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Cycle the French Alps: Road Cycling


Cycle the French Alps: Road Cycling

Start: Aix-les-Bains
End: Chambery

This trip takes you from the Jura Mountains to the mighty French Alps

Duration8 days
Start / EndAix-les-Bains / Chambery
Tour operatorIntrepid Travel


Cycle the French Alps: Road Cycling

8 days·Intrepid Travel
Start: Aix-les-Bains
End: Chambery


Welcome to road cycling – the Intrepid way. This trip takes you from the Jura Mountains to the mighty French Alps as you ride through the same terrain as the Tour de France. Earn your bragging rights as you conquer the legendary climbs of the Croix de Fer, Col d’Izoard and the true legends of the Col du Galibier and the iconic 21 hairpins of the Alpe d'Huez. This is a trip to test your cycling ...

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Day 1Aix-les-Bains
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at around 6 pm today. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where and when exactly it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you arrive early, check out the Roman ruins, Temple of Diana, the town hall or the belle Chateau de la Roche du Roi. If you have brought your own bike it is a good idea to assemble it today to ensure that everything is in perfect working order. There are a number of bike shops in Aix (and nearby Chambery) but please note most close around 5pm on a Saturday and don't open Sundays or Mondays. Please see the Transport section of our Essential Trip Information notes for details of how you can make your own way to Aix-le-Bains from either Paris or Geneva. For those that have brought their own GPS device (e.g. Garmin) we can upload each day's ride directly to your device so that you never get lost no matter how fast (or slow) you are.
Day 2Aix-les-Bains
Set off on your first ride. Start by finding your cycling legs on a gentle ride that loops around Lake Bourget. This route traces the shadows of the Jura Mountains on one side and the towering Bauges Massif on the other. Along the way, pass the Abbaye d'Hautecombe, a 12th-century royal burial site, and come full circle back to Aix-les-Bains. Those looking for a stronger challenge can instead cycle up the snaking road to the nearby Col du Grand Colombier, which makes for a fairly rigorous climb (97 km long; 1850 m elevation gain). Note that this ride is unsupported; your leader stays with lake loop ride. Cycling distance: 55 km / 34 miles Elevation gain: 900m / 2950ft
Day 3La Chambre
Experience the sublime Lacets de Montvernier, which is often described as one of the most beautiful roads in professional cycling. Today's ride is the longest of the trip, but also one of the flattest. Start in a southeast direction, cycling through Chambery. Then follow the Isere River before turning towards the Alps themselves and making the gentle climb along the valley to the Lacets de Montvernier. This famous stretch of road features 18 hairpin bends, 17 of which take place within 2 km, making it a cyclist's dream. The climb is quite short (3.4 km). Once at the top, it's time for the thrill – turn around and enjoy the first proper descent of the journey. Arrive at the valley floor, then cycle back to the small town of La Chambre. Be sure to eat a hearty meal tonight to fuel up for the challenges ahead. Cycling distance: approximately 100 km / 65 miles Elevation gain: 950m / 3120ft Feature climb/s: Lacets de Montvernier
Day 4Le Bourg d'Oisans
Today is the 'Queen stage'. Cycle up into the Alps and the first of the legendary 'hors category' climbs in professional cycling – the Col de la Croix de Fer (Pass of the Iron Cross). Reaching an altitude of 2067 m after almost 30 km (with average gradient of 5.5%), this is a long climb but well worth it. The reward is a beautiful, ever changing view – small villages, forested roads, green alpine meadows dotted with stone shepherd's huts, and finally the rocky outcrops of the Col itself. After the obligatory photo, rest at the cafe and a make the very short side trip to the Col du Glandon. Then enjoy a beautiful descent past lakes to the cycling mecca of Le Bourg d'Oisans. Cycling distance: approximately 80 km / 50 miles Elevation gain: 2400m / 7875ft Feature climb/s: Croix de Fer, Col du Glandon
Day 5Le Bourg d'Oisans
You might like to rest your weary legs today. Otherwise, a highly recommended cycling challenge awaits. This journey leads to the the 21 hairpins of the most famous climb in cycling, the Alpe d'Huez. While the record for this 13.8 km ascent is an incredible 37 minutes, rest assured you are free to make the climb at a much more relaxed pace. Descend back through the hairpins into Le Bourg d'Oisans and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in one of the many cafes or bars in this thriving but small holiday town. Cycling distance: approximately 30 km / 19 miles Elevation gain: 1250m / 4100ft Feature climb/s: Alpe d'Huez
Day 6Briancon
This is the second of the big days of climbing. Follow the Route Nationale 91 from Le Bourg upward to the Col du Lautaret (2058 m). While it's not a steep road overall (its average gradient is 3.8%), it is an almost 35 km climb that will be sure to take the sting out of your legs. Once at the Col du Lautaret, turn off towards the narrow winding road that takes you to the highest point of the trip – the legendary Col du Galibier (2645 m). This section has been likened to a 'ride into the sky' by a professional cyclist. The views from the Col are truly stunning. From here, enjoy on of the longest descents in the Alps, a 35 km downhill cruise into the historical fortified city of Briancon. At an altitude of 1326 metres, this is the highest city in France. Cycling distance: approximately 85 km / 53 miles Elevation gain: 2470m / 8100ft Feature climb/s: Col du Galibier
Day 7Chambery
The final day of cycling is a special one. Climb up the sublime Col d'Izoard loop (2361m). Starting out immediately out from Briancon, the ride rises gradually along a quiet road shadowed by larch trees and snow-capped mountains before hitting the higher forested slopes when the gradient starts to kick in. The trees obscure the views but offer welcome shade in the hot summer months. The climb opens out beyond the tree-line into the bare rock near the summit. Passing by the Refuge Napoleon (and the occasional marmot) you soon arrive at the top, where a tall stone tower marks the summit of the final climb. Take some time to enjoy the view (you can see Italy from here). If we have time, descend the other side for 2kms to ride back up through the infamous barren Casse Déserte - a true highlight in cycling scenery - then head down the same road through tight switchbacks and long straight descents back to Briancon. After a quick drink break, drive north back to Chambery (approx. 4 hours). Celebrate your achievements – perhaps over dinner with fellow travellers. Cycling distance: approx. 41 km / 25 miles Elevation gain: 1380m / 4530ft Feature climb/s: Col d'Izoard
Day 8Chambery
Your cycling adventure comes to an end. Those keen to stay on and do more riding can consult their leader. Choice local climbs include the challenging Dent Du Chat and the nearby Mont Revard.

