Cols Légendaires des Grandes Alpes

Price

£1,995.00 per person*

($2,553.60 USD or $3,491.25 AUD)

£200.00 deposit

£425.00 single room supplement

Dates

There are currently no scheduled dates for this tour, but please contact us if you want to schedule a private tour for six or more people.

Contact Us

Many thanks to the French Cycling Holidays and especially to Susan and David for the great time in the mountains! We struggled, but it was a lot of fun. Thank you for helping us in gaining satisfaction and in setting new goals for the future!

-- Svetlana. Moscow, Russia

Highlights

  • Stunning views of Lake Annecy from the Col de Forclaz
  • The fearsome Col de la Madeleine
  • Breathtaking panoramas of Mont Blanc from the Col des Aravis
  • The long descent to Lake Geneva
  • The Col d’Iseran at 2,770m, the highest pass in the Alps

Joining the tour

Start

Geneva airport or Annecy station

Finish

Geneva station or airport

Collection and drop offs are from Geneva airport and Geneva rail station.

Cycling level

10 out of 10

For riders who have strong confidence in their cycling fitness. Daily distances can be over 100 km on mountainous terrain. Tours will include climbs of over 10 km in length ( many made famous by the Tour de France!) .Cyclists should have the endurance to ride long distances and steep gradients over multiple days.

View Gallery

Our tour of the legendary cols takes the majority of the great climbs of the northern French Alps — names familiar from Tours de France from the last 50 years. You will be following in the wheeltracks of Bartoli and Coppi, Anquetil and Poulidor, Mercx, Hinault and Armstrong.

A quick look at the climbs you will be vanquishing on route:

  • Crêt de Chatillon (1699m)
  • Col de Leschaux (897m)
  • Col de la Forclaz (1150m)
  • Col de Tamié (907m)
  • Col de la Madeleine (1993m)
  • Col d'Iseran (2764m)
  • Cormet de Roselend (1967m)
  • Col du Pré (1703m)
  • Col des Saisies (1657m)
  • Col des Aravis (1483m)
  • Col de la Croix Fry (1467m)
  • Col de la Colombiere (1613m)
  • Col de Joux Plane (1713m)
  • Col de la Ramaz (1610m)
  • Col de Jambaz (1027m)
  • Col de Feu (1121m)

…not bad for a single week of cycling! If it's in the northern Alps and the Tour goes over it, chances are we do too!

To view a map of the Cols Legendaires tour route click here

Day 1

We collect from Geneva airport and train station, and transfer to our hotel in Annecy on the shores of the Lac d’Annecy. Those eager to get some early climbing in can tackle the Crêt de Chatillon (1699m) at the top of le Semnoz, via the Col de Leschaux (897m), taking in some breathtaking views of the lake before dropping down to Annecy for a fantastic dinner planned with the week's efforts in mind.

Distance: 50km (optional)

Day 2

Straight in to the climbing, we tackle the Col de la Forclaz (1150m), in the Tour in 2004 when Richard Virenque was first over the top, before whistling down to the village of Faverges with its 17th century château, in the shade of whose walls a welcome coffee break awaits. Then comes the climb of the Col de Tamié (907m), also featured in stage 17 of the 2004 Tour.

After lunch in Albertville comes the day's big one, the Col de la Madeleine (1993m) which has featured in the Tour de France 22 times, most recently in 2005. Luckily on such a long day we are tackling it the 'easy way' with an average gradient of 5% — which of course means that the descent to La Chambre is exciting with an average pitch of 8%. A quick run along the valley brings us to our hotel in St-Jean-de-Maurienne.

Distance: 130km

Day 3

 

Only one climb today — but what a climb! Following the Arc valley, we come to Lanslebourg situated at 1387m altitude, where a left hand fork puts us onto the lower slopes of the Col d'Iseran (2764m). 33 kilometres later we crest this monster, stopping for lunch and some of the most staggering views in the French Alps. The Iseran was the first ever mountain time-trial in the Tour (1947) and in 1996 was scheduled to be in the tour but was cut at the last minute due to the snow — maybe bring some arm- and legwarmers! It featured in the 2007 tour and the first across was Yaroslav Popovytch.

