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7 Days Classic Routes des Grandes Alpes Cycling Holiday in France . Based on 8 riders .
This listing has no upcoming availability. Check out these similar experiences

This listing has no upcoming availability. Check out these similar experiences


Road Cycling Holiday France

The classic Geneva to Nice high Alps tour will take you to some of the most famous climbs through majestic landscapes. The Route des Grandes Alpes, or the Great Alpine Road, is a 684-kilometer long route through the French Alps. The road trip will take you from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean. It will include some of the highest and most beautiful mountain passes in Europe.

Key information

  • Trip type: Guided
  • Lodging: Point to Point
  • Terrain: Mostly paved
  • Difficulty level: Challenging (cyclist needs to have a high level of fitness, must be an active rider, the terrain includes really challenging climbs/or 46-80 or more miles per day)
  • Total distance: 432 miles / 695 kilometers
  • Vacation type: Road
  • Type of bike: Road bike

Highlights

  • Paved mountain roads
  • Strenuous climbs to high passes
  • Cycle along the paths of the French Alps
  • Stirring ride along cols, canyons, rivers, and valleys
  • Historical forts, villages, and lovely lakes
  • Daily tasty breakfast and dinner
  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Support vehicle

Skill level

  • Advanced

Styles


8 days with instruction
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Accommodation

Program

The construction of the route started in 1909 in order of the French Touring Club. In that period, the Alps still were an isolated region of France with poor access possibilities. The construction of the route was not only an opening to the outside world for the mountain people but also an opportunity for the upcoming tour to discover the area with great cultural and natural heritage.

The construction was finished in 1937, with the opening of the Col de l’Iseran. The official road number is D902. With the opening of the French motorways, the route has lost most of its importance as a traffic connection from north to south, making the Route des Grandes Alpes a spectacular road trip route.

To make things even more attractive, some adjustments were made in 1995 to replace the traffic heavy valley of Chamonix with the Col de la Colombière and the Col de Aravis. The route ends no more in Nice but in the smaller and authentic village of Menton.

Itinerary

Day 1: Thonon-les-Bains to Le Grand-Bornand (58 miles / 93 kilometers) (3 hours by motorbike and 4 hours by car)

You will start your journey in Thonon-les-Bains, a small town on the shore of Lake Geneva. To the south, you will see the snowy peaks of the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain of the Alps. You will take route D902 and head for Morzine. The two-lane road will wind through the Vallée Verte, French for “Green Valley.”

Rock formations, green bushes, and trees provide some shadow against the hot sun. After 15 kilometers, you will reach the Gorges du Pont-du-Diable or the “Devil’s Bridge Canyon.” It is a very deep canyon that has been cut out by the Drasne River and provides some spectacular views. You will keep following the D902.

About 10 kilometers after the canyon adventure, you will reach the ruins of the Aulps Abbey. Eventually, you will arrive in Morzine, the most northerly of the French Alpine resorts. The charming town is dominated by chalets spread across a river gorge. Just before the town center of Morzine, the D902 makes a turn to the west.

You will keep on following the valley for a while until you reach the City of Cluses. There, you will leave the D902 in the meantime and start to follow the D4 to Le Grand Bornand. Just after leaving Cluses, the road will start to climb. That is the foot the Col de la Colombière. In 1,613 meters, the Colombière is the first mountain pass over 1,500 meters on your way.

As you go higher, the trees will start to take place in rock formations and alpine meadows. The climb will be 16.3 kilometers long. Over the distance, you will climb 1,108 meters at an average percentage of 6.8 percent. The steepest section near the summit is 10.2 percent. After the summit, it will be a 12-kilometer descent to Le Grand Bornand, a ski resort who owes its name to the river which runs through it.

Day 2: Le Grand-Bornand to Bourg-Saint-Maurice (61 miles / 98 kilometers) (2 hours and 30 minutes by motorbike and 3 hours and 30 minutes by car)

Just after leaving Le Grand-Bornand, you will arrive in Saint-Jean-de-Sixt, an authentic alpine village with lots of little farms. There, you will leave the D4 and take road D909 to the south. After passing through some other little towns, the road starts to climb again. You will soon be on the Col des Aravis at 1,486 meters.

On the highest point of the mountain pass, there is a little chapel devoted to Saint-Anne for the protection of the travelers passing by. Still following the D909 while descending, you will pass the beautiful Dard Waterfall. The waterfall has cut the rocks in a V-shape throughout the years which gives a very special visual effect.