More info

Trip title

Cycle the French Alps: Road Cycling

Trip code



Validity: 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019


Welcome to road cycling – the Intrepid way. This trip takes you from the Jura Mountains to the mighty French Alps as you ride through the same terrain as the Tour de France. Earn your bragging rights as you conquer the legendary climbs of the Croix de Fer, Col d’Izoard and the true legends of the Col du Galibier and the iconic 21 hairpins of the Alpe d'Huez. This is a trip to test your cycling ski... Read more




Active Adventures,Cycling


Bicycle,Support vehicle,Bus

Physical Rating


Physical preparation

This is an active trip, requiring a reasonable level of physical fitness. While there is flexibility in the distance you can elect to cycle each day, the cycling on this trip can be challenging at times, with the terrain and weather adding to the physical effort. As a general rule, the more preparation you can do for this type of trip, the more you will enjoy it. Prepare for the trip by doing aer... Read more

Joining point

Hotel Campanile

Joining point description

Hotel Campanile is located 4 km from the centre of Aix-les-Bains. The hotel has a restaurant and terrace on site as well as free Wi-Fi. The modern rooms are equipped with tv, tea and coffee making facilities and a private bathroom.

Joining point instructions

Aix-les-Bains can be easily accessed by train from either Paris or Geneva. FROM GENEVA: take the TER96642 (towards Valence-Ville) from Geneva's main Cornavin train station and get off at Gare d'Aix les Bains-Le Revard. This journey takes approximately 1hr and has no changes. See for further details. FROM PARIS: The quickest option is the fast TGV train from Pari... Read more

Finish point

Hotel des Princes

Finish point description

Hotel des Princes is located in Chambery's Old Town, near the le Château des Ducs de Savoie. It offers air-conditioned rooms with satellite TV and free WiFi.

Finish point instructions

TO GENEVA - TRAIN: There are direct trains (TER 96613) to Geneva's centrally located Cornavin Station that take approx. 1hr 20mins. A second class ticket should cost you around EUR28. To book, see From here you can either take a train (7mins, EUR7) or bus #5 (25mins, CHF3) to the airport. TO GENEVA - BUS: Aerocar bus lines operate a direct coach service from Chamber... Read more

Important information

1. Bicycle hire is not included in your trip price. Please advise us if you wish to hire a bike at time of booking and provide your height so we can organise a suitable sized bike. See the Transport section of the Essential Trip Information for bike details. 2. Bike helmets are compulsory on this trip. We are unable to hire bike helmets locally so please ensure you bring your own bike helmet from ... Read more

Group leader

All Intrepid cycling group trips are accompanied by one of our cycling leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other g... Read more


We take safety seriously on all our trips, but cycling tours deserve a few special considerations. HELMETS: Helmets are compulsory and we do not allow anyone to ride without one (including our own staff!). You can bring your own, or purchase one that meets international safety standards on the ground. Your leader can assist with this. FOOTWEAR For safety reasons we strongly recommend that you w... Read more


Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with ... Read more

Why we love it

Experience the sublime Lacets de Montvernier – often described as one of the most beautiful roads in professional cycling

Is this trip right for you

Although this is a group trip, the differing levels of cycling fitness are more pronounced in the mountains. There will be times when you are likely to be riding on your own (but safe in the knowledge that the support vehicle and group leader are never too far away). We provide downloadable files for your GPS device to make sure you never get lost. While the cycling distances on this trip vary in... Read more


All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/o... Read more

Money matters

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in the following destinations: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. All other European countries still have their own national currencies. The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire mon... Read more

What to take

PACKING On this trip you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb. Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. S... Read more

A couple of rules

Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol... Read more


After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.

Emergency contact

In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Europe Operations Team can be reached on the number listed below: For general contact details please use the following page: While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Shou... Read more

Responsible travel

As part of our commitment to responsible travel a portion of your trip cost will be donated to Bicycles for Humanity – a not-for-profit, volunteer run, grass roots charity organisation focused on the alleviation of poverty through sustainable transport – in the form of a bicycle. In the developing world a bicycle is life changing, allowing access to health care, education, economic opportunity an... Read more

The Intrepid Foundation

Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed mo... Read more

Accommodation notes

OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multisha... Read more

Transport notes

INCLUDED BIKES Due to the specialist nature of this trip bikes are not included on this itinerary. You can either hire a bike through us or bring your own. HIRING A BIKE THROUGH INTREPID: Bike hire can be arranged at an extra cost, please ask your agent at the time of booking. We ask for your height in order to ensure we can get the appropriately sized bike for you. If you ride regularly we str... Read more

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and th... Read more

Your fellow travellers

As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit... Read more

Itinerary disclaimer

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weat... Read more


Hotel (7 nights)
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