Descending into the valley of the River Isère, we stop in the swish ski resort of Val d'Isere for the night, as charming in the summer as in the winter.

Distance: 105km

Day 4

 

A very slightly gentler day today, taking it a bit easier as a deserved reward for the exertions of the previous 2 days. Even so, we tackle two renowned climbs from the Tour — first up is the Cormet de Roselend (1967m); a beautiful climb is rewarded by a glorious view of the Lac de Roselend just down from the summit. A regular on the Tour, 2007 saw Michael Rasmussen go over in the lead.

An optional detour round the lake lets us add an additional col, the Col du Pré (1703m). A drop down to the village of Beaufort sees the two routes converging, and it’s a great spot for lunch before tackling the afternoon's climb, the Col des Saisies (1657m). As you approach the summit of this pass, last used in the 2006 Tour, the views to Mont Blanc are simply stunning. A quick descent brings us to our hotel in Crest-Voland.

Distance: 95km (105 with Col du Pré)

Day 5

Three more familiar names from the Tour de France — the Col des Aravis (1483m), the Col de la Croix Fry (1467m) and the Col de la Colombiere (1613m)

The Aravis featured in 2002 and 2006; not too tricky when tackled fresh, we descend only briefly before bagging the Croix Fry, and dropping into Thônes for lunch.

The Colombière has featured a remarkable 18 times, with riders like Landis, Virenque, Pantani and Herrera amongst those to take the honours. Britain's Barry Hoban was first over in 1968. A fantastic downhill carries us into Cluses, from where we climb to the ski resort of Samoens and our hotel. A day steeped in Tour de France history!

Distance: 107km

Day 6

A bumper crop of cols to round off the week — but as we are going downhill towards Lake Geneva, or Lac Leman to the locals, most of them are done the 'easy way'! First up is the Col de Joux Plane (1713m), an hors categorie climb in the notorious 2006 Tour stage from St-Jean-de-Maurienne to Morzine where Floyd Landis staged his staggering recovery only to test positive for testosterone.

After a coffee in Morzine we take on the Col de la Ramaz (1610m) and, after a brief descent, the Col de Jambaz (1027m). A lunch stop in Bellevaux, then one last climb over the Col de Feu (1121m) brings us in sight of Lake Geneva; all that remains is to roll downhill to our hotel in Anthy-sur-Leman, 100m from the lake.

Distance: 115km

Day 7

After breakfast and an exchange of photographs or emails, we transfer back to Geneva for onward flights and trains.

Not all cycle vacations are the same. Compare what is included in a French Cycling Holidays sports tour:

  • Flexible collection from local airport or train station
  • Quality helmets (if required)
  • Water bottles (to take home as souvenirs)
  • Detailed riding instructions and colour route maps
  • Charming 3* and 4* auberges, inns and hotels
  • Buffet style breakfasts with croissants, pastries, meats, cheeses and cereals
  • Gourmet dinners for all 6 nights of your holiday
  • Fine wine (or soft drink alternative) with all evening meals and coffee to follow
  • 2 experienced bilingual guides with each tour
  • Delivery of your luggage to your hotel room each day
  • Entry fees to attractions and historical sites
  • Morning onward transfers
  • An unforgettable experience!

We try to include as much as we can within the price, while keeping things as flexible as possible. With the explosion of low cost airlines and the easy access to the TGV rail system from the UK, we believe that it is more economical and convenient for customers to arrange their own travel to the region. Links to the airlines and railway companies can be found in frequently asked questions.

Transfers

We provide the transfers to and from the local airports and the nearest TGV stations, and other locations by arrangement. If you have driven down, we arrange secure parking for your car and return you to it after the tour.

Hotels

We stay in very comfortable hotels, mostly 3*, occasionally 4*, and very occasionally superior 2* hotels which we choose if they have charm and comfort above their rating. All rooms have en-suite shower or bath facilities.

We select our hotels for their character as well as their facilities, and avoid chains in favour of independent privately run hotels.

