Montée du Semnoz

The Montée du Semnoz may not be the most illustrious climb in the French Alps, but for what it lacks in altitude and pro race appearances, it more than makes up for with its stunning views of Lake Annecy and the surrounding Haute-Savoie region.


There are three ascents to the 1,700m summit, the easiest of which is via the Col de Leschaux where the road snakes its way through dense woodland for 11.3km at an average gradient of 6%. The most popular ascent, though, starts in the valley town of Annecy below the mountain, a tough, 17km ascent that climbs 1,200m at an average of 8%. The final ascent of the three is the one that the Tour tackled back in 2013, starting from the small commune of Quintal. It may be the shortest of the three at 10.5km but due to its steeper ramps and exposed nature, it’s arguably the cruellest.

The climb to Semnoz has only featured twice at the Tour de France, once during 1998 when it was neutralised due to the ongoing Festina Affair, and again in 2013 when it was brought back to commemorate the 100th edition of the great race. Nairo Quintana won the stage, but it was the performance from Chris Froome behind that most will remember, and the finish atop Montée de Semnoz confirmed his first of many Tour de France overall victories.

From Quintal, the pros summited the climb in an impressive 30 minutes, a marker that us amateurs are unlikely to reach. Breaking the 45-minute barrier would be impressive and put you somewhere among the middle of 2013 finishers, but around an hour is a more realistic target. If you’re planning on ticking this clandestine col off your bucket list, then the nearby town of Annecy is the best place to set up camp, if not only to spend the week lounging on its world-famous lake.