Follow in the tracks of the Tour de France as you challenge yourself cycling up (and down!) the legendary climbs of the French Alps.

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 and add in some hidden gems that only local cyclists know. 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!

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Aix-les-Bains, France
Finish
Chambery, France
Destination
France
Style
Original
Theme
Active Adventures, Cycling
Code
AMXA
Physical rating
Ages
Min 16
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • 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

  • Discover some hidden gems that only local cyclists know about

  • Ride at your own pace in some of the most stunning scenery in cycling

Is this trip right for you?

  • Our ‘Road Cycling’ trips are physically the hardest Cycling trips we do at Intrepid and can be a definite physical challenge. However we believe that anyone confident and competent on a bicycle, with a good level of fitness, can both complete and enjoy them.

  • Although this is a group trip, the differing levels of cycling fitness are more pronounced in the mountains. There will be times when you are likely to be riding on your own (but safe in the knowledge that the support vehicle and group leader are never too far away). At the initial group meeting we can provide downloadable files of the route for your GPS device to make sure you never get lost.

  • While the cycling distances on this trip vary in distance, the terrain of the French Alps is naturally mountainous so you’ll need to be reasonably fit (especially given the warm climate of the summer months).

  • On this trip we have a single leader that rides with the group, and another that drives the support vehicle (acting as a back marker where needed). Where the vehicle cannot travel directly with the cyclists (e.g. a cyclists-only path) your leader will assign a person from the group to act as a back-marker (if needed)

  • The route is designed so you can cycle from hotel to hotel. The support vehicle will almost always be available in case you need to take a break for an hour (or a day) but only has space for a maximum of 5 people.

  • There may be times when the leader asks you to use the support vehicle for your own safety (such as on steep descents on windy days) – please respect this decision.

  • As the riding is on sealed roads there are no off-road technical cycling skills required. However we highly recommend frequent downhill cycling practice before your trip to best prepare for the long and steep descents.

  • There’s the possibility of a few hiccups along the way – perhaps a puncture here and there – but there’s no doubt this is an incredibly rewarding adventure.

  • The weather in this region varies seasonally. Be prepared to get sweaty, and for the occasional rainstorm which may require a change of plans.

  • French summers can get very hot, especially in the mountains. Be sure to use adequate sun protection and drink plenty of water.

Itinerary

Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 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 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. Your leader will also collect teh optional food/drink kitty at this meeting.

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 3 bike shops in Aix (plus nearby Chambery) but please note most close around 5pm on a Saturday and don't open Sundays or Mondays.

If you are looking for an early cycling challenge the nearby Dent du Chat (12kms at 10%) or Mont Revard (25kms at 5%) are options, but we recommend saving your legs for the days ahead – you’ll need them!

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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
You have the choice of contributing to an optional food kitty (EUR75p/p). Our crew will use this to purchase food to prepare lunch picnics and on-ride snacks such as cakes/fruit, and drinks such as coffee or cola along the way. This is purely optional, but those that do not wish to participate will need to source their own lunches/snacks along the way.
After a quick bike check, set off on your first ride. Start by finding your cycling legs on a ride that loops around the beautiful Lake Bourget. This route traces the contours of the Jura Mountains high above the Abbaye d'Hautecombe, a 12th-century royal burial site, on one side and comes full circle back to Aix-les-Bains along the low lake road under the towering Bauges Massif on the other.

While there is a bit of climbing to be done this is a pretty relaxing first day, with a couple of coffee stops along the way.

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 climb (97 km long; 1850 m elevation gain). Note that this ride is unsupported; your leader stays with lake loop ride.

Cycling distance: approx. 55 km / 34 miles, flat on one side of the lake and undulating on the other, with approx. 900m / 2950ft of elevation gain.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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 fairly flat (compared to the mountains at least!) for the first 55kms before you hit your first real climb. Start in a southeast direction, we avoid the busy roads by cycling around Chambery then climb up to the tiny hamlet of Saint Georges d’Hurtieres before dropping down besides the L’Arc River and our first views of the Alps themselves. From here you make 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 up to the village of Montvernier is quite short (3.4 km) but it's certainly spectacular! Once at the top, it's time for fun as we cycle further along the ridgeline then enjoy the first proper descent of the journey on the flowing curves down to Hermillon. Let your brakes cool then cycle back along the valley to the small town of La Chambre. Be sure to eat a hearty meal tonight at a local French restaurant to fuel up for the challenges ahead.

