The Col Agnel / Colle Dell’Agnello is number three on the list of highest paved passes in Europe – the Cime de la Bonette not included – and with 2,744 meters it has also been the Cima Coppi in the Giro d’Italia several times.
It is, however, Europe’s highest international pass, connecting France and Italy.
A not too busy road, where you’re not constantly overtaken – at high speed – by motor bikes or cars. The pass out of the valley on the opposite side – the Izoard – is a lot busier for that matter…
Report on my climb up the Agnel in 2014 here, pictures (“Best Of” gallery of the whole Tour) here.
The official start of the climb from the north / French side is in Guillestre. I got on the bike in Chateau Queyras, only a few kilometers from the foot of the climb, at La Casse / Ville-Vieile.
From there, you have 20.7 kilometer of real climbing ahead of you, but the 20-kilometer ride from Guillestre through the “Gorges du Guil” would be a very nice warm up – the altitude gain of roughly 400 meters, is almost negligible.
With an average of 4.1% from Guillestre, the Agnel may not seem like a tough climb, but from Ville-Veille the average of 6.6% is more “interesting”.
The first 7 km out of Ville-Veille and the final 8 km to the summit, contain stinging up to 10% sections.
So, once again, averages don’t mean jack shit, because the in between brings the overall average down to 6.6% over the 20.7 km…
The ascent is actually reasonably ‘straightforward’, ‘meandering’ up – only in the last five kilometers, you get some hairpin sections and prettier pictures if you’re into that sort of views.
Other than that, the views throughout the climb are often overwhelming in their wideness and the silence / absence of traffic is a relief…
The Italian ascend, from Casteldelfino, around 10 km in on the profile card, is a little longer, at 22.5 km, but more irregular in the first half and quite steep in the upper half.
In that part – from Chianale – the road winds up at an average of 10% to the top, over a distance of about 9 kilometers – definitely more difficult than the upper half from the other end.
I have not climbed this side myself*, because at the summit, I turned around and descended back to Ville-Vieille, in order to then climb the Izoard.
Looking at the profile of the south side of the Agnel and taking into consideration that I’m not a fan of “irregular”, I’m not sorry I skipped it at that time and as it was, the Izoard was difficult enough for me…
* I did tackle the Agnel virtually, on Rouvy – that ride actually starts in Sampeyre. While that extra distance is not too difficult, I experienced that they wear you out just enough to make the final almost insane.
I was more exhausted when I finished that virtual ride, than when I got up the other end IRL…