There’s Nothing Like Riding in the Alps
8 Days / 7 Nights
Our HighRoad Alps cycling tour is an epic 8-day bike tour that rolls over some of the most outstanding scenery in the southern French Alps, crossing no fewer than 8 Tour de France mountain passes (including Col du Galibier, Col d’Izoard and Cime de la Bonette – the highest paved through-road in Europe) and finishing on the sparkling Mediterranean shores of Nice!
It’s no lie, these climbs are hard; that’s why we’ve searched high and low for quality, comfortable accommodation and great local restaurants all along your route through the Alps.
Like all our HighRoad Tours, we keep van transfers to a minimum. Once you are in the Alps with us, you will be on your bike all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all you and John did for our tour. It was fantastic. I am really looking forward to seeing you next year in the Pyrenees” – Scott, USA
- Double occupancy: €2950
- Single Supplement: €400
- Deposit: €500 per person
Accommodation and Food
- 7 nights accommodation at hand-picked hotels
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners (including wine) excluding dinner on the last evening
- Cycling nutrition, snacks and water on your rides
- Pick up and drop off at Nice airport
- Gratuities for hotel and restaurant staff
- All baggage transport
- Owner-operator guides to see to your needs
- Maps of each day’s route for every cyclist
- Support van that will be on the road with you, offering assistance, encouragement, and food and drinks.
- 44|5 Cycling Tours jersey
- Transportation to France
- Alcohol outside dinner
- Hotels before and after your tour
- Personal expenses, such as mini-bar, telephone or souvenir purchases
- Rental bikes (we can help with this)
Transfer to The Alps
We will pick you up at Nice Airport in the morning, carefully pack up your baggage and bikes and then get to know each other a little on our drive to our first base in the Alps, Briançon. Once there we’ll check into our accommodation, have a welcome drink, a short ride (time permitting), then a home-cooked dinner.
Briançon → Col de Montgenèvre → Col de l’Echelle → Briançon (90km, 1450m)
After a gentle freewheel down to Briançon, we pass by the impressive walled upper city and make our way to our tour’s first mountain pass, Col de Montgenevre (1854m), straddling the French/Italian border. We make a fast descent into Italy, then ride north to our 2nd col of the day – l’Echelle (1762m). This is a short climb, but a good way to let the legs know what is up ahead! We descend from Col de l’Echelle into the beautiful Vallée de la Clarée, and a gradual downhill the rest of the way home.
Dinner tonight is at a great local restaurant inside the fortified walls of Briançon’s old town.
Modane → Col du Télegraphe → Col du Galibier → Col du Lautaret → Briançon (80km, 2000m)
Today is the real deal! You will be driven to Modane, from where you will climb a true classic of the Tour de France – the Col du Télegraphe (1566m) / Col du Galibier (2645m) combo. After a short warm-up from Modane you hit the forested slopes of the Col du Télegraphe, a substantial climb itself, but a mere prelude to what is to come after the alpine village of Valloire.
A quick coffee or snack is all you should take here because a mythic mountain awaits – Galibier. This epic climb has been used in the Tour de France many times since 1911 and in the 2011 Tour de France it became the highest ever stage finish. You are climbing in the pedal strokes of legends! Descend home via another TdF pass, the Col du Lautaret (2058m).
A hearty fait maison dinner awaits you back at the ranch.
Ride: Briançon → Col d’Izoard → Col de Vars→ Barcelonnette (100km, 2350m)
On our third day in the high mountains we leave Briançon and make a spectacular southerly journey over mighty Col d’Izoard (2361m), then a fantastic ride down through the ‘desert’ of the southern side, followed immediately by a long run through the canyon of the Combe du Queyras.
Near the end of our day we ascend the Col de Vars (2108m), which brings us into the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and our home for the next two days – Barcelonnette.
Dinner is at our hotel or a restaurant nearby.
Barcelonnette → Cime de la Bonette → Barcelonnette (74km, 1800m)
Today is our ‘easy’ day, but only because you have the afternoon off. After breakfast we will attack the Cime de la Bonette (2860m), the highest paved through-road in Europe, and a very challenging climb. You are rewarded for your hard work, however, with incredible views from the summit, all the way to the Mediterranean on a clear day. After one of the best descents in the Alps, your afternoon is free to do with it as you like.
Tonight we head into Barcelonnette for a meal at one of our favorite restaurants in the Alps. It’s not what you might be expecting!
Barcelonnette → Col de la Cayolle → Valberg (75km - 2300m)
This morning we leave the lovely Ubaye valley via the scenic Col de la Cayolle (2326m). This climb is one of our all-time favorites – both the ascent and the descent, with its complete change in scenery and great roads. We are still in the high Alps but now the air is slightly dryer, the sky is a bit bluer and you know that the sea not too far away.
Tonight we stay in a small ski resort and dine at one of the great restaurants Valberg has to offer.
Valberg → Col de Saint Raphail → Col de Vence → Nice (120km, 2000m)
It’s nearly time to celebrate, but not quite yet! Our last day of riding is also our longest, but considering we will go from 1500m above sea level down to zero by day’s end, it certainly won’t be our toughest. This last day on the bike is, although not the high Alps anymore, a gorgeous ride with unique arrière pays views. We will aim for a mid-afternoon entrance into the Côte d’Azur, so you will have plenty of time to celebrate your great accomplishment under the blue sky of the Mediterranean.
