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France, Switzerland

Classic Cols of the Tour de France

Activity
Cycle
Duration
5 days
Grade
Grade 4

About the challenge

Awaiting us are spectacular views of mountain peaks, alpine valleys and hanging glaciers to make the long twisting climbs worthwhile! Our challenge ends with two of the toughest and most renowned ascents in the region: the demanding Col du Galibier and the steep hair-pin bends of Alpe d’Huez. Conquering these mountains will earn you a life-long sense of achievement and give you something in common with the most elite cyclists in the past 100 years! This is a very strenuous challenge and you will need to train extremely hard to succeed.

Dates & prices

   
Departs Days Charity Availability Registration fee   Fundraising target   Payment option  
25 Jun 2015 5 Open challenge Spaces £149 + £1400 Or £700 Book now
17 Sep 2015 5 Open challenge Spaces £149 + £1400 £700 Book now
23 Jun 2016 5 Open challenge Spaces £149 + £1500 £750 Book now
15 Sep 2016 5 Open challenge Spaces £149 + £1500 £750 Book now

The itinerary

Day 1: Meet Geneva

On arrival in Geneva, you meet one of our transfers to Annecy (approx 1½ hour’s drive), a beautiful lakeside town over the border in the French Alps. On arrival at our hotel, you can check in and we’ll then spend some time ensuring all the bikes are properly assembled and comfortable. Any free time can be spent exploring wandering the picturesque narrow streets of Annecy. Night hotel. (Lunch not included)

Day 2: Annecy – Col des Aravis – Col des Saisies – Albertville
Cycle approx 100km (60 miles)

Up early for our first day in the saddle! Heading out of Annecy, the valley terrain provides a perfect warm-up as we head towards the ski-resort town of La Clusaz. The road undulates on rolling valley roads through pretty towns and villages with plenty of roadside cafés! Passing through St George du Sixt, the anticipation builds as we see signs for the Col des Aravis. We head up steadily, reaching the summit at 1487m: a relatively short and gentle climb but still our first col and a significant achievement! Once we have reached the top we enjoy a fabulous descent. It’s over too soon; once through Flumet, we start to climb again. The Col des Saisies is a longer climb but you should be fully warmed up by now and should find your rhythm again quickly, despite resting your legs on the descent. It’s important not to over-do it – just climb at your own pace, resting when you need to. More cafés await us at the summit (1650m) and we stop for a quick celebratory coffee before relishing the long sweeping descent down to Albertville. Night hotel.

Day 3: Albertville – Col de la Madeleine – Col du Télégraphe – Valloire
Cycle approx 110km (64 miles)

After a good night’s rest, we head out of Albertville along the valley, stretching our legs on the gently undulating roads. It won’t seem long before we reach our first climb of the day, the Col de la Madeleine (1993m). Steeper than yesterday’s cols, this is a good transition day! It’s important to pace yourself as this is a long climb at almost 25km. Fabulous views open up at every twist of the road, and will distract your mind from your suffering legs! Reaching the top, you’ll be greeted by fellow cyclists and can stop for a drink and to appreciate the views. A long, welcome descent takes us to the lovely town of La Chambre and a welcome lunch-stop. We cycle along flatter roads towards St Michel, warming up our legs again before tackling the second climb of the day, the Col du Télégraphe. This is a tough climb, shorter than this morning’s effort but considerably steeper, and you have really earned a celebration when you reach the top of the pass (1566m). We enjoy the views and rest our legs for a little before a short descent, heading for our hotel in the valley town of Valloire and a chance to rest thoroughly before tomorrow: the biggest day of our challenge. Night hotel.

Day 4: Valloire – Col du Galibier – Alpe d’Huez – Bourg d’Oisans
Cycle approx 105km (62 miles)

