Route des Grandes Alpes
In 2019 we are delighted to offer you the chance to ride the classic Alpine cycling trip - The Route des Grandes Alpes.
Starting on the shores of Lake Geneva and crossing the Alps from north to south, passing through beautiful Provence, we will arrive in Menton on the Mediterranean coast a week later.
The journey embraces the entire French Alps. The winding road crosses spectacular mountain landscapes, and in the valleys you’ll find local cultural features and gastronomic specialities.
The Route des Grandes Alpes is a fabulous mountain road. The (almost) 700km km between Thonon-les-Bains and Menton include 16 passes that are among the highest in the Alps. It’s an exceptional natural and cultural environment.
We will take in some of the most famous mountain passes in the Alps, such as the Col de L'Iseran at 2770m, Col du Galibier at 2650m, Col d'Izoard at 2360m and the Col de Vars at 2120m to name but a few.
Altogether we will cross 16 major cols and climb over 18500m in 7 days. The total distance ridden will be 696km. Most days we will ride approx. 100km and climb approx. 2500m apart from the final day which contains 3000m of climbs.
Overnight accommodation will be in good quality hotels, serving excellent food. Rooms can be taken on a shared or single basis.
The trip will last 9 days, with 7 days cycling the route plus a day at each end for travel.
Arrival Day (Friday)
Arrive in Geneva and be driven to Thonon, right on the shore of the lake where we will enjoy a relaxed dinner and stay overnight.
Our first day of riding starts with a long climb from Thonon to Morzine up the Dranse Valley. The climb isn't hard, rising 670m over the 33km. The gorge is very impressive and will give you a good warm up before the stiffer climbs that await.
After the warm up of the Vallee Dranse, we take the easier route out of Morzine with a short uphill stretch to Les Gets, rather than go over the tough Col de Joux Plane.
After descending to Taninges, we will ride to Cluses and the start of the day's biggest climb, the Col de Colombiere. A category 1 climb in the Tour de France, the Colombiere is deceptively tough. A fairly easy first 6km puts you at ease but after the village of Le Reposoir the going gets a lot harder. The remaining 10km of the climb are all in the 9% - 11% variety and contains long straight stretches where progress seems to slow almost to a standstill at times.
The descent of the Colombiere is good fun with some great views before arriving in our destination for the night, La Clusaz.
Day 1 Stats: 97km. 2633m ascent
Three mountains await us today but there is a short downhill ride from the hotel before we hit the first one outside of La Clusaz. The summit of the Col des Aravis is only 6.5km from La Cluzaz but its gives you a short sharp shock to wake you up for the day. However, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Aravis range on the way up to the top at 1488m.
The descent to Flumet twists its way down through meadows and is great fun. The traffic is light and visibility of hairpins below you allows you to descend without worrying what may come round the next corner.
After crossing the main road to Chamonix in Flumet, we will start climbing through the pretty village of Notre Dame de Bellecombe up to the Col des Saisies at 1660m. The start of the climb - from Flumet to Notre Dame takes you through the forest, so there is plenty of shade if it is a hot day. After the village though, the forest gives way to open meadows and chocolate box Alpine scenery.
After descending the Col des Saisies to the beautiful village of Beaufort, our biggest climb of the day awaits us. Without doubt, the Cormet de Roselend is considered one of the most beautiful climbs in the Alps. Twisting its way through the forest on the side of the valley it is quite spectacular. Then just after spotting Mont Blanc in the distance, you come around a bend in the road to see the beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. On a sunny day it is breathtaking.
The lake isn't the top of the climb, you still have around 300m to go up through real mountainous territory, above the tree line before you can experience the fast, twisty descent to Bourge St. Maurice, where we will stay for the night.
Day 2 stats: 97km. 2797m ascent
Our third day on the road only involves climbing one mountain pass - the giant Col de L'Iseran at 2770m.
From our start in Bourg St. Maurice we will climb for almost 50km (much of it easy) before we reach the summit. Our route will take us through the swish ski resort of Val d'Isere and then up into the very high mountains, rising almost 1000m from the village by the time you have cycled the 17km or so to the summit.
But - what goes up has to come down and you will be rewarded with a fabulous descent of 58km! The first 16km will take you down the steeper roads from the summit but then you have around 40km of gradual descent on quiet roads until you reach our resting place for the night in Modane.
Day 3 stats: 105km. 2546m ascent.
Day 4 takes us from the northern Alps to those in the south.
