Follow in the tracks of the Tour de France as you challenge yourself cycling legendary climbs of the French Alps.
This trip takes you from the Jura Mountains to the mighty French Alps as you ride through the same terrain as the Tour de France. Earn your bragging rights as you conquer the legendary climbs of the Croix de Fer, Col d’Izoard and the true legends of the Col du Galibier and the iconic 21 hairpins of the Alpe d’Huez. This is a trip to test your cycling skills but rewards you with sublime Alpine vistas, thrilling downhills, great company and an excuse to eat as much French pastry as you want!
Day 1: Aix-les-Bains If you arrive early, check out the Roman ruins, Temple of Diana, the town hall or the belle Chateau de la Roche du Roi.
Day 2: Aix-les-Bains
Set off on your first ride. Start by finding your cycling legs on a gentle ride that loops around Lake Bourget. This route traces the shadows of the Jura Mountains on one side and the towering Bauges Massif on the other. Those looking for a stronger challenge can instead cycle up the snaking road to the nearby Col du Grand Colombier.
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 one of the flattest. Start in a southeast direction, cycling through Chambery. Then follow the Isere River before turning towards the Alps themselves and making 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. Once at the top, it’s time for the thrill – turn around and enjoy the first proper descent of the journey. Be sure to eat a hearty meal tonight to fuel up for the challenges ahead. (B)
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. The reward 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 side trip to the Col du Glandon. Then enjoy a beautiful descent past lakes to the cycling mecca of Le Bourg d’Oisans. (B)
Day 5: Le Bourg d’Oisans
You might like to rest your weary legs today. Otherwise, a highly recommended cycling challenge awaits. This journey leads to the 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 37 minutes, rest assured you are free to make the climb at a much more relaxed pace. Descend back through the hairpins into Le Bourg d’Oisans and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in one of the many cafes or bars in this thriving but small holiday town. (B)
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). Once at the Col du Lautaret, turn off towards the narrow winding road that takes you to the highest point of the trip – the legendary Col du Galibier (2645 m). From here, enjoy one of the longest descents in the Alps, a 35 km downhill cruise into the historical fortified city of Briancon. At an altitude of 1326 metres, this is the highest city in France. (B)
Day 7: Chambery
The final day of cycling is a special one. Climb up the sublime Col d’Izoard loop (2361m). Starting out immediately 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. 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 Chambery. Celebrate your achievements – perhaps over dinner with fellow travellers. (B)
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.
Images courtesy of IntrepidGroup