Experience the sublime Lacets de Montvernier – often described as one of the most beautiful roads in professional cycling. Tackle the 21 hairpins of the Alpe d’Huez, the most famous climb known to the world of two wheels. Ascend the Col du Galibier, the ultra-high mountain route once described by Tour de France champion Andy Schleck as ‘like riding into the sky’. Cycle in the midst of towering snow-capped massifs, postcard-perfect lakes, and meadows dotted with shepherd’s stone huts – not to mention the strange wind-carved rocks of the Col d’Izoard
Welcome to road cycling – the Intrepid way. 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!
Breakfast Included: 6 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at around 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 arrange a flight that will 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. 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 a number of bike shops in Aix (and nearby Chambery) but please note most close around 5pm on a Saturday and don't open Sundays or Mondays.
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.
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. Along the way, pass the Abbaye d'Hautecombe, a 12th-century royal burial site, and come full circle back to Aix-les-Bains.
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 ride (97km/60 mile long; 1850m/6070ft elevation gain). Note that this ride is unsupported; your leader stays with lake loop ride.
Cycling distance: 55 km / 34 miles
Elevation gain: 900m / 2950ft
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. The climb is quite short (3.4 km). Once at the top, it's time for the thrill – turn around and enjoy the first proper descent of the journey. Arrive at the valley floor, then cycle back to the small town of La Chambre. Be sure to eat a hearty meal tonight to fuel up for the challenges ahead.
Cycling distance: approximately 100 km / 65 miles
Elevation gain: 950m / 3120ft
Feature climb/s: Lacets de Montvernier
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 2067m/6780ft after almost 30 km/18 miles (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.
Cycling distance: approximately 80 km / 50 miles
Elevation gain: 2400m / 7875ft
Feature climb/s: Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon
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/8 mile 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.
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.
As this is a relatively short and straight ‘out and back’ ride the support vehicle will not be escorting you, but your tour leader will be available by phone in the unlikely event that you require them.
Cycling distance: approximately 30 km / 19 miles
Elevation gain: 1250m / 4100ft
Feature climb/s: Alpe d'Huez
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/6750ft). 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 towards the narrow 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 from the Col are truly stunning. From here, enjoy on of the longest descents in the Alps, a 35 km/22 mile downhill cruise into the historical fortified city of Briancon. At an altitude of 1326 metres/4350ft, this is the highest city in France.
Cycling distance: approximately 85 km / 53 miles
Elevation gain: 2470m / 8100ft
Feature climb/s: Col du Lautaret, Col du Galibier
The final day of cycling is a special one. Climb up the sublime Col d'Izoard loop (2361m/7750ft). 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 Chambery (approx. 4 hours). Celebrate your achievements – perhaps over dinner with fellow travellers.
Cycling distance: approx. 41 km / 25 miles
Elevation gain: 1380m / 4530ft
Feature climb/s: Col d'Izoard
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.