There are few places which compare with the French Alps when it comes to the mystique, challenge and pure joy of riding a bicycle.
The Tour de France has ensured the Alps are embedded in cycling folklore, thanks to the pain, suffering and glory dished out by all the legendary climbs. But there’s so much more to the French Alps than the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez.
With the Ruta Negra French Alps, we’ve designed a unique ride through the Alps, featuring the majority of the classic climbs and lots of lesser-known gems. In addition to legendary climbs like Alpe d’Huez, Galibier, Ventoux, Madeleine, Glandon, Izoard & Croix de Fer we’ve included the Col de la Bonette, the highest paved through-road in Europe and the Col de l’Iseran, the highest paved pass in the Alps.
There’s a daily average of 123km and over 47,000m of climbing over two weeks, this is not a trip for the uninitiated and is on a par with the Ruta Negra Italia.
Bienvenue en France!
Our staff will meet you at Marseille Provence Airport. From the airport we have a short transfer to our first hotel, the 18th century Chateau de Mazan. After checking in to the hotel we’ll have our Orientation Meeting followed by lunch, then our mechanics will be on hand to help you get the bikes ready for the first ride. Our warm-up ride gives us our first taste of climbing in the Alps with the Cat.2 climb to the Col de Murs and the Cat 3. climb to the Col de la Ligne.
Meeting Time and Place
Our guides will meet you at 9:00am - either at Marseille Provence Airport or at the Hotel Pullman Marseille Provence Aéroport.
Not much needs to be said about today’s ride - except maybe, that in true Thomson style, we’ll climb the Giant of Provence not once, but twice! Our hotel in Mazan is only 10km from Bedoin so we’ll attack the Bedoin side of the climb first. After 14km climbing through the pine forest we break out of the trees and are faced with the final 7km, across the famous lunar landscape, to the summit at 1900m.
A long descent to Malaucene where we can enjoy a coffee-stop and some refuelling before tackling the 20km ascent back to the summit. Enjoy!
Gorges de la Nesque
The highlight of today’s ride has to be the spectacular 19km climb through the Gorges de la Nesque. The Gorges are a magical place to cycle, a vast canyon cut into the Vaucluse Mountains with twisty roads and incredible scenery the entire length of the 19km climb.
On exiting the Gorges we head north through the lavender fields around Sault and on to our next climb, the Cat 2. Col de Perty in the Baronnies Natural Park. Before reaching our hotel in Gap we have 1 last climb to contend with, the Cat 2 Col de Foureyssasse which peaks out just at just 20km from the finish of the ride.
Col de La Bonette
A big stage today with 2 HC climbs on the agenda!
The main highlight of the day is the Col de la Bonette which rises to 2802m making it the highest paved through road in Europe. The Bonette is a truly remarkable climb and has been named by many previous guests as their all-time favorite climb in Europe.
On the way to the Bonette we’ll take a typical Thomson detour and climb the relatively unknown Mont Colombis, another HC climb with steep pitches reminiscent of the Mortirolo in Italy.
Best of the Southern Alps
Today features the quintissential Southern Alps loop. A really beautiful ride which includes 3 fantastic climbs, each of them above 2000m!
First up is the Col d’Allos, one of the most beautiful climbs in the Alps, with the road clinging to the side of a cliff for most of the climb. The descent takes is down to Colmars before the start of the next climb, the Col des Champs. The last climb of the day is the Col de la Cayolle, another absolutely beautiful climb with numerous switchbacks carved into the side of the cliff. A truly remarkable day on the bike - and one you’ll remember forever.
Another huge day on the bike with 3 major climbs - the Col de Vars, the Col d’Agnel and the Col d’Izoard. The main 2 climbs of the day are the Agnel and the Izoard. At over 40km and reaching an elevation of over 2700m, the Col d’Agnel is one of the longest and most challenging climbs in the Alps. Enjoy the views at the summit which lies on the border with Italy.
Next up is the famous Col d’Izoard which features regularly in the Tour de France, most recently in 2017 when the stage finished at the summit of the Izoard, with Frenchman Warren Barguil first acoss the Finish Line.
Today sees us cross the border into Italy for the beautiful climbs up to Moncenisio and Mont Cenis.