Upon leaving Valloire, we can immediately appreciate that we have not lost much of the height gained on yesterday’s Col du Télégraphe. In real terms, we are part-way up the feared Galibier already – which psychologically is a real boon. However, there is still a long haul, and the climbing starts almost straightaway, so it’s important to pace yourself gently and get your body used to the bike again! After 8km our legs will be feeling nicely warmed up and we are greeted with a short, flattish section and absolutely stunning scenery before starting the ‘real’ climb of the Col du Galibier. Weather permitting, we avoid the mountain tunnel and ride on smaller roads with plenty of hair-pin bends through this stunning mountain range. The last section is particularly steep, with a gradient of 10% over the last kilometre. You will need all your mental determination to keep the pedals turning, but the sense of achievement on reaching the top will be one to remember forever! At the top you are greeted by a monument to Henri des Granges, the founder of the Tour de France – a perfect group photo stop! We don’t stop for long! Heading downhill towards lunch in the valley, we enjoy the amazing landscape of this region – a whole new set of views! After we have rested and refuelled, we head off towards the lovely town of Bourg d’Oisans and the start of the most famous climb of them all, Alpe d’Huez. At ‘only’ 14km long, the climb is relatively short but Alpe d’Huez is notorious for many reasons, not least its steep gradients. The distance to the first hair-pin bend has a gradient of over 10%, and it feels a very long way; there’s a fabulous view over the valley just from this first landmark! From here you can count down the 21 hair-pin bends or lacets, which are all numbered and dedicated to winners of Tour de France stages. The climb will be hard, especially after your efforts on the Galibier, but enjoy every minute as this fabulous mountain marks the end of your challenge! We celebrate our incredible achievement at the top of the mountain, where the ski-resort is a thriving town in the summer months with many souvenir shops and cafés. After time to take it all in, we enjoy our last thrilling descent back down the mountain to Bourg d’Oisans, check into our hotel and celebrate in style! Night hotel. (Dinner not included)

Day 5: Bourg d’Oisans – Geneva

We drive back to Geneva Airport in the morning, where you will board your respective flights home. (Lunch not included)

Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.

Detailed information

What's Included?

The cost includes all accommodation as well as transfers and all meals except three as specified in the itinerary. It also includes full trip support of experienced Discover Adventure leaders, drivers and mechanics. Transfers from and to the airport are included. We will provide at least one transfer (depending on group size) each way and will provide you with further details on registration. If you are not able to arrive in time for the included transfer, transportation will be at your own cost.

What's Excluded?

It does not include flights, personal travel insurance, three meals as specified, or a bicycle. It also does not include entrance fees to any optional sites or attractions you may wish to visit.  Bear in mind that airlines are likely to charge a fee for bike carriage. Remember to allow extra for drinks, snacks, souvenirs and other personal expenses. Please note that costs may fluctuate and we have no control over any changes. We strongly recommend you carry a credit card in case of personal emergency.

Flight and Transfer Information

We do not arrange group flights for this challenge, enabling you to take advantage of the many competitive fares between Geneva and different UK cities. Airlines flying to Geneva include British Airways, Air France, Bmibaby, Flybe and Easyjet. We recommend you book flights that arrive in the morning and depart in the afternoon. You should allow plenty of time as a buffer in case your flight / journey from Bourg d’Oisans is delayed. The best deals are usually open to those who book early, but bear in mind that we do need a minimum number for this trip to run, and booking your flight before you are advised the trip is guaranteed is entirely at your own risk. Please be aware that the best deals usually allow little flexibility if you need to change them. Please ensure that you inform your airline that you will be travelling with your bike when you book. It may not be possible for them to guarantee bike carriage at a later date. Most airlines charge a bike carriage fee, which you are responsible for paying. We can provide you with guidelines on packing a bike for flight, but it’s best to check the airline’s specific instructions. We will arrange at least one transfer between the airport and Annecy; depending on the group size. Exact time(s) may be determined by the times of the majority of the group and will be communicated nearer to trip departure.

Accommodation

Accommodation is in 2-3* hotels, picked for their proximity to our route. The hotels are comfortable with en suite facilities; standards may vary between the hotels.

Food

All food is included except 3 meals where specified. Lunches are generous buffet-style with plenty of energy food to keep you going or stow in your back pocket to see you up the next climb! Dinners are generally eaten in the hotels.

Dietary Requirements

Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Bear in mind that being vegetarian is generally not well-understood in France, so meals may not be as varied as you are used to. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat you may wish to bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally during free time in towns where you are free to explore and find something to suit your budget.

Trip Support

Discover Adventure Crew

Your trip will be led by experienced Discover Adventure leaders. Our leaders are selected for their experience in harsh wilderness environments, knowledge of travel in remote areas, friendliness and approachability, sense of humour and ability to safely and effectively deal with any situation that arises. They are also trained in expedition first-aid. You are in very safe hands with a Discover Adventure leader.