After checkout we will drive you to the airport. All your hard work is over now and you can relax and enjoy the ride, but maybe we’ll talk about where you’d like to do your next HighRoad tour…we’re always open to ideas!
Accommodation for High Road Cévennes ranges from eco-friendly mountain chalets to Côte d’Azur chic. Most of our hotels have fantastic gourmet restaurants featuring fresh, locally-sourced produce, wifi and comfortable common areas where you can put your feet up and relax in comfort after a good day on the road. Note: because of the custom nature of our HighRoad Alps tour, the below hotels cannot be guaranteed. Rest assured that you will accommodation of equal quality if rooms aren’t available for your chosen dates.
Chez Bear Guest House
Accommodation for our first 3 nights is at Chez Bear, a private guest house that specializes in catering to cyclists and their hungry needs! Chez Bear is located just minutes from Briançon, listed as a World Heritage Site since 2008. Your guest house is also ideally situated for access to some of the most famous Tour de France climbs in the Alps – Col du Galibier and Col d’Izoard, to name just two (yes, we’ll be climbing both!).
Perched above the bustling town of Barcelonnette, Le Montana is an ideal place to call home for the next two days. We will be minutes from the restaurants and shops of town, but a world away in terms of solitude. The Ubaye Valley is a cycling mecca, with access to multiple giant cols in the beautiful Mercantour National Park. If you have any aches and pains, Le Montana can arrange well-earned massages.
On our penultimate night we stay in the pine-scented ski resort of Valberg, only 80 km from the Mediterranean, but more reminiscent of a Swiss village. After checking in you are free to walk around the town, relax in your comfortable room, or enjoy a cold beverage on their sunny terrace!
Hotel Nice Riviera
For our last night we are treated to some 4-star comfort, located steps from the Promenade des Anglais and Old Nice. Pamper yourself as you like tonight because there’s no riding to do tomorrow!
The Col de Montgenèvre sits near the border between France and Italy and is one of the few passes linking the two countries that are open all year round. We climb the pass from the French side, descending into the lovely Susa Valley in Italy. Montgenèvre has been used 10 times in the Tour de France.
The climb is 7.7 km long, with an elevation gain of 494 meters.
Separating the town of Bardonecchia (Italy) and the stunning Valleé de la Clarée (France), this low, forested Alpine pass is peaceful, with beautiful views, particularly on the ascent, back into Italy.
The climb is 7.7 km long, with an elevation gain of 476 meters. The average gradient is 6.4%.
Named after the telegraph tower that was built nearby in 1807, the Col du Télégraphe is best known now for being the ‘ramp’ that leads Tour de France riders to the climb of Galibier. Most of the climb is in forest, with many switchbacks giving a little respite to the gradient.
The climb is 11.8 km long, with an elevation gain of 856 meters. The average gradient is 5.4%
At 2645 meters, the Galibier is often the highest point of the Tour de France route. The climb is ‘epic’ from either side, with much of it being above the treeline and with amazing views of towering peaks and giant glaciers.
The climb is 18.1 km long, with an elevation gain of 1245 meters. The average gradient is 7.3%.
We climb the mighty Col d’Izoard from Briançon as we start our way south towards the Mediterranean Sea. The climb is long and varied in terrain, from near-flat river gorges to high-altitude scree slopes. The descent through the Casse Déserte on the south side is otherworldly.
The climb is 19 km long, with an elevation gain of 1105 meters. The average gradient is 5.8%.
The col de Vars is a hard climb, especially when it comes after the Izoard on the same day, but rewards await you as the sky opens up a few kilometers from the summit, revealing scenic alpine meadows. We have lunch 2 km from the top at a refuge built by Napoleon III in 1855.
The climb is 19.4 km long, with an elevation gain of 1111 meters. The average gradient is 5.7 %
The hardest climb of the tour, the Cime de la Bonette is the highest paved through-road in Europe. The ‘cime’ is actually a large bump that rises from the mountain pass of the same name just below. From the top, the views south over the Mercantour National Park are breathtaking.
The climb is 24 km long, with an elevation gain of 1589 meters. The average gradient is 6.6%.
Situated inside the Mercantour National Park, the Col de la Cayolle is arguably the most scenic climb on your HighRoad Alps Tour. It is long, but not overly taxing, making it a real pleasure to climb, especially in the morning with fresh legs!
The climb is 29.15 km long, with an elevation gain of 1190 meters. The average gradient is 4.1%.
We are out of the High Alps on the last day of our tour, but not out of the climbing! The Col de Saint Raphael is one of several ascensions before the long descent to Nice. This climb is pleasant, with a good, steady gradient the whole way to the top.
The climb is 8 km long, with an elevation gain of 465 meters. The average gradient is 5.8%.
From the north side there really isn’t much a climb to the summit of this famous col (mainly for its many appearances in the Paris-Nice race). The descent is a joy, with sweeping turns and views over the azure-blue Mediterranean.
The climb is 5.7 km long, with a negligible elevation gain.