Cycle the French Alps: Road Cycling

Day 1: Aix-les-Bains

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where and when exactly it will take place. If you can't arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. Your leader will also collect teh optional food/drink kitty at this meeting. If you arrive early, check out the Roman ruins, Temple of Diana, the town hall or the belle Chateau de la Roche du Roi. If you have brought your own bike it is a good idea to assemble it today to ensure that everything is in perfect working order. There are 3 bike shops in Aix (plus nearby Chambery) but please note most close around 5pm on a Saturday and don't open Sundays or Mondays. If you are looking for an early cycling challenge the nearby Dent du Chat (12kms at 10%) or Mont Revard (25kms at 5%) are options, but we recommend saving your legs for the days ahead – you’ll need them! Please see the Transport section of our Essential Trip Information notes for details of how you can make your own way to Aix-le-Bains from either Paris or Geneva. For those that have brought their own GPS device (e.g. Garmin) we can upload each day's ride directly to your device so that you never get lost no matter how fast (or slow) you are.

Day 2: Aix-les-Bains

After a quick bike check, set off on your first ride. Start by finding your cycling legs on a ride that loops around the beautiful Lake Bourget. This route traces the contours of the Jura Mountains high above the Abbaye d'Hautecombe, a 12th-century royal burial site, on one side and comes full circle back to Aix-les-Bains along the low lake road under the towering Bauges Massif on the other. While there is a bit of climbing to be done this is a pretty relaxing first day, with a couple of coffee stops along the way. Those looking for a stronger challenge can instead cycle up the snaking road to the nearby Col du Grand Colombier, which makes for a fairly rigorous climb (97 km long; 1850 m elevation gain). Note that this ride is unsupported; your leader stays with lake loop ride. Cycling distance: approx. 55 km / 34 miles, flat on one side of the lake and undulating on the other, with approx. 900m / 2950ft of elevation gain.

Day 3: La Chambre

Experience the sublime Lacets de Montvernier, which is often described as one of the most beautiful roads in professional cycling. Today's ride is the longest of the trip, but also fairly flat (compared to the mountains at least!) for the first 55kms before you hit your first real climb. Start in a southeast direction, we avoid the busy roads by cycling around Chambery then climb up to the tiny hamlet of Saint Georges d’Hurtieres before dropping down besides the L’Arc River and our first views of the Alps themselves. From here you make the gentle climb along the valley to the Lacets de Montvernier. This famous stretch of road features 18 hairpin bends, 17 of which take place within 2 km, making it a cyclist's dream. The climb up to the village of Montvernier is quite short (3.4 km) but it's certainly spectacular! Once at the top, it's time for fun as we cycle further along the ridgeline then enjoy the first proper descent of the journey on the flowing curves down to Hermillon. Let your brakes cool then cycle back along the valley to the small town of La Chambre. Be sure to eat a hearty meal tonight at a local French restaurant to fuel up for the challenges ahead. Cycling distance: approximately 110km / 68 miles, lightly undulating for the first 55kms then a constant (but gradual) uphill to the Lacets, with approx. 1790m/ 5870ft of overall elevation gain. Feature climb/s: Lacets de Montvernier

Day 4: Le Bourg d'Oisans

Today is the 'Queen stage'. Cycle up into the Alps and the first of the legendary 'hors category' climbs in professional cycling – the Col de la Croix de Fer (Pass of the Iron Cross). Reaching an altitude of 2067 m after almost 30 km (with average gradient of 5.5%), this is a long climb but well worth it. Having our support crew waiting with a coffee or cold coke (and a jacket if needed!) is an extra bonus. The reward for your climbing is a beautiful, ever changing view – small villages, forested roads, green alpine meadows dotted with stone shepherd's huts, and finally the rocky outcrops of the Col itself. After the obligatory photo, rest at the cafe and a make the very short (mostly downhill!) side trip to the Col du Glandon. Then enjoy a beautiful descent past aquamarine lakes down to the cycling mecca of Le Bourg d'Oisans. Cycling distance: approximately 80 km / 50 miles, flat for the first 10kms, climbing for the next 30kms then descent/flat to Le Boiurg d'Oisans, with an approx. 2400m / 7875ft of overall elevation gain. Feature climb/s: Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon

Day 5: Le Bourg d'Oisans

Today a highly recommended cycling challenge awaits. This journey leads to the 21 hairpins of the most famous climb in cycling, the Alpe d'Huez. While the record for this 13.8 km ascent is an incredible 36 minutes, rest assured you are free to make the climb at a much more relaxed pace. Don’t forget to check out the names of the legendary cyclists on each hairpin, from Coppi and Armstrong at the bottom, to Hinault (you’re half way!) and Pantani right near the top. You’ll know you’ve reached the top (it’s not obvious when you have we assure you) when you see our support vehicle setting up a well-earned picnic at the finish line. While Alpe d’Huez is justifiably legendary the Alps is full of hidden rides whose views will take your breath away – and today your local cycling guide helps you experience one of the best. After enjoying a rapid descent most of the way down the Alpe leave the main road behind and ride along the Balcon d’Auris (Balconies of Auris), a small road literally carved into the side of a sheer cliff with amazing views of the valley and nearby mountains. We don’t recommend this for those prone to vertigo. From here it’s mostly a downhill/flat cruise back into Le Bourg d'Oisans to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in one of the many cafes or bars in this thriving but small holiday town. Cycling distance: approximately 52km / 32 miles, climbing almost immediately for 14kms, a sharp decent for 9kms then undulating. The final 20kms is mosty descent/flat, with an approx. overall elevation gain of 1855m / 6090ft Feature climb/s: Alpe d'Huez

Day 6: Briancon

This is the second of the big days of climbing. Follow the Route Nationale 91 from Le Bourg upward to the Col du Lautaret (2058 m). While it's not a steep road overall (its average gradient is 3.8%), it is an almost 35 km climb that will be sure to take the sting out of your legs. Once at the Col du Lautaret, turn off and start (continue!) climbing up the winding road that takes you to the highest point of the trip – the legendary Col du Galibier (2645 m). This section has been likened to a 'ride into the sky' by a professional cyclist. The views along the way and from the Col itself are truly stunning. After the obligatory photo at the Galibier sign turn around and enjoy one of the longest descents in the Alps, a 35 km downhill all the way to our final destination for the night. Near the end of the descent you’ll stop for a lakeside picnic lunch beneath glacier covered mountains before continuing on to fortified city of Briancon, at 1,326 metres (4,350 feet) it is the highest city in France. Cycling distance: approximately 85 km / 53 miles with an elevation gain of approx. 2250m / 7380ft Feature climb/s: Col du Lautaret and Col du Galibier

Day 7: Chambery

The final day of cycling is a special one. Climb up the sublime Col d'Izoard loop (2361m). Starting out immediately out from Briancon, the ride rises gradually along a quiet road shadowed by larch trees and snow-capped mountains before hitting the higher forested slopes when the gradient starts to kick in. The trees obscure the views but offer welcome shade in the hot summer months. The climb opens out beyond the tree-line into the bare rock near the summit. Passing by the Refuge Napoleon (and the occasional marmot) you soon arrive at the top, where a tall stone tower marks the summit of the final climb. Take some time to enjoy the view (you can see Italy from here). If we have time, descend the other side for 2kms to ride back up through the infamous barren Casse Déserte - a true highlight in cycling scenery - then head down the same road through tight switchbacks and long straight descents back to Briancon. After a quick drink break, drive north back to charming Chambery (approx. 3 hours). Celebrate your achievements – perhaps over dinner and a few beers/wines in the local square with fellow travellers - you've earned it! Cycling distance: approx. 42 km / 25 miles with an elevation gain of 1380m / 4530ft Feature climb/s: Col d'Izoard

Day 8: Chambery

Your cycling adventure comes to an end. Those keen to stay on and do more riding can consult their leader. Choice local climbs include the challenging Dent Du Chat and the nearby Mont Revard.

Start date - End date Trip Status Price
10/AUG/2019 - 17/AUG/2019 OR LR DGAU$1589
(single supplement $790)
06/JUN/2020 - 13/JUN/2020 FS DGAU$2495
(single supplement $790)
20/JUN/2020 - 27/JUN/2020 FS DGAU$2495
(single supplement $790)
04/JUL/2020 - 11/JUL/2020 FS DGAU$2495
(single supplement $790)
08/AUG/2020 - 15/AUG/2020 FS DGAU$2495
(single supplement $790)
29/AUG/2020 - 05/SEP/2020 FS DGAU$2495
(single supplement $790)
19/SEP/2020 - 26/SEP/2020 FS DGAU$2495
(single supplement $790)