The Souvenir Henri Desgrange is a prestigious prize awarded to the first rider to cross the Col du Galibier during each Tour de France, in honour of the race’s founder, Henri Desgrange, who passed away in 1940. If the Galibier is not included in the Tour route, the prize goes to the first rider to summit the highest point of that year’s race, similar to the Cima Coppi in the Giro d’Italia. A second prize, the Souvenir Jacques-Goddet, is awarded to the first rider over the Col du Tourmalet. If the Tourmalet is the highest point of the race, the Souvenir Henri Desgrange is given to the rider who crosses the second-highest summit. In years when the Tourmalet isn’t included, the prize might not be awarded, though exceptions occurred in 2002 on the Col d’Aubisque and in 2007 on the Port de Pailhères.

The Souvenir Henri Desgrange was first presented in 1947 when the Tour resumed after World War II. Initially, it marked various points on a stage, including locations like Desgrange’s house or mid-mountain spots. In 1950, the prize naturally shifted to the high mountains, primarily in the Alps and Pyrenees. In 1949, a monument to Henri Desgrange was erected on the Tour’s famed Col du Tourmalet, one of his favourite climbs, where a wreath is laid when the race passes. The 2023 winner of the €5,000 prize was Austrian Felix Gall of AG2R-Citröen at the summit of the Col de la Loze. Gall claimed the prize en route to a major career victory in Courchevel, finishing solo ahead of Simon Yates on Stage 17.

Richard Virenque and Nairo Quintana share the record for the most wins, each with three. However, Quintana, injured during the Tour de Suisse, won’t be able to add to his tally this year. Colombian riders have a strong history in the Souvenir Henri Desgrange, with 10 wins, placing them third overall behind France (17) and Spain (14). The highest altitude where the prize has been awarded is the Col de l’Iseran at 2,764m in 2019. That year, Colombian Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) not only won the prize but also took the yellow jersey in Paris. Conversely, the lowest point was outside Desgrange’s old house in Grimaud, Var, just five metres above sea level. Despite his love for mountains and pioneering Grand Tour routes, Desgrange lived at a modest altitude.

The Cime de la Bonette is the designated location for the Souvenir Henri Desgrange in 2024’s Tour de France. Standing at 2,715m, it is the second of three significant climbs on stage 19, ending in Isola. If the yellow jersey is still contested by then, we could witness an exciting showdown. The Souvenir Henri Desgrange might provide a crucial springboard for a decisive move before the race’s finale in Nice.

Souvenir Henri Desgrange winners

Souvenir Jacques-Goddet Winners