July 2 - Geneve / Ferney Voltaire
We will meet you at the airport and take you to our hotel in Ferney Voltaire. You’ll have the afternoon to assemble bikes, sightsee and perhaps take a nap or even a bike ride. Later we will gather to have a few beers before our get-acquainted dinner tonight, which will include an overview of the tour. For those who arrive a day or two early, and would like to have an enjoyable bike ride, our map has a variety of possibilities.
July 3 - Talloires 57mi, 6000ft
Our route through the Alpes starts with a bang. We have chosen a special route with grueling climbs, twisting descents, incredible views, as well as some just plain fun bike riding. This is capped by a stay in an abbey turned hotel, situated on the shores of Lac d’Annecy. Our adventure begins as we navigate en masse through the colorful Geneve townscape; past boulangeries, fruit vendors, boutiques and banks. Then suddenly the city is behind us and we are climbing through the meadows on our way to the Alps and the town of Talloires, near Annecy. At the base of Mont Salève, the road splits and we can either climb 1000ft to the town of Cruseilles or climb the 3000ft to the top of Mont Salève, (Mont Saleve means mountain that goes up) with its breathtaking views of Geneve and Mont Blanc, followed by a thrilling 2000ft descent to Cruseilles for lunch. From here to Talloires, the route rolls through the foothills beneath the jagged cliffs of the high mountain peaks above Lac d’Annecy. Completely surrounded by high cliffs, Lac d’Annecy has one of the most beautiful settings in all of Europe. Our hotel is located directly on the lake, the swimming is great and the hotel patio has a great view. Get here early because you will want to spend as much time as possible relaxing, swimming and sipping a pastis or beer.
July 4 - Albertville 61mi, 8600ft or, 81mi, 12,000ft
This area of the Alpes is incredibly beautiful and it is easy to see why this is one of the great vacation and tourist spots in all of Europe, as well as a frequent course of the Tour de France. The extreme beauty of the area will abate some of the pain in our legs as we struggle up the final climb of the day. Our climbs include the Col de la Croix-Fry, Col des Aravis, and Col des Saisies, before descending to Albertville. We also have the opportunity to climb the Col de la Forclaz and the Col du Marais, adding 20 miles and 3400 feet of climbing, making for a very big day. We will all be very tired and hungry and will appreciate the comfort and hospitality of one of our favorite hotels, the Hotel Million.
July 5 - Albertville Cormet de Roselend Loop, Col du Joly Loop 75mi, 6000ft or 55mi, 5800ft
After two days of intense cycling, including over 18,000ft of climbing, a rest day might be in order. However, there is way too much to see and way too many roads to explore. A frequent of the tour de France and one of the most beautiful climbs in the French Alpes is the Cormet de Roselend. Soon after leaving Albertville we pass the Beaufort cheese factory, the aroma almost as invigorating as the winding ascent through the forest to the shimmering Lac de Roselend. After a wonderfully scenic ride around the lake, we climb up through a notch to the craggy landscapes to the Cormet de Roselend (1967m). Just below the summit, be sure to try a bowl of pasta to rejuvenate the tired legs. Be sure not to miss the Col du Pre with the incredible views on the descent.
Another option, although it is fairly rigorous at 55 miles and 5800 feet of elevation, is the climb to the Col du Joly. This will be rewarded with the best views, ever, of Mont Blanc. Of the many climbs on this tour, this is one of the more beautiful. On the way back take the loop road to Beaufort for lunch or some very good pastries.
July 6 - Valloire 67mi, 9200ft, or 59mi, 4800ft
We are in the big alps, any way you turn, there in front of you is a big Tour de France climb. Today we head east, and there in front of us is the Col de la Madeleine. It is one of the most-climbed passes in recent Tour de France history, as it appears most every year on the Tour route, and it is also always one of the hardest climbs at 5200ft vertical gain. It is long and steep, a real leg buster. Two small restaurants at the top can provide a delicious lunch (fettuccini alfredo) and a much-needed rest, before coasting down the long descent to La Chambre and the start of the next big climb, the Col du Telegraph. The short ride avoids the climb of the Col de la Madeleine, instead cycling up a gentle valley to La Chambre. Sitting on the shoulder of the Col du Galibier, the Telegraph doesn't seem like a big deal. But with 3700 vertical feet of climbing, you will be very happy to see the day’s conclusion at our hotel in Valloire.
