About the challenge
Ride to the sun! This demanding yet spectacular cycle challenge takes us from lakeside Geneva through the Alps and Provence, following part of the historic Route Napoleon as we head south to the ancient city of Aix-en-Provence. Our route takes in mountain passes, quiet valley roads and cruising descents. We cycle via the picturesque towns of Annecy and Sisteron as we head through beautiful scenery of towering mountain peaks, spectacular limestone cliffs and gorges, dense forests and lavender fields. With long, challenging days in the saddle, the magnificence of the landscapes motivates us to keep pedalling! Our unforgettable ride ends with a fabulous descent from the hills towards Aix, where we have time to relax and appreciate our huge achievement.
Day 1: Meet Geneva
On arrival in Geneva, you can check into our hotel and we’ll spend some time ensuring all the bikes are properly assembled and comfortable. Spend your free time (flight-times dependent) exploring the clean streets of this cosmopolitan city or head for the lovely lakeside gardens and famous fountain. We meet up in the evening for dinner and a detailed trip briefing before getting a good night’s rest in preparation for tomorrow’s efforts.
(Lunch not included)
Day 2: Geneva – Allevard
Cycle approx 132km (85 miles)
Heading south out of Geneva, we leave Switzerland and the Geneva Valley behind us. A gentle climb on quiet back-roads takes us into France. Beautiful views of the Alps accompany us almost the entire time today – a very inspiring start! We ride south to the beautiful town of Annecy, a lakeside jewel nestled among mountain peaks. We cycle alongside the shores of crystal-clear Lake Annecy for a few miles before continuing south on an undulating road through the forests and quiet villages of the Massif des Bauges. A steady, gradual ascent through lovely scenery takes us to the Col du Frêne – at 950m not a high mountain pass, and not a steep climb, but nevertheless our first real encounter with hair-pin bends! We descend via more sweeping bends to the Isère river, crossing it and climbing again on a quiet road up to Allevard, a lovely village partway up the mountain-slopes. Night hotel.
Day 3: Allevard – Corps
Cycle approx 116km (72 miles)
Starting the day with a gentle descent back to the Isère valley, we pedal parallel to the river for some time before approaching the historic city of Grenoble. Situated in a broad valley between mountains, the terrain is flat for many miles, though new views of the surrounding peaks continually open up to us. Skirting the city, we follow quiet roads which steer us between the high ridges but give us only a few lumpy undulations to tackle! We climb a gently sloping hill to Roissard, pausing to appreciate the spectacular views of the twists and turns of the lovely Drac river, before continuing through to the small village of Mens. A stretch of more rolling road takes us to the shores of the lovely Lac du Sautet; we then have a short climb up into the small town of Corps. Tomorrow we will start riding on the Route Napoleon, a classic stretch of road that traces Napoleon’s route from Elba in 1815, and you can’t fail to notice that Corps is proud of its position on the route – there are references everywhere. Night hotel.
Day 4: Corps – Sisteron
Cycle approx 96 km (60 miles)
Leaving Corps behind us, we continue our journey south through the southern Alps. Many of the roads we ride on today have featured regularly in the Tour de France. Our morning’s ride takes us predominantly along the scenic, hilly Route Napoleon: look out for the flying-eagle road markers that commemorate the route. Striking out on back roads for a short while, we climb the relatively gentle gradient of the Col de Manse – at 1268m our highest point of the challenge – before reaching the Alpine town of Gap. Continuing south on back-roads, the landscape around us gradually changes to thickly-forested limestone hills and sheer cliffs – spectacular scenery. Entering Provence, we reach the ancient, picturesque town of Sisteron, situated in beautiful scenery on the riverbank between towering mountain ridges. Night hotel.
Day 5: Sisteron – Aix-en-Provence
Cycle approx 108km (68 miles)
Today we descend out of the hills, but there’s more climbing to do first! We set off from Sisteron on fairly flat roads, but we then have a steady ascent on quiet shady roads, passing tiny villages. It’s very scenic and we make the most of every beautiful mile on this last day! Our route continues south, now downhill, passing a lovely reservoir as we approach the ancient village of Mane, with its classic tree-lined boulevards. Heading southwest, our road rolls along with a few more significant climbs, but the last third of the day is predominantly downhill. After reaching the small town of Pertuis and crossing the wide Durance River, only one short more climb lies ahead of us; we then enjoy another long descent into the ancient town of Aix, the end of our challenge! We have time to relax and freshen up before meeting up for an evening of celebrations to mark our achievements this week! Night hotel. (Dinner not included)
Day 6: Marseille - London
After a leisurely breakfast, we have free time to explore or relax until it’s time to transfer to the airport. (Lunch not included)
Discover Adventure reserves the right to change the route or itinerary for safety reasons should local conditions dictate.
The tour cost includes all accommodation 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 between hotel and airport at the start and end of the trip are also included. We will provide at least one transfer (depending on group size) 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.
The tour cost does not include flights (see information below), 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 & Transfer Information
We do not arrange group flights for this challenge, enabling you to take advantage of the many competitive fares between Geneva / Aix and different UK cities. Airlines include British Airways, Air France, Flybe and Easyjet.
We recommend you book flights that arrive and depart in the morning. You should allow plenty of time as a buffer on your outbound leg in case your flight 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 hotel, 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. This also applies for the end of the trip.
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.
All food is included except 3 meals where specified. Depending on flight schedules, you may be in-flight for the two lunches that are not included. Lunches are generous buffet-style with plenty of energy food to keep you going! Dinners are generally eaten in the hotel.
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 not generally 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. Please feel free to ask us for advice. Any meals not included are listed in the itinerary and are generally when we are in towns or cities where you are free to explore and find something to suit every budget.
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.
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.
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
Our route varies from predominantly flat valley roads to ascents of low- to mid-range mountains. 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 roads. The Route Napoleon is a classic drive, but we generally avoid the busiest sections. 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. Distances are fairly long considering the terrain, averaging 60-85 miles per day; you should make sure you are fit enough to manage these distances. We are always happy to talk through the trip in more detail with you if you are worried about your fitness at any stage.
We strongly recommend that you ride a road/racing bike (rather than a mountain bike) for this trip due to the long distances involved on well-surfaced roads. 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.
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. The information below gives you an idea of the climate, but 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, and you are entitled to useful discounts as a Discover Adventure customer.
It can be very hot, and cold! Rain is always a possibility and it may be windy in the valleys. As you climb you may start with a tail-wind and end with a head-wind! The weather and temperature can change dramatically with elevation; higher up it may be foggy, cloudy or much colder. The weather can change rapidly.
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.
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 Toursim
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. Please see our website for more details.
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 The Conversation Volunteers 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.uk or call 01302 388883.