Thomson Tales

Ruta Negra French Alps. New & Revised Edition. Achingly Brilliant!


The French Alps and cycling are inextricably linked. We’ve been going to the Alps for many years now, following the Tour de France, and with our Trans-Alps Challenge trips.

These trips however tend to focus on the key legends of the Alps; the Galibier’s, the Alpe d’Huez’s, the Madeleine’s of racing fame.  They’re all about packing in as much legend as possible into 6 or 7 days of cycling.  Which is great if you haven’t yet ticked these mountains off your bucket list.

The Ruta Negra French Alps is an altogether different beast.  It’s a slow burn trip, aimed at filling in the gaps on your bucket list, gradually building up over two weeks until BAM!! you hit the big legends in quick succession.

Let’t take a closer look at what’s covered

I just mentioned that this trip was a slow burn – however on Day 2 we hit the Mont Ventoux.  This is an essential Alps climb and yes, it does count as French Alps as it’s pretty much the last mountain in the southern extension of the mountain range before you hit the Mediterranean.

Gorges and Lavender

Day 3 takes in the Gorges de la Nesque, with a spectacular 19km climb through this magical landscape. It then heads north through the famous lavender fields of Provence.

Gorges de la Nesque
Gorges de la Nesque
Lavender Fields of Provence
The Lavender fields of Provence

Highest Roads and Best of’s

With two weeks of riding at our disposal, there’s room to pack in loads of riding content. Day 4 sees us head off to the Col de la Bonette, the highest paved through-road in Europe.  This climb has been voted “all-time favourite climb” by many a Thomson guest. While Day 5 is an amazing loop ride that takes in the best of the Southern Alps, including the magnificent Col d’Allos and the Col de la Cayolle, with its cliff-road through the gorge.

The Col d'Allos
The Col d’Allos

An HC-Fest

The HC climbs come thick and fast now that we’re well warmed up.  Day 6 in particular has 3 in quick succession with the Col de Vars, Col d’Agnel and Col d’Izoard.  The Izoard is probably the most famous of the three climbs as it’s been included many times in the Tour de France, however the Col d’Agnel stands out with its 41km climb up to 2000m of elevation.

The Col d'Izoard
The Col d’Izoard of Tour de France Fame

Italy Excursion

Yes I know this trip is all about the French Alps, but we couldn’t resist a little detour into Italy to pick up a few climbs there.  On the way we tackle the Col de Granon, listed in the top-30 most beautiful climbs in France.

The Longest Day

It’s fitting that the longest day on the Ruta Negra French Alps is also a typical Tour de France stage, with no less than 4 categorised climbs.  with 171km and 4800m of elevation, this ride makes a fitting end to the first week of the trip.  In typical Tour de France fashion, we’ve even included a “rest day” immediately afterwards.  We’re based out of La Clusaz which is a great place to rest up in the afternoon, have a cappuccino and get ready for the second part of Ruta Negra!

Tour de France Gravel

After the rest day, the riding gets serious again as we ride the last 100km of Stage 10 of the 2018 Tour de France. Gravel roads were introduced for the first time at the Tour with the inclusion of the Col des Glieres and we’ll follow in the tyre tracks of the peloton up this super-challenging climb. The first 6km average 11% then we hit 2km of gravel before reaching the summit. From there we follow the Tour route over the Col de Romme and the Col de la Colombiere.

Gravel on the Col de Glieres
Gravel section on the Col des Glieres

The Mighty Legends of the Alps

The last 4 days of riding feature the most famous climbs in the French Alps – the Col de la Madeleine, the Glandon, Croix de Fer, Telegraphe, Galibier, Alpe d’Huez.  Of course, this wouldn’t be a Thomson trip if there weren’t a plethora of climbs in between.

After 14 days in the saddle, only then will you truly be able to claim that you know the French Alps inside and out.  Take a detailed look at the route and all the climbs on the trip page.

Then take a breath and sign up!