Prices are based on two sharing in twin or double rooms. Singles are available on request. Where possible, we choose hotels with swimming pools as there is nothing quite like a dip after a day in the saddle!

It is sometimes necessary to change accommodation for reasons of room availability, minor adjustments to the route or upgrading the hotels. We will always endeavour to use hotels of an equal or higher level of comfort/facilities to those shown – please contact us to check for the most up-to-date information regarding your particular tour.

Meals

All evening meals are included, and we carefully select the restaurants for cuisine and ambience, and favour those with a strong regional flavour.

All meals include a starter, main course and dessert, some will have an additional cheese course. We are happy to arrange for our restaurants to cater for specific dietary requirements and allergies etc. On sports tours we try to make sure that the meals are suitable for a challenging week of cycling!

We do not include lunch, as the costing of these is beyond our control, but where route and weather allow we organise picnics; these feature copious salads, cold meats, cheeses, crusty bread, fruits, etc, and a choice of drinks; we ask for a contribution for the costs of the consumables, which usually works out at 8 or 9 euros per person per picnic. Where route or weather does not allow a picnic, we recommend suitable cafés and bistros.

Bikes & Equipment

Many people prefer to bring their own bikes for sports tours; however, if you would prefer to rent a bike locally, we can provide quality carbon fibre framed road bikes at a reasonable cost. If you are bringing your own bike, we will carry your bike case with us during the week, or arrange for it to be taken to the final hotel and stored.

 

Guides and Backup

There will be two guides on every tour; one cycling with the group and one in the minibus which will follow the group. The bus carries all luggage not required for the day's ride and will always be available for anyone at any point during the day. If for instance you want to take a day off the bike, or if a particular day seems a little hard, the bus will take you for as long or as little as you wish it to.

Everybody is provided with detailed route maps for each day, and both guides are easily contactable by mobile phone. The guides are enthusiastic experts on the local area and will be able to sort out any problems or special requests that you might have.

Le Catalpa, Annecy

Right on the shores the Lac d'Annecy with wonderful views, yet 5 minutes walk from the bustling old town, the 3* Le Catalpa was totally refurbished in 2014. There is plenty of space for setting up bikes, and with immediate access to the bike trail running round the lake, and it is a super place to start the tour.

catalpa annecy

Hotel Saint-Georges, St-Jean-de-Maurienne

This former coaching inn is fully up to date and close to the centre of St Jean de Maurienne, a bustling valley town ideally situated between a couple of big climbs – the Madeleine and the Iseran.

st-georges

Hotel Altitude, Val d’Isere

A boutique hotel in the heart of chic Val d’Isere, the Altitude is recently renovated yet maintains a cosy Alpine feel. You might prefer to be on the balcony with une biere fraiche though instead of by the fireplace with a vin chaud!

altitude

Caprice des Neiges, Crest Voland

With views over the Chaine des Aravis (which we’ll be riding in the morning) the Caprice des Neiges sits in a stunning location just outside the village of Crest Voland. The indoor pool makes the most of these views and helps to ease away the aches of the Iseran and others!

caprice

 Hotel le Morillon, Morillon

An old bakery on the edge of the village of Morillon, which has been converted into a charming traditional Alpine chalet hotel, the Hotel le Morillon has very comfortable rooms, gorgeous views and an indoor/outdoor pool which overlooks the mountains.

morillon            

Auberge d’Anthy, Anthy sur Leman

Just a minute’s walk away from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), the Auberge d’Anthy is a beautiful hotel which has been running since 1927. The bar is also a meeting point for locals, and the restaurant has a superb line in fresh, lake-caught fish to round off our week of dinners. A dip (of bike and body) in the lake is almost obligatory!

anthy

It is sometimes necessary to change accommodation for reasons of room availability, minor adjustments to the route or upgrading the hotels. We will always endeavour to use hotels of an equal or higher level of comfort/facilities to those shown – please contact us to check for the most up-to-date information regarding your particular tour.

Below we answer all the most common questions that you might ask before choosing a French Cycling Holidays tour. If you have any further questions then please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.

How fit do I need to be?