July 7 - Venosc 40mi, 5,000ft
Just like yesterday, we are surrounded by huge peaks and historic climbs. Have a hearty breakfast because we start climbing the Col du Galibier right out the front door. The 4000 feet up the Col du Galibier wouldn’t seem to hard, but at nearly 9000 feet in elevation, the air will be getting pretty thin and with each pedal stroke your legs will seem heavier and heavier. Of course the descent will be huge, 41km, mostly downhill, before the short, gradual climb to our hotel. Our hotel is situated 7 km up a beautiful valley. The road climbs another 11 miles and 2650 feet of elevation before ending deep in the high peaks of the Alpes. There a couple options for longer rides, both traversing vertical cliffs.
July 8 – Venosc 31mi, 3500ft, or 52mi, 6500ft
Le Bourg d’Oisans to Alpe d’Huez is probably the most famous stretch of cycling road in the world. This is cycling Mecca, as cyclists from all over Europe (and the USA) come here to watch the 'Tour', as well as ride these roads made legendary by the heroes of the Tour de France. In 1997, Marco Pantani set a (drug assisted) record of 37 minutes from the base of the climb, to the finish at l’ Alpe d’Huez. A more normal time might be 42 minutes. Here is your opportunity to test your skills against the best of the pros. As you climb the 21 numbered switchbacks, you will have no trouble recognizing the names of cycling heroes written all over the road like some giant billboard. After lunch in the alpine village, descend back to le Bourg d’Oisans for an afternoon enjoying the village activities, or head back to the hotel and catch the 'Tour' on TV. The long route over the Col de Sarenne, is one of the most beautiful of the tour, and includes a spectacular traverse along the cliffs 2000 feet above the valley below.
July 9 – Venosc 31mi, 3500ft, or 52mi, 6500ft
The mountain passes around le Bourg d’Oisans are some of the most cycled in Europe; however, two of the most beautiful cycling routes in the area are hardly ridden at all. The easiest (option # 1) of these two amazing rides is to continue up the Veneon Valley, from the hotel, to the road end at La Barade. Here we are surrounded by the Massif des Ecrins, containing some of the highest mountains in the Alps.
Or, head to le Bourg d’Oisans and take the tiny cliff hugging road up the mountain, opposite l’Alpe d’Huez (option # 2). Here, there is no traffic, car or bike, yet this is one of the most spectacular climbs (and descents) anywhere in Europe. At the Col de Saulude there is an amazing view across the valley at the fabled 21 switchbacks of l’Alpe d’Huez, what you would call a great photo op. Note: there is a 2km stretch leading to the summit that is packed dirt. Do both routes for a total of 57mi, and 6300ft. One could also climb to les Deux-Alpes or even the Col du Galibier.
July 10 – Chichilianne 63mi, 3500ft, or 85mi 5000ft, or 75mi 4700ft
The first 14 km is a relaxing, gradual downhill, thru le Bourg d’Oisans to the base of the Col d’Ornon. This is a very dramatic climb, the road winds up between towering vertical cliffs, forming a deep ‘V’. TheTour de France comes through here often, including this year with the finish at Alpe d’Huez. It is considered a lesser climb, connecting the high Alpes with Provence and other southern areas. After a wonderful descent we enter a broad valley with the vertical limestone cliffs of the Vercors in the distance. Mt. Aiguille, with its tall very vertical cliffs, stands like a Sentinel, guarding the entrance to the Vercors. Our castle like hotel sits tucked away beneath these high mountains where dusk comes early when the sun dips behind the peaks, leaving us in their shade.
There are options for longer rides, including a beautiful loop out of La Mure, adds 22 miles and 1500 feet elevation. Another is out of Mens, over the Col de Mens, thru Treminis, adding 12 miles and 1400 feet elevation.
July 11 – Rencurel 70mi, 5700ft
With Mont Aiguille at our backs, we start with an easy climb up the Col de Menee. As we descend the temperature warms and the environs seem dryer. When we see the first bright purple field of lavender, we realize we have entered the northern boundary of Provence. It is easy to be seduced by the romantic and leisurely ambiance of Provence, but alas, the afternoon presents a true challenge. We are faced with the vertical walls surrounding the Vercors region. Time and water have shaped these high limestone cliffs leaving us few options to enter this well protected area. The only roads leading into the Vercors are chiseled into vertical cliffs and along deep gorges. The ease of defending these roads is why this area was the center of the French Resistance. Our route from Die takes us winding up the steep slopes and cliffs of the Col de Rousset. The scenery is staggering, especially when we descend into the Gorges de la Bourne, before the short climb to Rencurel. Surrounded by meadows and steep cliffs, our hotel in Rencurel has one of the most beautiful settings imaginable.