After the little stop, you will arrive in Flumet where the D909 ends. You will take road D1212 and start following the Arly River. Just before you enter the town of Ugine, at the point where the river and the D1212 split up, you will turn left and start to climb out of the valley. In Queige, you will take the D925 to Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

Just after the town of Beaufort, you will start climbing the Cormet de Roselend, at 1,968 meters. It will be a long 20.3-kilometer climb to the top with lots of gear shifting and hairpin turns but the views will be great. On the right side, you will see the Roselend Reservoir. Measuring 800 meters long and 150 meters high, it can contain up to 185 million cubic meters of water.

After the summit, it will be a 20-kilometer descend to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The road number will also change to D902, meaning that you will be back on the original Great Alpine Road. Take your time and enjoy the spectacular turns.

Day 3: Bourg-Saint-Maurice to Lanslebourg (50 miles / 80 kilometers) (2 hours and 30 minutes by motorbike and 3 hours by car)

After leaving Bourg-Saint-Maurice, road D902 will pass the Vanoise National Park. Soon, you will also see Lake Chervil or the Tignes Reservoir. During that part of your trip, you only will be climbing and descending the Col de l’Iseran. In 2,770 meters, it is the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps.

It connects the valleys of the Isère River and the Arc River between Val-d'Isère in the north and Bonneval-sur-Arc in the south. During the climb, you will be driving through a number of galleries and tunnels, with a maximum grade of 12 percent.

In total, the climb is 48 kilometers long, at an average of four percent. You will reach Bonneval-sur-Arc, 15 kilometers after the summit of the col. You will arrive in Lanslebourg, the endpoint of that part of the trip and 20 kilometers further down the road.

Day 4: Lanslebourg to Briançon (68 miles / 110 kilometers) (2 hours and 30 minutes by motorbike and 3 hours and 30 minutes by car)

The road number of the D902 changes in Lanslebourg so you will be following the road D1006 and you will continue to follow the River Arc out of the valley. After 20 kilometers, you will see the Esseillon Barrier or Esseillon forts. Driving further down the valley, you will eventually arrive in Saint-Michel de Maurienne.

There, you will leave the D1006 and cross the Arc River to take the D902 again. Immediately after the river crossing, the road starts to turn and climb. You will then be on the Col du Télégraphe, the access point to the north face of the Col du Galibier. At the Col du Télégraphe, you will find another fort, the Fort du Télégraphe, also called Fort Berwick.

The Cols du Télégraphe and Galibier became mythical with cyclists as they are often used in the Tour de France. The Télégraphe is 11.8 kilometers long, gaining 856 meters in height, at an average of 7.3 percent. After the top, there will be a small descent of 4.8 kilometers to Valloire. The actual climb to the summit of the Col du Galibier will start there, 18.1 kilometers long, at an average of 6.9 percent, and with a height gain of 1,245 meters.

The maximum gradient is 10.1 percent at the summit and at an elevation of 2,645 meters. At the south portal of the tunnel, near the summit of the Galibier, there is a monument to Henri Desgrange, the first director of the Tour de France. Every time the tour climbs the Col du Galibier, a wreath is laid on the memorial.

When you thought you have seen all the cols, you are wrong. After the 8.5-kilometer descent of the Galibier, you will be at the foot of the Col du Lauteret, at an elevation of 2,058 meters. The summit of the Lauteret is also a road junction between the D902 and the D1091. You will have to take the D1091 down to Briançon.

Day 5: Briançon to Barcelonnette (62 miles / 100 kilometers) (3 hours and 30 minutes by motorbike and 4 hours)

The historical center of Briançon is strongly fortified. When leaving Briançon, you will take the good old D902 again and start to climb the Col d’Izoard. The ascent of the col totals about 20 kilometers. The percentages of the first three kilometers are close to six percent but then the road becomes almost flat again for a few kilometers up to Cervières.

From there, the second part will be much harder. The last ten kilometers are often close to eight percent with lots of hairpin turns. One kilometer after passing the hamlet of Le Laus, the winding road will climb through a forest of larches. When getting close to the top of 2,360 meters, the landscape will suddenly change.

Trees make a place for the Casse Desert. That is an extremely rugged area which some describe as a lunar landscape. After the top, you will start descending towards Guillestre. The first kilometers are very steep and involve a lot of turning. After the road junction between the D902 and D947, you will be back in the valley.