Anybody who is reasonably active should be able to take part and enjoy our tours.

The tours have different levels of physical exertion — whilst the Loire Valley tours and Bordeaux tour are easy going; the Normandy, Provence Roman Heritage, and Burgundy tours are a little more strenuous, whilst and the Provence Lubéron, Dordogne and Languedoc tours require a reasonable level of fitness.

For nearly all of our tours an e-bike - electrically assisted bicycle - is an extra-cost option. These bikes apply a 'multiplier' to the level of input provided by the rider, the level of assistance can be adjusted for the terrain. This can be useful if there are members of your party have very different levels of bike-fitness and experience, as hills that look daunting suddenly become easy with an e-bike. Contact us via the contact page if you would like more details.   

The Sports tours are aimed at enthusiast cyclists who might want to bring their own road bikes. However, the rides are not races and there is no time limit - and there is always the minibus if things get too tough!

We would nevertheless recommend that anyone who has not taken any regular exercise for some time to consult their doctor before considering any activity based holiday. Bear in mind that a little regular riding before coming on a cycling vacation will always be a benefit to the experience.

How do I get there?

We pick up and drop off from the nearest international airports and TGV/railway stations to the start of each tour. (We can drop at a nearer airport or station by arrangement if more convenient for you and logistically possible). This gives everyone the option of making their way by the most economical or convenient means. The major options are:

Flying from the UK

Ryanair flies into following airports:

Nimes (for the Provence tours and Languedoc tours; Ryanair also fly out of Beziers and Montpellier for the Languedoc tour); Bergerac (for the Bordeaux tour), Dinard for the Normandy tour, Grenoble for Alpine trips and Pau (for the Classic Cols tour)

Ryanair operates out of Liverpool, London Stansted and London Luton Airports amongst others.

Easyjet flies into Montpellier (for the Provence tours) and out of Bordeaux (for the Bordeaux tour); it flys into Geneva and Lyon for Alpine tours and also out of Nice for the Alpine Raid.

British Airways prices can be reasonable if booked in advance — BA fly into Bordeaux for train transfers to Bergerac (Bordeaux tour), and Marseilles (Provence tours).

If we do not pick up from the airport itself, we will advise on rail connections from the airport to our pick-up points.

Rail for visitors from outside Europe / those already in France

The TGV can be an exceptionally quick way of reaching many French destinations from the UK and from Paris for those flying from overseas or UK regions.

The Eurostar SNCF (French National Railways) TGV websites may be useful. As a guide, London St Pancras to Avignon via TGV takes approximately 6½ hours; Tours takes 4 hours. From Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, the point of arrival for most intercontinental flights, Tours is 1½ hours by TGV, Avignon (for Provence) just over 3 hours.

Brive-la-Gaillarde is 4 hours from Paris by rail for the Dordogne tour. We are more than happy to advise on rail options — please contact us. Internet sales from the French SNCF site ( www.voyages-sncf.com sites are possible but are in French; the approved agency for the US and Canada is RailEurope ; however we are happy to advise and help with the French website.

Driving

This may be a good choice if your French Cycling Holiday is part of a longer stay. We will arrange secure parking for your car at or near our first hotel, and return you to your car at the end of the trip. (Note - this service may not be available on certain long distance sports tours - please check with us). The major ferry and crossing companies from the UK are Eurotunnel, P&O, Brittany Ferries, LD Lines, Speedferries and SeaFrance.

If it is more convenient for you to hire a car Europcar in our experience have the best rates for rentals where the drop-off is at a different location to the pickup.

However you choose to travel, we are very happy to help you sort out your itinerary.

What kind of pedals do you use?

Pedals are obviously fairly important on a cycling tour! We stock the following kinds:

Flat – i.e. no special cleats or grips, these pedals can be used with any kind of footwear. If you do not regularly use special pedals or cycling shoes, we recommend standard trainers/sneakers to wear while riding.

SPD/flat – we also have pedals with one side flat and one side an SPD cleat. This is the standard Shimano SPD compatible system; two bolts and the small cleat pictured on the shoe with the yellow sole. These cleats are ideal for cycling tours as the cleat is usually recessed into the bottom of the shoe. The pedals are visible to the right of the picture.

