Thomson Tales

Tour de France in the Alps — Unpacked

Tour de France in the Alps — Unpacked

There's no denying that the highlight of any week in the Alps is the famous Alpe d'Huez, a climb that we attacked towards the end of our week in France.

Those 21 switchbacks draw cyclists all year round, but there's something special about riding during the Tour. With the roadside lined with fans, the experience is completely different to any other time of year.
Before that though, plenty of riding and race viewing. Things kicked off gently with an orientation ride to Pré Richard. The sun was out, the roads were clear and anticipation high.

Day 2 saw our first proper ride, with a total of over 6,000ft of climbing including the wonderful Col de la Croix. This was also where we stopped to watch the race unfold, first on TV screens and later as the pelotan sped by. With thousand of fans along the route, the atmosphere was electric – both as we took on the climb ourselves and whilst we cheered on the race.

The first Rest Day for the Tour was certainly not one for us. As the pro peloton rested their weary legs and fulfilled media duties, we took on a stunning route featuring some of the most scenic climbs in the Haute Savoie. The virtually unknown climb to Lac de Bise, high in the Alps close to the Swiss border is a firm favourite with all the Thomson staff. At his point we still had two big climbs left, the Col du Corbier and the magnificent Col du Grand Taillet — meaning we covered over 8.5k ft in this day alone!

Another day, another Tour de France stage. With privileged access to the VIP Departure Village, we enjoyed seeing the riders as they relaxed and warmed-up before the stage. Despite safety protocols keeping us at arms length from the rides, understandably, you can never take days like this for granted, to be this close to the riders and the workings of such a big event is incredible. We're always amazed how relaxed the riders seem ahead of such a big day in the saddle!

Back on our bikes for Day 5 and into the Chartreuse — a magnificent region of high peaks, vast pine forests, challenging climbs - and virtually no traffic. A big day included three categorised climbs, the Col de Porte, the Col du Coq and the Grimpée de Venon. With the weather playing it's part and the best support in the business, all of our riders enjoyed a great day's riding. Our three ride groups; sport, performance and epic allow everyone to ride the route to the best of the abilities and make the most of the challenge.

The one we've all been waiting for – a return to the most famous climb in cycling: Alpe d'Huez. Not only a ride to take in the 21 switchbacks, but a wonderful opportunity to follow in the tire tracks of the pelotan. Riding over the Official Finish Line is a great experience, and just a few hours before the peloton. We even took to the Official Podium for a photo! All this before watching the race do exactly the same on a stage that was never going to disappoint. A day to remember for all.

Yesterday saw our final day of a magnificent trip and we might have saved the best for last - the legendary Col du Galibier! Before that we took on the Col de Telegraphe, a 12km climb at a steady grade of between 6 and 8%. This was a great livener for our guests, who by now had a week full of Alpine climbs in their legs. The big finish came on the HC Col du Galibier, one of the highest climbs in Europe at over 4,000ft, something everyone could be rightly proud of.

A few celebratory drinks before dinner, before we said goodbye to a wonderful group of riders. It's been an incredible week and one we'll always remember. No rest for the wicked though, up next we have the Pyrenees. With live race viewing on Hautacam, the famous Tourmalet and the grand finale in Paris, its going to be some week!

2024 Tour de France: Alps & NICE Finish K/QOM Challenge