It starts with a descent to the Maurienne Valley and then turns sharply upwards at St. Michel de Maurienne when we tackle the Col du Telegraph. Many people ignore the Telegraph at their peril. It is a prelude to the giant Col du Galibier but is a tough climb in its own right.Once that 12km twisty climb is done a short descent to Valloire awaits before the 17km climb up to the Col du Galibier at 2650m.
The two climbs together equal 34km (albeit with a 4km flat / downhill stretch in the middle) and form one of the classic climbs in the Alps and really is one on most rider's bucket list.
The views at the top of the Col du Galibier are spectacular, with views to both the northern and southern Alps.
Our descent from the col will take us to the Col du Lautaret at 2000m before we turn left and head 35km down the valley to Briancon where we will stay the night.
Day 4 Stats: 86km. 2239m ascent.
Briancon is the highest town in France at 1326m and is something of a cycling mecca with superb rides from the town available in all directions.
Our route will take us over the famed Col d'Izoard at 2360m. The col has seen many great battles in both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia as we are close to the Italian border here. The stark rock faces and scree slopes of the Casse Desert and Terre Rouge reflect the sun and can make it a hard day in the saddle but the rewards are the tales you have to say you conquered one of the greatest climbs in the Alps.
After descending the 30km to Guillestre, the road points upwards again when we climb the formidable Col de Vars which tops out at 2115m. Once you reach the top, a fantastic descent to Jausiers is in store for you, and will take you to our hotel for the night.
Day 5 stats: 93km. 2653m ascent.
An easy start is in store for us today with a 10km ride along the flat before heading up the gentle slopes of the Col de Cayolle. The col is high at 2330m but apart from a couple of places the gradient rarely goes much more than 6%, meaning its a long grind rather than a brutal climb. Again, we will be above the tree line experiencing the landscape of the high mountains. The top of the col forms the border to our final destination - the department of Alpes Maritimes.
Another long (30km) descent is in store for us once we crest the top of the Col de Cayolle before we start the climb up to the ski station at Valberg at 1685m. After passing through the ski station and riding along the ridge we have a wonderful twisty descent waiting for us to take us to our final hotel on the road in St. Saveur-sur-Tinee.
Day 6 stats: 114km. 2677m ascent.
After some of the giant cols we will have crossed during the last week, two cols standing at 1500m and 1600m plus a "small" hill at 720m seems a bit easy. However, our final day has more metres to be climbed than any of the previous days.
First up is the Col de St. Martin. South facing, the road is sunny and pleasant. At the top of the col is a purpose built ski station which although isn't pretty, does have shops, bars and restaurants ready to serve cold drinks!
After descending from the Col de St. Martin, we will immediately start the climb of the Col de Turini. This is a particularly pleasant climb, with lots of shade up the gorge from trees and rock faces. The top of the climb is 1613m, and the hotel at the top has a good bar and restaurant to relax in after the climb.
The descent of the Col de Turini is a joy! Never too steep but fast enough for lots of fun - and long - going on for around 24km before hitting the final col of the tour, the Col de Castillon. What this climb lacks in height, it more than makes up for in terms of stunning scenery, with the hairpins near the top affording views of pine clad mountains stretching into the distance.
From the col, it's only about 11km to Menton on the Mediterranean coast. We will follow the quiet road into town before heading along the seafront to our finish where we will enjoy a celebratory drink. In the evening we will eat a first class dinner at our hotel and reflect on an epic week of cycling.
Day 7 stats: 104km. 3015m ascent.
Departure Day (Sunday)
After enjoying a final breakfast in Menton, we will take you and your bikes to Nice Airport for the flight back to the UK. Depending on flight times you may have an opportunity to explore the beautiful old town of Menton or stroll along the seafront before heading to the airport. If your flight is later in the day we can stop off in Monte Carlo or any of the lovely seaside towns for lunch.
Trip Dates: To be confirmed but likely to be late June or early July 2019
Costs: To be confirmed once trip dates have been agreed with hotels en route.
Flights and bike hire (should you require it) will not be included in the cost. We can arrange bike hire for you if required.
Breakfast and dinner in the hotels or a local restaurant will be included in the cost. Wine will be provided with dinner. Lunch is not included.
Support will be provided throughout the trip. Your luggage will be taken each day to the next hotel en route. A van will accompany you on the ride and will carry drinks, snacks and tools. Two of our guides will accompany you on the road each day.
Any energy bars, drinks or nutritional supplements you require should be brought on the trip by you. Each person has their own preferences and it is best that you bring the products you like.