SPD/flat style pedals

Flats with cages – we have a small number of flat pedals with cages & straps – again if you are not used to this, we wouldn’t recommend starting a tour with them!

Other – we do NOT stock any other pedal systems. If you use any other kind of pedal, you are very welcome to bring your own and our guides can fit them to your bike for the week. However, we would advise against racing-style pedals such as the Look Keo, Shimano SPD-SL or similar, as these tend to have a large, protruding cleat on the sole of the shoe which makes walking around visits or lunch stops (or even nipping into a public toilet!) quite uncomfortable and dangerous. Sports tours are a little different as there are much longer days and less off-the-bike walking – a choice is ultimately up to you though!

Can I use my own bike?

We are happy for anyone to bring their own bikes. However, the budget airlines charge around £50 each way and packing and carriage can be a hassle. Our Trek bikes are of a high standard, and our customers usually express pleasant surprise at the quality of the machines, so it might be a better option to bring your saddle and/or pedals which we will be very happy to fit. In any case there will always be a backup bike should you have a mechanical problem. Please feel free to call us for advice on bike transportation.

What should I wear?

The main thing that people who are not regular distance cyclists worry about is a sore behind. This is not as is popularly thought due to too-hard saddles, but friction between skin and garments. This is why professional cyclists wear skin-tight lycra shorts with padded inserts. Many people feel a bit self-conscious in this sort of gear and your local cycle shop will have a range of padded undershorts which can be worn under normal clothing, or regularly styled shorts with sewn-in padded liners. Otherwise, lightweight comfortable clothing (tee-shirts, shorts, trainers) is ideal, with something warmer like a fleece just in case. As we will be dining well, you might like to take something presentable (but not formal — no-one on a French Cycling Holiday stands on ceremony!) for the evening meal.

How many people on each tour?

As well as being an active holiday, sampling the best that France has to offer, we believe that our trips should be an opportunity to meet people and make new friends. Our groups are limited to a maximum of 16, which is the largest number that we can give a personal service to, and a minimum of 6 people, which we feel is the number needed to achieve a group spirit. If we cannot achieve this number, we may cancel the tour giving a minimum of five weeks notice.

What weather are we likely to encounter?

We time our tours so that the weather should be ideal for cycling for each tour. For that reason we have our Provence and Languedoc tours in the late spring and early autumn, rather than in high summer when it can be too hot to cycle comfortably after 10 a.m. The Loire Valley, Dordogne, Bordeaux and Burgundy tours are more temperate, which is why we concentrate these tours in July and August. We cannot guarantee the weather, but it would be very unlucky to have more than one wet day on any of the tours.

Are there any age limits?

There is no specific upper age limit — the only constraint is a reasonable level of fitness. Children between 10 and 16 are welcome as part of family groups. We do not recommend these tours for children under 10.

Do I need travel insurance?

We require all participants to have travel insurance with full medical cover. It is part of the conditions of our tours that participant should provide evidence of suitable cover. If you have any questions about the cover required please contact us for advice.

What financial protection is in place for my booking?

In accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Tours Regulations 1992” customers of French Cycling Holidays Limited will be indemnified in respect of their net ascertained financial loss sustained arising from the cancellation or curtailment of the declared trip travel arrangements arising solely from the event of the financial failure of French Cycling Holidays Limited.

This insurance has been arranged by Towergate Chapman Stevens through Hiscox Insurance Company Limited.

"Our third tour with French Cycling - they keep getting better! You'll have to add some more routes!" 

Connor and Geoff, Cleveland OH.


"Met our expectations and much more! Some tough climbs, but the encouragement and support (and cakes!) from Ken and Dave meant we all got to the top of each one. Planning next year's trip already!" 

Jarrod, Vancouver BC


"Loved it! Ticked off so many Cols from my list! Fantastic organisation and support, and I met some great folks who I'll stay in touch with. Maybe a reunion tour in a couple of years!"

Terry, Christchurch NZ.

 

 

Gallery