first mountain stage and a fairly undemanding parcours before the final climb, a high w/kg performance should be expected.
With a length of around 20 minutes and gravel section, this climb is reminiscent of the ascent to the Antenas del maigmo Tibi, used in the Volto Comunitat Valenciana and dominated by Aleksandr Vlasov. Considering this, the Bora leader should try to distance the other GC leaders on this climb, who can be expected to beat him on the harder alpine stages. Next to Vlasov, the Slovenes are the natural favourites out of the GC group, while Vingegaard might struggle more on this short w/kg test compared to the Alpine climbs in the second week.
Another thing to watch out for is the fight for the breakaway, which has a strong possibility to win the stage given the relatively small time gaps expected between the top GC riders and the energy needed to control the early part of the stage. If a GC rider was to win the stage, they would likely take the yellow jersey (and the obligations that come with it) very early in the race, which is something we do not expect Jumbo-Visma or UAE Team Emirates to want to do. Look for riders like Thibaut Pinot, Mike Woods, Lennard Kämna and Dylan Teuns (who won on Planche des Belles Filles in 2019) to target this stage from the break.
W/kg prediction: 6,70w/kg – 19’31min – 21,30km/h – 1882 VAM
Pas de Morgins, Stage 9
Pas de Morgins is a 15,4km climb at 6,2%, but the gradient is massively influenced by the last 3,4km at around 3%, while the first 12km have an average gradient of 7,04%. With no real mountain stage before the first rest day, a few GC riders might consider trying something on this stage, but the parcours really does not support a serious move for big time gains. The last kilometres of the climb being so shallow lead to a very high drafting benefit and the first 12km are not hard enough to drop all domestiques such as Verona, Kruijswijk or Majka, who will be of great use in chasing down any late moves. This stage is reminiscent of Stage 6 of Le Tour 2020, which finished on Mont Aigoual – a relatively hard section followed by a very shallow, rolling ~10km to the finish.
That stage was won by Alexey Lustenko of Astana from the breakaway, with neither Jumbo-Visma or INEOS willing to pace hard on the stage and INEOS setting a very easy tempo on the major climb of the day.
The only team which could try something on this stage is once again Bora-Hansgrohe, as the stage suits Vlasov to go for the stage win but even then the likely scenario would be a small group sprint between him and the Slovenians, where it is a coin toss for the victory. With Bora bringing one of the strongest mountain break stage hunting squads to the Tour in recent history, featuring Konrad, Großschartner, Schachmann and Kämna, their odds are likely better from the breakaway as well. Consequently, we believe this stage will end with a breakaway up the road fighting for the stage, with the GC teams pacing defensively.
W/kg prediction: 5,70w/kg – 32’17min – 22,30km/h – 1571 VAM.
Col du Galibier via Telegraphe, Stage 11
The legendary alpine monster, which goes up to 2630m altitude, is featured twice in the Tour de France 2022, but will only play a deciding role on Stage 11. The riders will face the dreaded Telegraphe – Galibier combination before heading to the Col du Granon. With 17,9km at 6,89% and the last 7km at over 8% as well as the added effect of high altitude, some riders could already crack on this climb.
The climbing record set by Juan Mauricio Soler in 2007 (48’05min) should be broken easily if Jumbo attempt to put Pogacar and his team under any pressure. We saw on Solaison in the Dauphiné one of the best performances from Kruijswijk in his recent history as well as Sepp Kuss, one of the top climbers to altitude in the world, breaking the KOM on the famous Arcalis climb in Andorra after having to abandon the Tour de Suisse.
Both Kruijswijk and Kuss will be vital for Vingegaard and Roglic on this stage, if they wish to expose the weak squad of UAE, as with no Rohan Dennis in the squad and Benoot’s climbing looking under his Mikuni Pass Olympics level, a lot rests on the duo’s skinny shoulders. Whether they can be kept in reserve to pace on Granon will depend on the shape of Laporte, Wout van Aert and Benoot here on the Galibier.
W/kg prediction: 5,60w/kg* – 47’51min – 22,44km/h – 1547 VAM.
Col du Granon, Stage 11
The Col du Granon has left an impression on the Tour de France, despite only being featured once in the long history of the Grande Boucle. Greg LeMond took the Maillot Jaune here in 1986, becoming the first ever American to win Le Tour and ending the era of Bernard Hinault. Could we see the current dominant rider also crack on Granon this year? The 11,28km at 9,2% monster to 2404m certainly does not suit Pogacar too much, with him struggling at similar altitude against Roglic on Col de la Loze and being naturally disadvantaged on steeper gradients, as one of the heavier GC riders.
The climb is so hard that we could see gaps of several minutes – this is one of the key stages in the Jumbo vs Pogacar rivalry and the fight for the podium. Will the INEOS Grenadiers go all in for Dani Martinez in this high altitude stage at the risk of sacrificing Thomas’ GC position? How will Aleksandr Vlasov fare on these longer climbs? Whatever happens, the climbing record of Urs Zimmermann and Greg LeMond (41’15min) will be beaten by several minutes, as it is completely uncompetitive compared to modern climbing efforts.
W/kg prediction: 6,20w/kg* – 35’12min – 19,22km/h – 1769 VAM
Alpe d’Huez, Stage 12
The route of this year’s Tour is relentless, featuring a triple Hors Categorie climb Queen stage, finishing on the classic Alpe d’Huez, just one day after the brutal Col du Granon. This combination could lead to spectacular blowups for riders struggling with recovery, like we saw on Ardiden last year where Rigoberto Uran slid from 4th to 10th. The Galibier – Croix de Fer – Alpe d’Huez is one of the classic, very hard Tour stages, used in 2008 when Sastre attacked on the Alpe whilst his teammate Schleck was in yellow.
