Here’s one of the things we hear a lot, from longterm Thomson clients and first-timers alike: With more than 25 best-in-class cycling trips to choose from, it’s hard to know which one to ride first. Or next. Or after that.
And most important question of all: Which Thomson trip is best for me?
Fortunately, we have all the answers. Well, three of them, anyway.
Our Buckets, Your List: Cycling Trips Featuring The Gates, The Beast, The Circle, and Much More.
Almost every cyclist has a Bucket List. And for many of us, that list includes testing our limits against the great climbs of classic European races.
With nicknames like The Gates of Hell, The Beast of Provence (also known as God’s Tomb) and The Circle of Death, you can see these ascents are not merely famous, but the literal stuff of legends as well. And when the stories told about these climbs have titles like The Day The Strong Men Cried, well, you can see why so many seasoned riders vow to test themselves against them at least once before cycling off this mortal coil.
Which brings us to a triumvirate of cycling trips that will tick many of the boxes on your Bucket List. Even better, you’ll get to tick them in Thomson style. In fact, the toughest thing about these three trips—beside the actual riding, of course—is deciding which one to tackle first. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
To Begin, Start at the Beginning: the Tran-Alps Challenge
If you’re only going to do this thing once in your life, or it’s your first kick at the Bucket (so to speak), we suggest you start with the Big Dance: the storied cols of the Le Tour.
Our Trans-Alps Challenge cycling trips start in the far north of France near the Swiss border, in the Alpine resort of Morzine. From there, we’ll ride south, pitting ourselves against many of the Tour’s classic summits along the way.
- Days: 8
- Distance: 640km
- Climbing: 19,822 m
- HC Climbs: 9
- Cat 1 Climbs: 4
- Highlights: Col des Saisies, Col de la Madeleine, Lacets de Montvernier, Col du Chaussy, Croix de Fer, Col du Mollard, Col du Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, Col de Sarenne, Mont Ventoux (twice!)
Dig a Little Deeper Into Cycling’s DNA: The Trans-Dolomites Challenge
If the heart of cycling lies in France, surely its soul is to be found in Italy. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
In either case, Italy and France (or maybe France and Italy) are cycling’s two definitive cultures. Each distinct, yet each complementing the other perfectly. Which is why once you’ve conquered the Alps, it’s time to tackle the Dolomites.
The Trans-Dolomites Challenge cycling trips take up near Venice and has its arrivo 663 km later near Milan. In between is some of the most fabled, spectacular and challenging riding in Europe.
- Days: 8
- Distance: 663 km
- Climbing: 18,529 m
- HC Climbs: 7
- Cat 1 Climbs: none (10 Cat 2/3)
- Highlights: Zoncolan, Monte Crostis, Passo Giau, Passo Tre Croci, Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Campolongo, Passo Fedaia, Paso Costlunga, The Stelvio, Mortirolo, Passo Gavia (setting for The Day The Strong Men Cried)
Discover the Rest of The Tour, plus a Taste of the Vuelta: The Trans-Pyrenees Challenge
Of course, not all the great climbs of the Tour are in the Alps. Some of the most breathtaking and challenging ascents are in the Pyrenees, and this is your chance to claim them for your Life List.
In fact, the Trans-Pyrenees cycling trips are so good, we offer two of them: West to East, and East to West; from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, or vice-versa. The two have slightly different highlights, so it’s a tough choice.
- Days: 9 (both)
- Distance:948 km (E-W); (932 W-E)
- Climbing: 22,315 m (E-W); 24,053 ( W-E)
- HC Climbs: 4 (E-W); 6 ( W-E)
- Cat 1 Climbs: 7 (E-W); 6 ( W-E)
- Highlights (E-W): Jaizkibel, Col de Bagargui, Col de Marie-Blanque, Col d’Ichere, Col d’Aubisque, Tourmalet, Col de Val Louron Azet, Col de Peyresourde, Col de Mente Col de Portet d’Aspet, Col de Peguere, Col de Saraille, Col d’Agnes, Port de Lers, Col des Hares, Port de Pailheres, Coll de la Creueta, Rocacorba
- Highlights (W-E): Jaizkibel, Puerto de Otxondo, Puerto de Izpegi Col de Bagargui, Col d’Aubisque, Col de Soulor, Cirque de Litor, Col de Marie-Blanque, Col d’Ichere, Tourmalet, Hourquette d’Ancizan, Col de Val Louron Azet, Col de Peyresourde, Col de Mente, Col de Portet d’Aspet, Col de Peguere, Col de Saraille, Col d’Agnes, Port de Lers, Coll de la Creueta, Rocacorba
So that’s the first three of our Bucket List options. But once you have these gems crossed off, just remember there are more than 20 other trips in the Thomson portfolio. Which is to say, you’re going to need a bigger bucket. Not to mention planning on living a whole lot longer.