Perhaps the most iconic long-distance ride in cycling, the Route des Grandes Alpes takes you from the shores of Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean beaches.
On the way you will cycle over many of the great iconic climbs of the Alps, including:
The col de la Colombière
The Cormet de Roselend
The col de l’Iséran
The col de Galibier
The col d’Izoard
The col de Turini (and many more).
During the 7-day trip you can expect to ride an average of 100km and climb 2,500m per day. For those who want to do more, every day includes an optional Challenge, adding typically another 12-15 km and 600-800m of climbing.
You will be guided all the way by the Alpine Cols team riding with you. All experienced coaches, they are always ready to share their knowledge and offer tips to help you succeed. As well as transporting your luggage, our support staff organises the feed stations and provides mechanical and any other support you may need during the day.
Is this trip for you?
It’s not a trip for beginner cyclists, but you do not need to be either fast or young. Similar trips have been completed by many men and women in their sixties and even seventies. The main quality required is endurance and the ability to ride for 4 to 7 hours per day for 6 days.
We will have our own masseurs to help with recovery. The rides are fully guided and at your own pace. There will be 3 guides for no more than 10 guests, so you will be able to ride with people of a similar speed. All our guides are qualified cycling coaches. You can thus receive plenty of tips and feedback on your cycling, with suggestions for pacing, descending, nutrition and of course recovery.
The support vehicles are nearby if you need support, and you are welcome to jump aboard if you are too tired to complete the day’s ride. The trip is absolutely non-competitive. There will be plenty of time to take photographs or to stop for a coffee, if you so wish.
Geneva to La Clusaz, over Mont Salève and the col de la Colombière (109 km, 2,900m)
The Route des Grandes Alpes begins on the shores of Lake Geneva, so after a comfortable night in La Clusaz we will take you to the start point near the famous water jet in the centre of Geneva.
The first climb takes us up the Mont Salève, from where there are stunning views across the lake and the Jura mountains to the north, and across the Alps to the south.
We then take quiet back roads cross-country to the Arve valley and Scionzier, the start of climb the col de la Colombière. This is a classic of the northern Alps, often used in the Tour de France. Beware, the last 3km are the hardest!
The optional challenge adds Mon Saxonnex and the col de Romme, to make the day's riding total 122 km and 3,700m.
La Clusaz to Sainte Foy, over the col des Aravis, the col des Saisies and the Cormet de Roselend (100km, 2,800m)
There are no flats today! The climbs keep coming and keep getting tougher on this challenging ride from La Clusaz to Sainte Foy, in the Tarantaise valley.
The climb to the col des Aravis begins immediately we leave the hotel. Thankfully it has an easy gradient, and is soon followed by a sinuous descent, directly to the start of the climb to the Saisies. This is a longer climb with two short descents on the way.
Again there is no transition from the descent to the final climb to the Cormet de Roselend, famous for the its stunningly beautiful lake two-thirds of the way up. This is the best picnic spot in the Alps!
The challenge route goes via Crest-Voland and the col du Pré for a total of 110 km and 3,200m.
Sainte Foy to Valloire, over the col de l'Iséran and the col du Télégraphe. (128 km, 3,000m)
There are two big climbs on the menu today, and the first one is huge! At 2,770m the col de l’Iséran, is the highest paved pass in Europe (if not quite the highest road). Close to the Italian border, it is at the head of the Tarantaise valley and connects across to the Maurienne.
We start climbing from the moment we leave the hotel and only stop on the summit, almost 40 km later. The gradient is never too steep. If we are lucky, we will see marmottes near the top.
After the Iséran we enjoy an even longer descent down the valley of the river Arc before the final climb of the day, the col du Télégraphe, which brings us to Valloire and our hotel for the night.
The challenge route adds the climbs to Tignes and to Aussois for a total of 139 km and 3,600m
Valloire to Serre Chevalier, over the col du Galibier (50 km, 1,250m)
Short but steep, this stage takes us over perhaps the most iconic of all the high Alpine passes, the col du Galibier (2,645m). Right up there with the Tourmalet and Mont Ventoux, the Galibier has a well-deserved reputation and is certainly one of the climbs the most feared by cyclists.
