France: Cycling the Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux – Itinerary

 

Day 0, Geneva

Arrival day. You can assemble your bike, relax and visit Geneva. Consider arriving a day or so early and take a trip to Chamonix and visit the Aiguille du Midi.


Day One Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 1, Geneva to Annecy

Ride: 40 miles/2,850 ft.
Relaxing warm up ride to Lake Annecy. Spend the afternoon visiting the medieval village of Annecy or relaxing by the lake or extend your ride. Welcome dinner together.

Annecy, known as “Venice of the Alps” for its quaint canals, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Located on the shores of Lake Annecy, the village offers an ideal location to meander through the historic old town, hike or bike along the lake, ride the scenic mountain roads, and enjoy local raclette cheese and fondue.


Day Two Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 2, Annecy Loop Ride

Ride Options: 61-81 miles/4,089-7,489 ft
After some easy riding along Lake Annecy shore, we’ll climb a lightly traveled road up Col du Marais (8 miles/1,284 ft). We’ll have a fast, easy descent to Thones for a snack before climbing Col de la Croix Fry (7 miles/2,805 ft), included in the 2004 Tour de France. It’s all downhill back to Annecy from there, or you can extend your ride. Dinner on your own at one of the many cafés in Annecy.

Optional Riding: Climb Col des Aravis (3 miles/1,200 ft) and enjoy fantastic views of Mt. Blanc, or Col de la Colombiere (7 miles/2,200 ft). Both climbs were included in the 2006 Tour de France.


Day Three Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 3, St. Jean de Maurienne

Ride: 70 – 94 miles/5,500 – 10,500 ft
Our ride begins with a gentle climb and scenic views of Lake Annecy, and up Col de Leschaux (6 miles/1,215 ft). We’ll follow quiet country roads to Col du Frene, descend into the Val d’Isere, and continue along rolling terrain to our hotel in St. Jean de Maurienne. Dinner together.

Climbing Option: Col de la Madeleine (12 miles/4,946 ft).


Day Four Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 4, St. Jean de Maurienne Loop Ride

Ride Options: 40-67 miles/5,000-10,000 ft
Today, you’ll have a choice of a shorter or longer ride option. The group ride will tackle the Col de la Croix de Fer (19 miles/4,946 ft) and enjoy a downhill grade over the Col du Glandon and back to our hotel. Dinner on your own.

Climbing Option: Col de la Madeleine (12 miles/4,946 ft).


Day Five Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 5, Bourg d’Oisans

Ride: 58-70 miles/8,050-10,050 ft. via Col du Telegraphe & Galibier
Today is the day you’ve been training for! We’ll conquer the Col du Telegraphe (7.5 miles/2,717 ft) and Galibier (11 miles/4,033 ft) – a spectacular day of climbing in the Alps. After the summit, it’s all downhill to Bourg d’Oisans where we’ll stay for two nights. Dinner together.

Climbing Option: Les Deux Alpes (6 miles/1,995 ft).

Le Bourg d’Oisans, best known for its location at the foot of L’Alpe-d’Huez, is ideally situated at the intersection of six picturesque valleys and is surrounded by tall escarpments.


Day Six Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 6, Bourg d’Oisans Loop Ride

Ride: 40-84 miles/4,500-8,6850 ft – Alpe d’Huez and more!
L’Alpe d’Huez is the most famous mountain climb on the Tour de France, though it’s not the toughest. Alpe d’Huez has hosted a stage finish almost every year since 1976. The eight-mile, 3,500-foot climb has an average gradient of 8% – rising to 12% in some sections – with 21 hairpin turns marked with panels honoring stage winners. Marco Pantani still holds the record for the fastest ascent in 1997 (37 minutes, 35 seconds). For those interested, we can continue over the Col de Sarenne on tiny pastoral roads back to our hotel. Dinner together.

Climbing Options: Les Deux Alpes (6 miles; 6.5% average gradient) and/or Massif des Ecrins (16 miles/3,185 ft).


Day Seven Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 7, Vercors

Ride: 61 miles/3,800 ft
Today we leave the Alps for the dramatic scenery of the Vercors region. The ride begins with an easy spin down the Romanche Valley and ascends 2,800 feet to Villard-de-lans (a 2004 TdF finish). The Vercors, a Regional Natural Park, is spectacularly beautiful with its myriad of narrow gorges and cliff-hanging roads.

On the way to our hotel, we’ll descend through one of the most magnificent gorges, the Gorge de la Bourne. Along the gorge, roads are carved into the lower sides of high cliffs, allowing only minimal sunlight to enter. Our hotel sits atop an alpine valley surrounded by meadows and steep cliffs, with the ever-present sound of cowbells in the distance. Dinner together.


Day Eight

Day 8, Vercors Loop Ride

Ride Options: 31-53miles/2,000-10,000 feet
Take a well-deserved rest day lounging by the pool and soaking up the sun, or exploring the village. You can also join us for a half-day ride along tiny, forested roads and twisting canyons, and a 2,700-foot ascent of the Col de Romeyère. Along our ride, we’ll encounter a road chiseled out of a 1,000-foot cliff! For those interested, there are plenty of ways to add more miles or climbing to your ride. Dinner together.


Day Nine Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 9, Crest

Ride: 50-68 miles/500-6,000 ft.
We’ll travel through the Vercors and follow the 2004 Tour de France route that included Col de Carri, Col de Portette, Col de la Bataille and Col des Limouches. We’ll enjoy a nice descent toward the Rhone Valley, then continue to the Drome River and Crest. Dinner together.


Day Ten Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 10, Provence

Ride: 61 miles/4,700 ft.
We’ll leave the mountains and ride along rolling farm roads on our way to Provence. We’ll climb a few easy cols and enjoy views of the Rhone Valley and Massif Central in the distance, then continue through quaint villages where we can stop for coffee. Our first view of Provence is stunning: vineyards, fruit orchards and lavender fields spreading everywhere below us, and Mont Ventoux towering above it all.

We’ll be staying in a tiny medieval village along the wine road that travels through the heart of Provence. It’s conveniently located near the base of Mont Ventoux, one of the most famous Tour de France climbs. The village sits atop a rocky peak capped by a 12th century castle and is set amidst olive trees, vineyards and orchards, and offers a fantastic view of the surrounding plains. Dinner together.


Day 11 Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 11, Provence/Mont Ventoux!

Ride: 68 miles/5,800 ft with 37 miles of downhill!
It will be a memorable final day or riding as we take on “the Giant of Provence,” Mont Ventoux! We’ll ascend along the classic route from Bedoin, then descend through the aromatic lavender fields to Sault before enjoying our final descent through the spectacular, twisting Gorges de la Nesque.

Challenging Option: Ride Mount Ventoux from all three directions and join the exclusive Club Cingles.


Day 12 Alps, Vercors & Mont Ventoux

Day 12, Ride to Marseille

Ride: 73 miles/1,200ft
Enjoy a final day of easy spinning through mostly flat scenic roads of Provence.
Final celebration dinner together!


 

Day 13 Tour Conclusion

Our trip concludes after breakfast, when we’ll say our final goodbyes. Transfer after breakfast for your morning train departure from Aix-en-Provence TGV or Marseille airport (10 minutes away), or extend your stay in Provence.