Alpine Classic Cols :: Itinerary
Last Updated on Thursday, 19 September 2013 09:01
The itinerary on this holiday is extremely flexible, enabling everyone to cycle as much or as little as they like. The notes below are intended to give you an idea of the routes and options available - there really is something for everyone on this road cycling holiday.
Click on the col name to see the gradient profile. These have been reproduced with the kind permission of CyclingCols.com. Please visit their website for the profiles of most of the cols in Europe!
Day 0 (Alpine Classic Cols): Transfer Day
Today is all about getting to Albertville. We offer Transfers from Geneva airport, but is is also very easy to get to the start by train and bus or even driving from the UK or elsewhere in Europe. Please see the travel / transfers section for full details.
If you want to use our transfers have a look at the travel section for the meeting time and possible flights from the UK. The transfer time is 1 hr 30 mins from Geneva to Albertville. There will be time to assemble your bikes before dinner at the hotel. Those arriving independently should aim to arrive at the hotel by 1800.
Day 1 (Alpine Classic Cols): Albertville to Seez
This part of the Savoie has been described as 'a lost paradise with lush pastures, pretty villages and few drivers' - perfect for a good day out on the bike! We start out by following the River Doron to the beautiful market town of Beaufort for a coffee and cake. Here the road changes tempo as we climb up through the forest to the breathtaking beautiful Lac de Roseland and a well positioned restaurant that makes the most of the vista. The final 7km of the Cormet de Roseland (1967m) climb is a delight, and your effort is rewarded by views over towards Italy and the chance to taste some of the world renowned cheese (Beaufort) that is produced in the area! From here we descend into Bourg-St Maurice, and then onto the town of Seez. Those wanting a bit extra could make their way up to the Italian border and the legendary Col de Petit St Bernard (2188m) - a climb that has nothing 'petit' about it! If I mention that this is where the original 'the Italian Job' film was shot - will you end up humming the tune all the way up!
Classic Route: Cormet de Roselend [62km, 1620m ascent]
Classic Cols Challenge: Cormet de Roselend + Col de Petit St Bernard [119km, 3000m ascent
Day 2 (Alpine Classic Cols): Seez to Lanslevillard
With 50km of uphill the only word to describe the Col d'Iseran (2764m) is 'savage'. The climb starts just outside Bourg St Maurice and just keeps on going (up). The first part of the climb up to Val D'Isere is on a fairly busy road, but the cars soon give way to marmots and the your efforts are rewarded with some big views. After about 2400m the lack of oxygen starts to play tricks on the mind, but the road just keeps on going all the way up to 2764m, making it the 2nd highest road in Europe and the highest Col! What goes up must come down eventually and the 30km descent down to Lanslevillard is truly magnificent. For the restless, the the cafe on the top of the Col du Mont Cenis (2083m) is worth tagging on at the end of the day. If you feel that doing over 3000m of ascent is essential then making a detour up to the stage ending of Tignes / Val Claret (2007m) will no doubt be tempting. Tonight we stay in the ski resort of Lanslevillard.
Classic Route: Col d'Iseran [75km, 1965m ascent]
Classic Cols Challenge: Tignes + Col d'Iseran + Col du Mont Cenis [109km, 3000m ascent]
Day 3 (Alpine Classic Cols): Lanslevillard to Le Grave
The Col du Galibier was first included in the TDF back in 1911, the same year that this amazing 'military road' was finished. French cyclists call it the 'giant of the Northern Alps' and today we find out why! The climb starts with a fairly steady 16km over the Col du Telegraphe (1568m) after which we are rewarded with a short descent to the town of Valloire and a bakary raid. From here it is straight into the 'real climb' - 22km of astonishingly beautiful cycling! The Col is visible a long time before you get there and assuming you manage to avoid the temptation of sneaking through the tunnel, you eventually get to the Col du Galibier (2646m). It is a climb that will no doubt stir up some emotion. Down is the order for the rest of the day to the charming 'off piste' resort of La Grave.