After celebrating on the summit, the long descent from the Galibier brings us to Serre Chevalier, a charming and sun-blessed ski village near Briançon.
Stage 4 is easier than the other six stages, so that those in need of recovery may do so. If you are feeling strong you should carry on to the col du Granon, which returns to the Tour de France in 2022 for the first time since 1986. This challenge option brings the ride to a total of 77 km and 2,350m.
Serre Chevalier to Barcelonette, over the col d'Izoard and the col de Vars (111 km, 2,780m)
The vegetation changes as we continue our journey south, becoming drier and more Mediterranean. We can expect the temperature in the valleys to be noticeably warmer.
We have two more climbs over 2,000m today, beginning with the long climb to the iconic col d’Izoard (2,360m). We will stop to admire the amazing lunar landscape of the Casse Desserte before another long descent.
The climb to the col de Vars (2,108m) which follows is in two steps, with a nice break in the middle. Once down, there’s a short climb above the valley floor to reach our hotel in Le Sauze.
The challenge option includes the climb to Pra Loup, bringing the total to 135 km and 3,350m.
Barcelonette to Valberg, over the col de la Cayolle (81km, 2,300m)
On the penultimate stage we reach the maritime Alps and tackle the last of the 2,000m+ passes, the col de la Cayolle (2,326m).
If it is a hot day the climb may feel long, but it’s on a delightful quiet road with a good chance of seeing wildlife. We can expect to be rewarded by a cool breeze and stunning views from the summit.
The descent follows the course of the river Var through beautiful scenery and a few small villages. We finally turn off in Guilaumes for the final climb of the day, to the ski village of Valberg.
The challenge route involves a side-climb up to Les Tourres, for a total ride of 107 km and 3,150m.
Valberg to Menton, over the col de Saint Marin and the col de Turini (137km, 3,000m)
There are always mixed feelings on the final day: elation mixed with sadness that our epic ride is almost over. For the first time since Geneva, we will descend more than we climb! We have a total of 4,500m to descend on this final day, including innumerable hairpins on delightful, quiet roads.
There’s no lack of climbing, however, beginning with the col de St Martin. We pass through the pretty village of St Martin de Vésubie before the col de Turini, famous from the Monte Carlo rally. After these two, the col de Castillon is a formality before the final descent to Menton and the sea.
The challenge route adds the col de la Madone, to bring the day's total to 148 km and 3,400m.
- On-the-bike guiding, coaching on request
- Outstanding, characterful 3* or 4* hotels with secure bike storage
- Excellent food: all meals included (breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner)
- On-the-road support vehicles with free energy drinks and snacks
- Mechanical assistance
- Photographs and videos taken during the week (digital copies)
- Airport transfers (Geneva and Nice airports)
- Official Tour Operator, registered and approved in France
- Full financial protection (International Passenger Protection Ltd.)
- Bicycle hire (optional extra)
- Massage (optional extra)
- Iconic climbs of the Tour de France
- Small groups, matched by level. Each ride includes a "standard" and a "challenge" option.
- Accommodation in 3* or 4* hotels
- All meals
- Drinks with the meals including wine or beer with the evening meal
- On-the-road support vehicle with free energy drinks and snacks
- GPX files for the daily rides
- Expert coaching, on and off the bike (if desired)
- Photographs and videos taken during the week (digital copies)
- Airport transfers (at specific times, ask for details)
- Bicycle hire (available as an optional extra)
- Massage (available as an optional extra)
- Drinks at the hotel bar or from the mini-bar
Food & drink
We have carefully selected all the hotels for the quality of their restaurants as much as the quality of the rooms.
All meals are included. From convivial buffet breakfasts to relaxed dinners in the cosy dining room, French gastronomy takes pride of place and the meals are a real highlight of the day. Beer and wine are included with the evening meal.