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Classic Cols of the Tour de France

France, Switzerland Cycle INTENSE
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About the Challenge

This short but intensely demanding cycle challenge takes us through the heart of the French Alps, tackling a series of classic mountain climbs made famous by the Tour de France.

Spectacular views of mountain peaks, alpine valleys and hanging glaciers 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!

Classic Cols of the Tour de France

  • 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)

  • 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.

    Cycle approx 100km (60 miles)

    Route Profile

    Classic Cols Day 1.jpg
  • 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.

    Cycle approx 110km (64 miles)

    Route Profile

    Classic Cols Day 2.jpg
  • 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)

    Route Profile

    Classic Cols Day 3.jpg
  • We drive back to Geneva Airport in the morning, where you will board your respective flights home.

    (Lunch not included)

Prices may vary depending on date.

  • Available pricing options

    Fundraising Option
    Registration Fee £149 Fundraising target £1,700 Tour Cost - Airline Taxes - Book now
    Part - Payment Option
    Registration Fee £149 Fundraising target £1,200 Tour Cost £250.00 Airline Taxes - Book now
    Full Payment Option
    Registration Fee £149 Fundraising target - Tour Cost £850 Airline Taxes - Book now

    Pricing Explained

    Registration Fee (i)
    Payable on booking

    Fundraising Target (i)
    Paid 10 weeks prior to trip departure

    Trip Cost (i)
    Payable 8 weeks prior to trip departure


    • All meals except where specified, and accommodation on a twin-share basis
    • Discover Adventure leaders / mechanics / drivers
    • Full vehicle support throughout the trip
    • Bike collection from Geneva airport
    • Maps and route information


    • Three meals as specified in the itinerary
    • Travel insurance
    • Return flights to Geneva
    • Bicycle
    • Cycle helmet (compulsory) and water bottles
    • Personal spending money, souvenirs and drinks
    • Fees for any optional sites, attractions or activities
    • Any applicable surcharges as per Terms and Conditions


    Download Challenge Details

Detailed Information

  • All food is included except for a few meals as specified in the itinerary. The food is plentiful, generally local in style, freshly-cooked and will give you plenty of energy. Sometimes we have packed lunches, sometimes meals are buffet-style, other times we stop at small local restaurants. Dinners are generally eaten in camp or at our hotel, depending on accommodation.

  • Being vegetarian or having other dietary requirements is not usually a problem provided you let us know well in advance. Please do not expect as much variety as you would have access to at home – we are often in very rural or remote areas and among people of a different culture who may not understand your requirements, however willing they are to help. If you know there are plenty of foods you cannot eat we strongly recommend you bring extra snacks from home so you can top up your energy supply. Please feel free to ask us for advice.

  • Our local support crew is made up of local guides, assisted by drivers, porters, cooks and other support staff, depending on the type of trip. Local guides know the area well, and are a great source of knowledge about local lifestyles. The Discover Adventure crew work closely with the local crew to ensure your trip runs smoothly and safely. In some destinations we work together as a team with local guides to help set up or break camp, or prepare meals. Your leader will arrange a collection of tips for the local support crew at the end of your trek, and you will be provided with a guideline amount in advance. Tipping is not obligatory, but once you see how hard they work on your behalf you will be happy to donate something!

  • Your luggage, food, water and equipment is transported for you from one night-stop to the next (where applicable). If there is easy road access this is done by vehicle; if not porters, mules or even camels might carry your bags, depending on the destination and terrain. Space is limited and hard-sided luggage is not suitable, so it is essential that your kit is packed in a soft bag, rucksack or expedition kitbag. Ask us about our specially-designed low-cost kitbags if you don’t have one already. You should also bring a small daypack to carry for 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 communication devices (eg phones, radios and/or emergency satellite phones), medical kit and other safety apparatus appropriate to the destination. Our leaders always have access to our 24-hour emergency UK back-up. They 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 medical questionnaires and travel insurance as appropriate - is all done with your safety in mind.

Preparing for the Challenge

  • Clothing

    We plan our trips around the optimal weather conditions, but could still be exposed to bad weather at any time. It is vital you are prepared for all conditions. 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.

  • 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.

  • Entry requirements vary depending on your destination and nationality. It is your responsibility to ensure your passport is up-to-date and any visas are obtained in good time. For further information please see our Factsheet and Visa information page.

    Your routine UK schedule of vaccinations should be up-to-date (especially tetanus). We recommend you check Fit For Travel for further details. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.

  • For most people, the main attraction of travelling to a different country is to see new sights and enjoy new experiences. Sometimes those new experiences can make life harder or more inconvenient than you may like, such as toilet hygiene or different food, or simply a different attitude to solving problems. This is all part of the challenge you are signing up for! We are very privileged to live in a country with a high standard of living, and travelling exposes us to different challenges – all of which help broaden our horizons. We can guarantee that coming face-to-face with experiences outside your normal ‘comfort zone’ will help you bond with your fellow participants and provide you with plenty of things to laugh about! A sense of humour and sense of adventure are two of the most important things to bring with you!


Chris - November 2016

Was amazing, from start to finish, office support was great, Helen and Jamie, the onsite crew, really looked after and cared for you, even though we had challenging weather, the crew made sure we got the most out of the challenge, would use DA again.

James - November 2016

Achieving what I believed to be an extreme challenge.

Mandy - November 2016

The location was incredible. It was well organised by DA hence the reason I chose to use them again.

Cycle Training Weekends


£160 Special Offer - Only when you book at the same time as registering for your main challenge

Discover Adventure Cycle Training Weekends take place in and around the valleys and ridges of the chalk downs around Salisbury. They are designed to gauge your fitness so that you can be confident you are well prepared for the challenge ahead!


GRADE | intense (3)

This trip includes some very challenging terrain and tough conditions, usually at altitude. We will supply you with a thorough training guide when you have registered. Training for the challenge is all part of the preparation and requires commitment! Without it, you will find the challenge less enjoyable - and we want you to have the time of your life!
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