July 12 and 13 – Rencurel Various Loop Rides
The Vercors, now a Parc Natural Regional, is so spectacular and unique that it’s tempting to try and cycle every road of the 40x25 mile area. We have crafted four great routes for your cycling enjoyment, but only two days to do it all. However if you are thinking of a rest day, our short route to Villard de Lans is easy. An alternate longer route back from Villard follows a section of the 2004 'Tour' route up a tiny road through a remote section of the Vercors. Either way, you will get to experience one of the most amazing gorges you will ever have the pleasure to cycle. The Gorge de la Bourne is a deep dark gorge where the roads are carved into the lower sides of cliffs so high that sunlight is minimal - making it difficult to take photos of this amazing place. The Villard and back, short route, is 18 miles with about 1500 feet of elevation. The longer option is 32 miles and 3300 feet of elevation.
Another option from Villard de Lans, is to head north and climb over into the beautiful Meaudret Valley. For a little excitement on this loop is to ride up to the end of the valley and go through the tunnel, emerging on the northern cliffs of the Vercors, where there will be great views of the Chartruse mountains. The basic loop is 31 miles and 2300 feet.
One of our favorite rides of all our tours, is the Gorges du Nan. From the hotel we climb high up the forested mountain over the Col du Mont Noir. The descent is truly amazing, first cruising through forests, then opening up to steep pasture land soon the road plunges into the trees emerging on the vertical cliffs of the Gorges du Nan. The second half of the route is equally impressive. After a strenuous climb through pastures and over a small col we are faced with another cliff side descent into the Gorges de la Bourne. From here it is nothing but cliffs all the way back to the hotel. It is only 41 miles but with about 6000 feet of elevation.
Another great ride is the Combe Laval loop. We start the day with a sweet descent down the Gorges de la Bourne to the cute village of Pont en Royans. However, soon we are struggling up the steep slopes towards the Combe Laval. As we near the summit of the Col de la Machine, the forests drop away replaced by vertical cliffs. The road clings precariously to these cliffs, darting in and out of short tunnels, with nothing between you and a thousand feet of sheer drop off. There are a variety of loops back to Rencurel, but our favorite is via the descent of the Grands Goulets. It is a difficult 57 miles and 6000 feet.
Or if you prefer, on either or both days, you can choose to do nothing more than soak up the sun’s rejuvenating rays, lounging by the pool. This option is 0 miles with 0 feet of elevation.
July 14 – Champagneux 70mi, 4700ft, or 53mi, 2000ft
We will start the morning with a gentle climb of the Col de Romeyère A gentle downhill gives way to a rollicking 10% high speed descent, rounding a corner we are suddenly surrounded by vertical cliffs, then the road disappears into nothing but clear blue sky. The cliff face road has been closed for years, but a tunnel will get us on our way. After lunch we climb into the hills, rolling through quaint villages, and up pretty valleys, and finally climbing over meadow-clad hills to the Col des Mille Martyrs. We finish with a leisurely ride down the valley to Champagneux. Or if you like there is an easy climb to the beautiful Lac d’Aiguebelette and then over the Col de la Crusille followed by a nice descent to our hotel. Our hotel is a true country inn with a very reputable restaurant. Dinner will be served on the terrace.
July 15 – Ferney Voltaire 71mi, 2500ft
In store for our last day of riding are rolling pastures, small villages, gentle climbs and descents, cliff side roads, beautiful valleys, and great mountain vistas; similar to the experiences from the last two, long and perhaps challenging, weeks in the Alps. There are great views of the Alps and Mont Blanc to the east and the Jura Mountains to the west. Although fairly long, today's route is more a relaxed than any so far. The first 34 miles are almost flat, with only an unnoticeable incline as we ride up the Rhone Valley, with a total 132 feet of elevation gain. Our big climb of the day is only 850 feet. Not to worry, there are plenty of opportunities for more climbing if you haven’t had enough so far in the last two weeks. We arrive back at our start hotel with plenty of time to pack our bikes and have a well-deserved beer. Our farewell dinner tonight at the hotel will be an opportunity to exchange stories, talk over our triumphs and adventures, and ponder how we’ll ever get back into the hometown routine!
July 16 – Departure
We’ll take you to the airport in time for your flight home, or your continuing travels.