Today there are two optional extras. The first, early in the day up to the ski resort of Valmeinier (1800m) and the second takes you back up the Col de Galibier (2646m) from the South.....well it is the classic cols CHALLENGE!
Classic Route: Col du Telegraphe + Col du Galibier [81km, 2090m ascent]
Classic Cols Challenge: Valmeinier + Col du Telegraphe + Col du Galibier (North and South) [Total: 130km, 3260m ascent]
Day 4 (Alpine Classic Cols): Le Grave to L'Alpe d'Huez
The Alpe D'Huez (1845m) is a climb that has haunted cyclists since it was first included in the TDF in 1952 when Fausto Coppi claimed victory. It has since been used over 25 times and is the grand finale of 'La Marmotte' (the cyclosportive). The relentless 21 hairpin bends are now infamous so this climb is likely to be a highlight of our holiday. We are staying at the top, so you have no choice but to grit your teeth and dig deep! Surprisingly, it is actually one of the easier climbs on 'our tour', so should be done and dusted by lunchtime, giving you the afternoon soak up sun sunshine from the balcony of the hotel or partake in a bit of retail therapy in the many bike kit shops in the town.
If relaxing does not come naturally then then nipping up to the ski station of Les Deux-Alpes (1645m) first thing in the morning and meandering along to the Col de la Sarenne (1999m) at the end of the day are both good options. The latter climb is not much more than a surfaced farm track and was first included in the TDF in 2013 with much opposition from the riders (it is a road of dordeling and not racing). There is always the option of taking on all the 2013 stage, by descending back down into the valley bottom and taking on the Alpe d'Huez again!
Classic Route: L'Alpe-d'Huez [42km, 1125m ascent]
Classic Cols Challenge: Les Deux Alpes + L'Alpe-d'Huez + Col de la Sarenne [80km, 2250m ascent]
Day 5 (Alpine Classic Cols): L'Alpe d'Huez to St Jean de Maurienne
After enjoying another downhill start to the day we take on la Croix-de-Fer (2067m). The climb is officially 31km long, but you will be pleased to hear that there are two timely placed, (but far too short!) downhill sections. The gradients are generally kind but there are a few really nasty sections - however the scenery is varied and stunning and there is great cafe half way up!. From the Col we descend down into St Jean de Maurienne where we stay the night and go out for dinner in a restaurant in town. The hotel here offers massage if booked a few days before.
As always there are options.....The first is the Col de Ornon (1371m) from Le Bourg D'Oissans; a very pleasant way to start the day. The second is the much feared TDF stage ending of La Toussuire (1705m), which has always been a bit of battle ground for the polka-dot jersey. That said, taken slowly, it is a very pleasant climb and the views over towards the Ecrins National Park inspiring.
Classic Route: Col de la Croix de Fer [82km, 1550m ascent]
Classic Cols Challenge: Col de Ornon + Col de la Crox de Fer + La Toussuire [130km, 3050m ascent]
Day 6 (Alpine Classic Cols): St Jean de Maurienne to Albertville
It may not be the longest or the highest but the Col de la Madeleine (2000m) is a cheekily steep climb, with the average gradients hovering around 8 and 9% for most of the 19km! It was first included in the TDF back in 1969 and has been used a staggering 25 time since - through this history it has become known as a make or break climb! The Col itself, is a very special place, and a fitting finale to our trip. The sun terrace of restaurant has an amazing view of Mt Blanc to the north and the climbs we have conquered to the South. Feel free to linger as long as possible as once over the other side we free-wheel back down to Albertville, where it all began 6 (great) days ago. If you get back in time it is well worth wandering upto the fortified town which overlooks the hotel.
Today's optional extra is a bit indulgent - the Col de Glandon (1924m). It starts off steep and gets steeper!
Classic Route: Col de la Madeleine [74km, 1550m ascent]
Classic Cols Challenge: Col de Glandon + Col de la Madeleine [118km with 3000m ascent]
Day 7 (Alpine Classic Cols): Transfer Day
All good things have to come to an end. In the morning we transfer back to Geneva (1 hr 30 mins) full of happy memories of what has been an amazing week of cycling.