The fatigue in the rider’s legs will be extremely high once the riders reach the Alpe, a climb in the 35-40min region, just like Granon the day before. The tempo on the 13,8km at 8,08% climb will mostly depend on the recovery from the day before, the GC positions and once again the strength of Jumbo’s team. Even in these very hard conditions, it is likely that Pogacar and Roglic will be able to perform at a very high level, similar to 2020, where they were able to perform at almost peak condition on back to back stages.
Despite the many ascents onto the Alpe, no human has ever come close to the climbing times of Marco Pantani, who is responsible for the three fastest ascents ever. The fastest of the three was achieved in 1995, 36’50min at 6,80w/kg – a record that will stand the test of time and not be beaten this year or in the future.
W/kg prediction: 6,30w/kg* – 38’14min – 21,65km/h – 1750 VAM
Mende – Cote de la Croix Neuve, Stage 14
Between the Alpes and the Pyrenees we have another really interesting climb in this year’s Tour de France – a true classic – Montée Laurent Jalabert, Cote de la Croix Neuve in Mende.
This ascent is probably the best 10 min power test you can find in all of cycling with 3,05km at 10,36%. The steep gradients are reminiscent of the Mur de Huy, which is essentially 1/3 of this climb.
This kind of stage design is perfect for Primoz Roglic, who excels on steep gradients, setting the joint fastest time on Mur de Huy in 2021 and the second fastest time ever on this Mende climb in 2018. Roglic then only went 7 seconds slower than the all-time record of Marco Pantani, Miguel Indurain and Bjarne Riis and it seems possible that he could break it this time given his improved physical level since 2018. One factor that may prevent the record being broken is if Jumbo-Visma wish to protect Jonas Vingegaard’s GC position and so do not pace hard lest he loses time to Pogacar.
However there are also question marks on Pogacar on this kind of effort, seeing how much he struggled on the steep ramps of the Mur de Huy in 2020 and 2022. Even if Pogacar struggles a bit on the steep gradients, a 10 minute effort will suit him more than the 3 minute punch up the Mur de Huy, as shown in the similar Basque Country 2021 finish to Ermaulde, where he and Roglic were inseparable.
Record time: 7,37w/kg* – 09,02min – 20,24km/h – 2099 VAM.
Peyragudes, Stage 17
This stage is made for Tadej Pogacar, with multiple sub 25 minute climbs and a finish on a 8,08km; 8,03% ascent to Peyragudes. These climbs are similar to the ones where Pogacar took big time in the Tour de France 2020 and 2021 – Col de Peyresourde and Col de Romme. With this in mind, Pogacar will certainly attack on this stage – from where will depend on his position in the General Classification.
One thing that spices up this stage is the Altiport finish, which means we will see gradients of around 14% in the last 400 metres. The full climb has not been used before, but the last 400 metres are the same as in 2017, where they led to Froome cracking and temporarily losing the yellow jersey to Fabio Aru. A similar blowup is always possible on this finish as riders that are on the limit already will struggle massively as the group’s drafting benefit is heavily reduced and could lose up to 30 seconds just on this short section.
W/kg prediction: 6,60w/kg* – 21’24min – 22,65km/h – 1820 VAM
Spandelles, Stage 18
The last mountain stage of the race brings Spandelles – a climb that has not been used in the Tour de France before, as the descent was deemed too dangerous, before road works made it safe enough for it to be used this year. The 10,26km; 8,32% climb is the second of three huge climbs on Stage 18, sandwiched between Aubisque and Hautacam.
The pace could already be very high on this climb as a team that needs to gain a lot of time on this stage will not want to wait until the Hautacam to begin hard pacing. A long-range move here does not seem too viable, as the Hautacam is too hard to waste energy before and there is no valley in which a tactically placed satellite rider can lead to huge time gains.
Nonetheless, this climb will add a lot of fatigue ahead of Hautacam, with only a short descent in between for a brief recovery.
W/kg prediction: 5,80w/kg* – 31’19min – 19,65km/h – 1636 VAM.
Hautacam, Stage 18
One last chance to go big or go home before the long stage 20 time trial. The Hautacam climb has been the scene for many incredible performances over the years:
- Bjarne Riis’ record breaking ascent in 1996 – 34’41min at 6,88w/kg
- Miguel Indurain’s and Lance Armstrong’s best ever performance; and
- a personal best performance from Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.
The riders this year will certainly not break Riis’ record, but with all of this in mind, it should not be a surprise if we see multiple career-best performances on this climb.
Thanks to the rather low gradient of 7,95% for 13,33km, there is still a significant drafting benefit on this climb, which could help a Jumbo-Visma double leader attack strategy, assuming one of their riders will be able to sit on Pogacar’s wheel, with the other one goes up the road. On the other hand it also means that Pogacar will struggle to gain big time if he is behind, as his teammates will not be able to drop the Jumbo domestiques, who can then apply a train strategy to save energy and slowly reel in Pogacar if he attacks.
The two sections which are most suited for attacking are with five km and three km to go, when the road kicks up to nearly 10%.
W/kg prediction: 6,30w/kg* – 36,37min – 21,84km/h – 1737 VAM
Of course the Tour de France is not solely won or lost on these epic climbs that we have discussed here. The eventual winner of this year’s edition must be an all-rounder who can cope with 54 kilometres of time trial, including the hilly 41km ITT to Rocamadour on Stage 20, as well as the echelons and cobble segments that the riders will face in week one. All of this makes for an exciting route, that will hopefully deliver a spectacular battle between Roglic, Vingegaard and Pogacar.
Make sure to check in here during the race for watts estimations and articles on the various climbing performances in the next three weeks.
Gabriel Stróżyk (@NaichacaCycling)