The road will become more flat and you will start following the River Guil. The Guil has cut out a steep canyon throughout the years, resulting in a spectacular landscape which is a pleasure to drive through. Arriving in Guillestre, you will head further South to Barcelonette. Another mountain pass awaits you there, the Col de Vars, at 2,108 meters.

A few kilometers after the top of the col, you will see another fortified complex, the Fort de Tournoux. After visiting the fort, you will follow the road until you reach a junction. There, you will take the D900 out of the valley to Barcelonette.

Day 6: Barcelonnette to Valberg (48 miles / 77 kilometers) (3 hours and 30 minutes by motorbike and 3 hours and 30 minutes by car)

In Barcelonette, you have two options to get to Valberg, you can drive back on the D900 to Jausiers to take there the D64 and the Col de la Bonette. Later on, the road number will change to D2205. In the village of Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, you will take the D30 which becomes the D28 to Valberg.

The other option is to take the D902 out of Barcelonette and climb the Col de la Cayolle. Later on, the road number will change to D2202. In the village of Guillaume, you will then take the D28 to Valberg. You can choose between those options. Located at 2,326 meters in altitude, the Col de la Cayolle provides a road link between the Ubaye Valley to the north and the Var Valley to the south.

You will start the climb in the Gorges du Bachelard, a canyon cut out by the Bachelard River. The route will take you through Mercantour National Park. While descending the col, you will cross the border between the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes Department.

There, the road number will change from D902 to D2202. You will also leave the national park there. You will keep following the road to Guillaume. There, you will turn left on the D28 for another 13 kilometers to Valberg, a well-known ski resort.

Day 7: Valberg to Saint-Martin-Vésubie (36 miles / 58 kilometers) (2 hours and 30 minutes by motorbike and 3 hours by car)

Six kilometers after leaving Valberg, you will arrive in Beuil, a small mountain village. There, you will have to turn left on to the D30 to Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, driving over the Col de la Couillole, a small mountain pass of 1,678 meters. As you are getting closer to the Mediterranean, the mountain landscape changes.

From there on, there are no more snowy mountain peaks nor high mountain passes. In Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, you will head south on the D2205. After four kilometers, you will leave the road again and turn left on the D2565 to Saint-Martin-Vésubie. While driving that part of the route, you will encounter some bunkers and casemates.

Those are the remnants of the French Maginot Line defense system. The Maginot Line was built between World War I and II to defend France against German or Italian invasions. Ouvrage Rimplas is especially worth a visit.

After the bunker intermezzo, you will keep following the road until you reach Saint-Martin-Vésubie, a small mountain village with narrow streets and a very rich history. It was also the second village in France that was electrified in 1893. You can still visit the old power plant that provided electricity in that period.

Day 8: Saint-Martin-de-Vésubie to Menton (49 miles / 79 kilometers) (2 hours and 30 minutes by motorbike and 3 hours by car)

You will leave Saint-Martin-de-Vésubie and drive further south on the D2565 through the valley. After about 12 kilometers, you will turn left on the D70 and start to climb your last mountain pass, the Col de Turini (1607). At the road junction between the D70 and the D2566, you will need to follow the D2566 to Sospel.

While descending, you will also pass by the chapel of Notre Dame de la Nemours with its distinctive access path. Sospel itself dates back to the Fifth Century when it served as an important staging post on the royal road from Nice to Turin. The toll bridge used by travelers to cross the river, built in the 13th Century, still stands. There are also remnants of the 14th Century city walls. According to a tourist website, the town is “popular with cyclists, motorcyclists, and fans of twisty-road driving,” which means you are in the right place.

You will keep following the D2566 and pass by Castillon where you can see the Viaduc du Caramel, an old tramway viaduct. From that point, you will drive your last kilometers until you reach Menton, the end of the Route des Grandes Alpes where you can put your feet in the Mediterranean Sea.

Skill level

Advanced

  • can cycle for 5-6 hours
  • extensive riding experience
  • assistance on demand (if required)
  • experienced with riding a variety of bicycles
  • comfortable with any terrain and weather conditions

Location

Food

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
  • Drinks

The following drinks are included:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Alcoholic beverages

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Daily breakfast and 5 dinners
  • Coffee, tea, and beer
  • All transfers
  • Transfers from and to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport (NCE)
  • Support vehicle (with luggage, spares, snacks, hot, and cold drinks)
  • Services of a guide

What's not included

  • Airfare
  • Bikes

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 12% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 30 days before arrival.
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