After 8 km we arrive in St Chaffrey where we have a nice surprise for everyone in the form of the HC Col du Granon. The Granon is listed in the Top 30 most beautiful climbs in France and we’re sure you’ll enjoy this really beautiful and challenging climb. From the Granon we descend to Briancon and start the approach to the relatively easy Col de L’Echelle. At the summit we cross the border into Italy and a truly beautiful descent into Bardonecchia.
We continue along the valley to Susa where we start the climb that will eventually take us back into France. We’ll take the small road with its many switchbacks that leads to a first summit in Moncenisio before joining the main climb to Mont Cenis and the border with France.
Tour de France Favourites
A classic Tour de France stage today with no less than 4 categorised climbs.
First up is the massive Col de L’Iseran, which at 2764m is the highest paved pass in the Alps. A long descent takes us to Bourg St Maurice and our next climb, the beautiful road up to the Cormet de Roselend. The views of the lake just over the summit are some of the most spectacular views in the Alps.
Next up are 2 classic Tour de France climbs, the Col des Saisies and the Col des Aravis, both offering spectacular views of Mont Blanc off to your right. From the top of the Aravis, the sound of cowbells will accompany us all the way down our final descent into La Clusaz.
After 8 days of challenging rides, we’ll have a short ride today - just 32km and 1 single climb. The climb comes in the form of the Cat 1. Col de la Croix Fry, where the pairing of Amstrong and Landis ripped the field apart in the 2004 Tour de France.
Rest up in the afternoon, have a capuccino at one of the many cafes in La Clusaz and get ready for the second part of Ruta Negra!
2018 Tour de France Stage
Our ride today follows most of the route of the last 100km of Stage 10 of the 2018 Tour de France Stage. 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 before the short climb back to our hotel in La Clusaz.
Col de la Madeleine
The last 4 days of riding feature the most famous climbs in the French Alps - and first up today is the Col de la Madeleine.
From the hotel in La Clusaz we head down the valley towards Annecy, turning off in Bluffy towards the Col de la Forclaz. Enjoy the stunning views of Lake Annecy from the summit before heading down to Faverges and the start of the Col de Tamie. The descent of the Tamie takes us into Albertville then a short ride along the valley to the start of the 25km climb to La Madeleine. The Madeleine is one of the Top 5 famous TDF climbs and has featured 25 times in the Tour de France since it was first introduced in 1969.
Glandon & Croix de Fer
Another legendary climb today in the form of the Col de Glandon. Before the Glandon we’ll take the single track road up the spectacular Lacets de Montvernier, an incredible climb up the face of the mountain, with 17 switchbacks squeezed into the 2.5km climb. From the Lacets we continue climbing to the Col du Chaussy.
Next up is the legendary Col de Glandon and from the summit we’ll continue for an extra couple of km to reach the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer. Descending the Croix de Fer we’ll take a detour to include the short but beautiful Col du Mollard, before continuing the long descent to our hotel in St Jean.
Galibier & Alpe d'Huez
A classic Alpine ride today with probably the 2 most famous climbs in the Alps on the agenda: the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez!
First up is the massive Col du Galibier. Almost 35 km in length and with a total elevation gain of over 1900 m, the Galibier is one of the most challenging and most famous climbs in Europe. The climb starts in St Michel de Maurienne and after 12 km tops out at the Col de Telegraphe. A short descent into Valloire and then we’re climbing again as we attack the final 18 km to the Galibier summit at almost 2800 m.
From the Galibier we have a 45km descent to Bourg d’Oisans where the first of the famous 21 switchbacks signals the start of the most famous climb of all: Alpe d’Huez!
End of an epic journey
We end our Ruta Negra French Alps trip with 2 magnificent climbs around Alpe d’Huez. From the Alpe we’ll take a spectacular cliff road through Villard-Reculas then down to Allemont. Our first climb starts shortly after Allemont and is a real unknown gem. The climb to the Col du Sabot is quite simply spectacular and is pretty much traffic-free - and it’s a lot more challenging than it’s popular neighbour (Alpe d’Huez). From the Sabot we’ll descend to Bourg d’Oisans, climb the first few km towards Alpe d’Huez then turn off onto the “balcony”, another spectacular cliff road. We’ll follow this cliff road which eventually leads us to the bottom of our final climb - the HC Col de Sarenne - one of the most beautiful climbs in the region and a great way to end this epic journey across the French Alps!
Unfortunately, our trip must come to an end. Our shuttle will take you to Lyon St Exupery Airport, arriving at approximately 9:00am.