Cycling distance: approximately 110km / 68 miles, lightly undulating for the first 55kms then a constant (but gradual) uphill to the Lacets, with approx. 1790m/ 5870ft of overall elevation gain.

Feature climb/s: Lacets de Montvernier
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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 2067 m after almost 30 km (with average gradient of 5.5%), this is a long climb but well worth it. Having our support crew waiting with a coffee or cold coke (and a jacket if needed!) is an extra bonus.

The reward for your climbing 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 (mostly downhill!) side trip to the Col du Glandon. Then enjoy a beautiful descent past aquamarine lakes down to the cycling mecca of Le Bourg d'Oisans.

Cycling distance: approximately 80 km / 50 miles, flat for the first 10kms, climbing for the next 30kms then descent/flat to Le Boiurg d'Oisans, with an approx. 2400m / 7875ft of overall elevation gain.

Feature climb/s: Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Note: If the weather is unfavourable we will take the alternate route up the Col du Glandon (then up to the Croix de Fer) directly from La Chambre – approx. 64kms with 1845m of overall elevation gain - rather than the longer route via Saint Jean de Maurienne.
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 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. You’ll know you’ve reached the top (it’s not obvious when you have we assure you) when you see our support vehicle setting up a well-earned picnic at the finish line.

While Alpe d’Huez is justifiably legendary the Alps is full of hidden rides whose views will take your breath away – and today your local cycling guide helps you experience one of the best. After enjoying a rapid descent most of the way down the Alpe leave the main road behind and ride along the Balcon d’Auris (Balconies of Auris), a small road literally carved into the side of a sheer cliff with amazing views of the valley and nearby mountains. We don’t recommend this for those prone to vertigo.

From here it’s mostly a downhill/flat cruise back into Le Bourg d'Oisans to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in one of the many cafes or bars in this thriving but small holiday town.

Cycling distance: approximately 52km / 32 miles, climbing almost immediately for 14kms, a sharp decent for 9kms then undulating. The final 20kms is mosty descent/flat, with an approx. overall elevation gain of 1855m / 6090ft

Feature climb/s: Alpe d'Huez
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
As the Balcon d’Auris road is so narrow the support vehicle will not be escorting you after the Alpe d’Huez, but your tour leader will remain with you.
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). 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 and start (continue!) climbing up the 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 along the way and from the Col itself are truly stunning.

After the obligatory photo at the Galibier sign turn around and enjoy one of the longest descents in the Alps, a 35 km downhill all the way to our final destination for the night. Near the end of the descent you’ll stop for a lakeside picnic lunch beneath glacier covered mountains before continuing on to fortified city of Briancon, at 1,326 metres (4,350 feet) it is the highest city in France.

Cycling distance: approximately 85 km / 53 miles with an elevation gain of approx. 2250m / 7380ft

Feature climb/s: Col du Lautaret and Col du Galibier
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
The final day of cycling is a special one. Climb up the sublime Col d'Izoard loop (2361m). 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 charming Chambery (approx. 3 hours). Celebrate your achievements – perhaps over dinner and a few beers/wines in the local square with fellow travellers - you've earned it!

Cycling distance: approx. 42 km / 25 miles with an elevation gain of 1380m / 4530ft

Feature climb/s: Col d'Izoard
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

6 breakfasts

Transport

Bicycle, Support vehicle, Minivan

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Bicycle hire is not included in your trip price. Please advise us if you wish to hire a bike at time of booking and provide your height so we can organise a suitable sized bike. See the Transport section of the Essential Trip Information for bike details.
2. Bike helmets are compulsory on this trip. We are unable to hire bike helmets locally so please ensure you bring your own bike helmet from home. There are several local options to purchase a helmet if you do not wish to bring your own.
3. On this trip we have a single leader that rides with the group, and a support staff that drives the support vehicle (acting as a back marker where needed). Where the vehicle cannot travel directly with the cyclists (e.g. a cyclists-only path) your leader will assign a person from the group to act as a back marker when needed.
4. While we will always endeavour to ride the advertsied route, due to the quickly changing weather in the mountains there may be times when the leader chooses to vary/shorten or even cancel the route due to safety concerns.
5. A Single Supplement is available on this trip, please ask your booking agent for more information.
6. Many of the hotels and restaurants on this trip only reopen in June, and services are usually a bit slower in the early part of the season.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

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