Col de Montgenevre

Col de Montgenevre is a busy main road between Briancon in France and the Susa Valey in Italy. Compared with other options to the north and south, this is a lower and more direct crossing, and the result is quite a bit of traffic on an often small, curvy road. A little longer option, to avoid the traffic is a detour over Col de l'Echelle to the north. Or ride both of them in a day long loop, and you get to see what Romans saw on their highway in the 2nd century BC -  more or less, mostly less. The top looks completely different today. The pass is located in the dense commerce of a ski town.

1.(1250m,00.0km) START-END WEST: just west of Briancon: jct with Avenue de Savoie
2.(1350m,04.2km)D994g on left goes to Col de l'Echelle
3.(1850m,12.6km)TOP: Col de Montgenevre
4.(1360m,21.8km)Cesana Torinese
5.(1050m,34.6km)jct on left with road to Bardonecchia and Col de l'Echelle
6.(500m,56.0km)START-END EAST: Susa


From West.
The constant companion on the lower part of this approach is the Citadel in Briancon. It shows up in all of the pictures I took, looking down valley. The jct with D994 marks the decision point weather to take Col de l'Echelle instead. How bad the traffic was up to this point is probably a major factor. From here the switchbacks to Col de Montgenevre look like zig zag ramps through the forest ahead. They may look intimidating, but actually they do not cover a huge amount of elevation. At the last western most switchback stands a gazebo with an outstanding view up Valle de Pres.

Now the road turns straight westwards and quickly crests in the middle of the ski town Montgenevre. The main road goes through a short tunnel under the main business district. But the bike path crests under the Col de Montgenevre sign in between hotels and ski stores. The ski slopes have a manicured lawn look in summer. No wonder - now people drive golf carts around, so that they can knock little balls into holes on steep slopes.

From East.
(described downwards). The roundabout at this end of town is the last view of high peaks still snow covered in June surrounding Briancon. A straight, quick roll leads through another ski town, Claviere, while the main motor traffic is kept quiet and away in a tunnel. After that come two long galleries, a single switchback that shows off the peaks behind Sestriere, and another long tunnel. I may have forgotten to mention a short tunnel or two. But this approach is probably more fun downhill, except when it's raining really hard, and then all those galleries would keep you dry.

In Cesana Torinese the traffic from another ski town pass, Col du Sestriere merges. Now a wide, busy main road leads downvalley into Susa. Highpoints for me are the views of the fort in Exilles, then the interplay of the road we are on with the autostrada, sometimes up on stilts, sometimes above, other times separated by an old bridge that now carries nothing but weeds. The swinging turns down into Susa are also fun and seem to celebrate the grandeur of the valley, which now merges with the Col du Mont Cenis traffic.

Historical Notes:

The Romans:
Authors, who say that Hannibal crossed this pass on his route to invade the Roman empire cite the Paduan author Tite-Live (this may be a french designation) as source. It seems that the route over adjacent Col du Mont Cenis is more likely. But a Roman road did go across the pass, the Via Domitia was constructed in 121 AD and was ready for traffic three years later.

Napoleon: During the mid 18th century French and English engineers started to build roads that were a great improvement on the engineering of the Romans. Grades were kept lower, the surface became harder and more even, and rest houses were built. Napoleon took advantage of this and improved many pass roads, amongst them the pass over Montgenenevre.

Cycling - Tour de France: The pass was 10 times on the route on 9 years: 1949, 52, 56, 66, 92, 96, 99, 2011. In 1996 the pass was on the route during two consecutive stages.

Dayride with this point as highest summit:


Col de Montgenevre , Col de l'Echelle : Susa > short detour near Exilles > Salbertrand > Bardonecchia > Melezt > Col de l'Echelle > Val des Pres > Col de Montgenevre > Cesana > Ouix > Salbertrand > back to starting point in Susa with shopping detour: 77.2miles with ft of climbing in 7:12hrs (Garmin etrex30: m4:14.6.20)

The last day over a pass with different start and end points on this tour is Passo de Gavia

^  the climb from Briancon with the Citadel in the middle of the background

^ the summit is in the middle of a ski resort village, the vertical white sign marks the highest elevation

^ this view of Susa is near point 6, at the bottom on the Italian side