All our leaders are from the UK or other English-speaking countries. Most work for us on an ad-hoc basis and have ‘real’ jobs in-between trips! We never send our leaders to the same destination for months on end – we want them to be as enthusiastic about your trip as you are.
The number of crew and support vehicles looking after you will depend on the final size of your group, but the team will be looking after every aspect of your trip whether that’s transporting your luggage, ensuring your route is well-marked, making you lunch and sorting out any mechanical problems. At Discover Adventure we pride ourselves on our high leader: cyclist ratio and believe it leads to greater trip enjoyment as well as excellent trip safety.

Luggage

Support vehicles are with the group all of the time. All luggage and spares will be carried in them. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft sailing bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. Bikes can be transported on flights in bike bags or – a much cheaper option – cardboard bike boxes: ask your local bike shop if they have any. You should also bring a small daypack or waist-pack to carry items needed during the day as you will not have access to your main luggage until the evening.

Trip Safety

Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with radios and emergency mobile phones, first-aid kits and other safety apparatus where necessary. They always have access to our 24-hour emergency back-up in the UK. Our leaders are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration – such as compulsory medical questionnaires and travel insurance – is all done with your safety in mind.

Preparing for the challenge

Cycling Information

Terrain

We ride mainly on small quiet roads. Traffic is light most of the time but you must be vigilant for traffic and other cyclists, especially in poor visibility or on narrow mountain bends. Watch out for traffic overtaking on mountain descents as you are riding up – they may be on your side of the road. French drivers are generally far more considerate to cyclists than here in the UK. You cycle approximately 315km on this trip overall, though this can vary depending on exact hotel location and any necessary deviations. The cycling is very challenging, and it is vital that you don’t underestimate how tough this challenge is. Each day includes two mountain climbs; they vary in difficulty but each still presents a challenge. This terrain is not suitable for anyone who has not trained hard and is not used to cycling. Distances are fairly long considering the terrain, averaging 100km (60 miles) per day.
We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.

Bikes

We strongly recommend that you ride a road bike/racing bike for this trip due to the long distances involved on well-surfaced roads. For a trip of this difficulty, it’s really important that you ride the bike you have been training on so you are used to it. Although training in the gym is useful, there is no substitute for getting out into all weathers and really getting to know your bike – especially the range of your gears as you climb.

Bike Repairs

There will be a range of spares in the vehicle along with a full tool kit. However it is impossible for us to carry spares for every eventuality so it is vital that your bike it is in good order before departure. It is a condition of travel that you supply your own helmet and wear it at all times while cycling, with the straps done up.

Clothing & Equipment

We could be exposed to bad weather at any time even in the height of summer so be prepared for all weathers and temperatures and remember that weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.

Weather

It can be very hot, and cold! Rain is always a possibility and it may be windy in the valleys. As you climb a mountain you may start with a tail-wind and end with a head-wind! The weather and temperature at the foot of a climb can be dramatically different to the top, where it may be foggy, in cloud or much colder. The weather can change rapidly.

Fitness Levels

Our challenges attract people of all levels of experience and fitness, all ages and backgrounds. We expect all participants to train hard in advance to achieve this challenge, but we respect everyone’s limits. We design our challenges so that everyone can go at their own pace: this is not a race.
For logistical and safety reasons we sometimes need to re-group, so the front-runners will find themselves waiting for the slower ones. Please relax, and remember that this is a team effort that enables people to achieve their personal goals and earn sponsorship.

Passport & Visa

A valid ten-year passport is essential for travel in France and Switzerland and must be valid for at least 6 months from entry. Your passport must be carried with you at all times in the mountains. There is no visa requirement for UK citizens or other EU members. Other nationalities should check entry requirements.

Vaccinations

We insist that you have had a Tetanus injection in the last ten years, and highly recommend protection against Polio.You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.

Worldwide Sustainable Tourism

Long before ‘Responsible Tourism’ became a recognised phrase, we designed and ran our trips to ensure they made minimum impact on the environment and a positive impact on the local communities we pass through. 

Discover Adventure Projects

We are supporting a tree-planting project in Peru and a children’s home in Tanzania on a long-term basis. If you would like to ‘give something back’ please consider donating £5 to our projects when you sign up.

Carbon Offsetting

We encourage all our customers to offset emissions connected with their trip. You can offset at any time in the lead-up to departure by visiting Climate Care via our website and making a donation to a worthwhile project supported by them. Alternatively, if you wish to take more practical action in the UK you can volunteer for a day with TCV and work on an environmental project local to you. Work may include construction footpaths, dry stone walling, creating wildlife habitats or planting trees in your community. Volunteer today at www.tcv.org or call 01302 388883.