This five-day, self-guided tour can be packaged as a solo ride, or coupled with our wildly popular Geneva to Alped’Huez tour, which Outside Magazine named its “2011 Trip of the Year.”
Because this is self-guided, you pedal at your own pace. There are no time demands or scheduled stops. We suggest, you decide. You’re the biographer of your ride, giving you the freedom to choose between an early or late start, where and when to break for lunch, and what attractions to visit. You won’t however, have to decide on how to move your luggage. We’ll transfer it to your next hotel, so it will be waiting for you upon checking in.
Day 1: Arrival in Alpe d’Huez
Upon arriving in Alpe d’Huez, our local representative will furnish you with detailed tour information (routes, lodging attractins, dining options, etc..) and answer all your questions and outfit your with a high-end bike should you wish not to bring your own. Until you meet the rest of the group, we cannot recommend enough our short and very scenic loop to experience the famous 21-hairpin climb of Alpe d’Huez. Note that you this tour can be done in conjunction with our award-winning “Geneva to Alpe d’Huez.”
Day 2:Alpe d’Huez to Briançon via Col du Lautaret (80 km or 50 miles with 1802 m or 5912 ft of climbing)
Pedaling southeast out of Alpe d’Huez, you’ll wheel into Parc National des Écrins. One of nine national parks in France, it features more than 100 mountain peaks over 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). Hence, have camera ready. You’ll eventually pedal into La Grave, a picturesque 12th century village of stone cottages that sits within the storied shadows of Le Meije, a glaciated peak famous for its extreme skiing. From here you’ll begin ascending Col du Lautaret. This storied mountain pass, which touches the sky at 2,058 meters (6,752 feet), has witnessed 11 Tour de France stages. From Lautaret’s summit, you’ll coast into Briançon, an ancient, fortified village of steep and narrow streets. Attractions are many, including several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Day 3:Briançon to Barcelonnette (100 km or 62 miles with 2841 m or 9321 feet of climbing)
Your tour through the Southern Alps veers south into the Parc naturel regional du Queyras. Immediately upon entering you’ll begin climbing Col d’lzoard. This iconic pass has been part of 32 Tour de France races, including as recently as 2011. The pass, which is a 20-kilometer (12 miles) pedal from Briançon, tops out at 2,361 meters (7,746 feet). The descent snakes through the Casse Deserte, a thirsty setting of jutting rocks and spilling scree fields that looks like it’s on permanent loan from the moon. After the road levels out, you’ll bicycle through the sleepy villages of Arvieux and Guillestre before climbing Col de Vars (2,109 meters/6,916 feet), another Tour de France favorite. You’ll lodge in Barcelonnette, located along the banks of the Ubaye River. This village, which caters to bicyclists in the summer and skiers in the winter, enjoys a resort-like mentality with plenty of open-air cafes and restaurants to choose from.
Day 4: Barcelonnette to Saint-Martin-Vésubie (115 km or 71 miles with 3429 m or 11250 ft of climbing)
The Cime de la Bonette, the highest paved road in Europe, highlights today’s pedal. Located inside Parc National du Mercantour, the road scrapes the sky at 2,715 meters (8,907 feet). If the legs are willing, a tear-shaped side road at the top loops around the summit (an alpine version of a victory lap), allowing you to reward your efforts with panoramic views in every direction. From here you’ll follow the Tinée River while wheeling through St. Etienne-de-Tinée and Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée, two quintessential mountain hamlets with narrow streets and picturesque architecture. Eventually you’ll pedal into Saint-Martin-Vésubie, your home for the night. Located just a Clif Bar’s throw from the Italian border in a deep mountain valley, this tiny medieval village is rightfully nicknamed the “Switzerland of Nice.”
Day 5: Saint-Martin-Vésubie to Menton (71 km or 44 miles with 2483 m or 8146 ft of climbing)
As you continue your southward trek to the Mediterranean Sea, pines will gradually yield to palms. From Saint-Martin-Vésubie you’ll pedal alongside the Vésubie River, allowing you to warm-up your bike-legs before climbing Col de Turini. This pass, which has hosted three Tour de France stages, has more hairpin turns than a Monet painting has brushstrokes. Looking down from the summit (1,607 meters/5,272 feet), the road resembles a giant asphalt anaconda, making it easy to understand why it’s the Monte Carlo Car Rally’s most popular stage. After slaloming down, you’ll bicycle into Sospel, an ancient village that dates back to the 5th century. From here you’ll continue south and begin sniffing the first hints of salt air as you approach the Mediterranean coast and enter Menton. Located on the French Riviera, it’s nicknamed the “Pearl of France.” You’ll have plenty of diversions to choose from at night. Menton is famous for its botanical gardens and beaches, and medieval architecture abounds, especially in the center of town, highlighted by Saint-Michel-Archange, a towering, baroque basilica built in 1619.
Day 6: Menton to Nice (47 km or 29 miles with 1774 m or 5820 ft of climbing)
Your tour ends with a grandstand finish. Before riding into Nice, you’ll crest four cols, starting with Col de la Madone. This pass has become a bicycling-must for all riders ever since Lance Armstrong called it his favorite training climb. Topping out at 925 meters (3,035 feet), it will mark the highest point of today’s ride. Col de St. Pancrace (672 meters/2,204 feet) follows. And then from here you’ll coast into La Turbie, a five-star rest stop. This ancient village, which overlooks the Mediterranean coast and neighboring Monaco, is home to Trophée de Alpes, a massive Roman monument built by Augustus in 6 BC. Despite its age, this white marble structure still towers over La Turbie like some sort of architectural matriarch intent on maintaining the area’s ancient heritage. Before exiting, you’ll want to visit La Turbie’s famous fountain located in the town center, popular with bicyclists for its drinkable water. You’ll then continue on to Nice, but not before cresting Col d’Eze (497 meters/1,630 feet) and Col de Quatre Chemins (321 meters/ 1,053 feet). Nice, one of France’s cultural giants, offers a wealth of attractions including the Place Masséna and Place Rossetti.
Day 7 :Departure
Exit Nice on your own timetable.
Pricing: 995 euros per person on double occupancy basis. Single supplement is 325 euros.
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Europe France Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring
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