8 days cycling, 1 rest day, 1433km
Pure and simple: 8 of the best possible days on a bike
This Loop takes you all the way from Mt Ventoux glory, on a proper Tour journey, transitioning through some glorious parts of southern France to a Pyrenean fun-fest.
The appeal of Ventoux is obvious and hopefully the appeal of these five stunning Pyrenees stages, made kinder on your legs by the chill-out day in Andorra, is equally obvious. The chance to immerse yourself in these mountains from east to west, and from the highest points to the charming foothills, is an opportunity not to be missed.
It’s your opportunity to experience the show – and test your climbing legs – then enjoy it all a second time round when you watch the pros on TV following in your tracks!
Note: A very limited number of Paris extensions will be available if you’d like to carry on to the very end. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Tue 29th June: Meet at hotel near Sorgues (Avignon north)
Fru 9th July: Depart from Pau hotel
Arrival day: Tue 29th June
Arrival under own arrangements to hotel in Avignon North (3km from Sorgues) by 7pm.
Start: Sorgues hotel
Finish: Dinner in Malaucene before a transfer to Bollene (5km from St Paul 3 Chateau)
Stage 11: Sorgues to Malaucène. 199km. Wed 30 Jun
There’ll only be one mountain on most people’s minds today, but this is a long stage, and first we have to navigate a bumpy parcour that’s challenging in its own right. This part of the world is blissful in July though, and despite the heat and the hills you’ll appreciate the sounds and scents of the Provençale summer – the whirring crickets, the orchards and vineyards, and the tiny stone villages, with their tiled rooftops and overflowing gardens. Our first ascent of Ventoux is from the easier Sault side, but before that we have to get over the Col de la Liguière – around 10km of fairly steep ramps, taking us from the fertile lowlands around Apt to a higher landscape of parched soil and pine needles. From lavender-scented Sault we’ll begin our first ascent of the Géant de Provence, spending around an hour climbing through pine forests, before we reach the wind-blasted scree slopes for which this mountain is famous. From the summit we’ll whip down to Malaucène, before turning back south, and heading over to Bédoin to tackle Ventoux’s most famous climb. This is likely to be the hardest day of the Tour for many, but the elation of summiting this legendary climb always makes up for the hardship of the ascent, and the final triumphant descent back to Malaucéne will have you singing at the top of your voice.
Start: Sorgues hotel
Finish: Dinner in Malaucene before a transfer to Bollene (5km from St Paul 3 Chateau)
Stage 12: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Nîmes. 161km. Thurs 1 July
Never believe them when they tell you a Tour de France stage is flat. This one is made for the sprinters, but it still packs in a lot of ups and downs, most notably in its opening section along the Gorges de l’Ardèche – but no one will mind, as this means we get to admire every detail of this dramatic limestone canyon, including the magnificent natural rock arch at Pont d’Arc. It really is spectacular! After the Gorges the landscape will open out again, and the rest of the day should be a classic Tour-fest of sunflowers, lavender fields, and avenues of plane trees. We’ll end our ride in the city of Nîmes, so full of ancient architecture that it’s known as “the most Roman city outside of Italy.” Expect a flat, speedy finish and an evening beer significantly earlier than yesterday!
Start: Bollene hotel (5km from St Paul 3 Chateaux)
Finish: Nimes hotel
Stage 13 – Nîmes to Carcassonne. 220km. Fri 2 July
This gently rolling stage covers a large section of southern France, giving us the pleasant sensation of progress. We’ll leave the architectural splendour of Nîmes and skirt the southern fringes of the Massif Central as we head west – meaning that during this so-called flat stage which veers into the foothills, you can expect just over 2500m of climbing. For much of the day, you’ll feel in another world as the remote, agricultural landscape reminds us of times gone by. Then you’ll start to see vineyards aplenty as we pedal through the Languedoc-Roussillon region, all the way to the towers of Carcassonne’s magnificent citadel which will welcome us to the end of 2020’s second longest stage.
Start: Nimes hotel
Finish: Carcassonne hotel
Stage 14: Carcassonne to Quillian. 184km. Sat 3 July
Although the categorised climbs don’t come until later on, we’ll be riding uphill for most of the first half of this stage, and the wide-open landscape around Carcassonne will gradually close in as we approach the foothills of the Pyrenées. After the Col de Bac the scenery will become greener, the air will freshen, and the gradients will steepen as we approach the spectacular Cathar castle atop the Col de Montségur. There’s a steadier climb up the Col de la Croix des Morts, where we’ll be rewarded with a glorious windswept plateau, and that feeling of being miles away from everything. A descent, a gentle downward pedal along the Aude Valley towards Axat, and then we get to enjoy the Col de Saint-Louis, and in particular the Pont du col de Saint Louis (also known as the Viaduc de l’Escargot), where the road loops underneath itself via a 19th-century arched bridge – a triumph of engineering, and a wonderful photo opportunity for us. The descent to Quillan is a gentle one – a chance to spin out the legs, and recover in preparation for what’s to come.
Finish: Transfer to Perpignan hotel
Stage 15: Céret to Andorra-le-Vieille. 192km. Sun 4 July
This magical stage sets off from Céret, a picturesque Catalan market town that’s famous for its cherries, and was once home to Pablo Picasso. Our first climb, up the Col Fourtou, is through quiet winding roads up into the warm woodlands of the eastern Pyrenées, before we descend to the Lac de Vinça, and then tackle the long steady climb up Montée de Mont-Louis – and then up again to Fort-Romeu. From there, we’ll drift down through stunning grassy highlands, skirting the Spanish border and the tiny enclave of Llívia. The ascent of the Port d’Envalira (just over the Andorran border) is long and steady for the first 20km or so up to Col de Puymorens, where we descend briefly, and then carry on up to 2,408m – the highest point on this year’s Tour and an other-worldly viewpoint out across the French and Spanish Pyrenees. There’s a long descent to Encamp, and then the Col de Beixalis (our steepest climb of the day) takes us up out of one deep valley and down into another, for our rest day happily immersed in the middle of the mountains.
Start: Short transfer to Ceret
Finish: Andorra hotel
REST DAY 2, Mon 5 July.
Rest, eat, sleep, repeat.
Two nights in the Andorra hotel: deluxe!
Stage 16: Pas de la Case to Saint-Gaudens. 169km. Tues 6 July
This is one of those rare stages with more height lost than gained. We’ll start above 2,000 metres on the Andorran border, and should barely have to pedal until we reach Tarascon, more than 35km in. We’ll start our first big climb at the pretty little village of Saurat, winding our way gently through woodland and out onto the open hillsides surrounding the Col de Porte. Descending to quirky Massat, we’ll then follow the river Arac for a while (with any luck, its steep wooded valley will provide shelter from the sun). We’ll cross the Col de la Core, descend on narrow roads to the Lez Valley, and then ascend the shady slopes of the Col de Portet d’Aspet, doffing our caps at Fabio Casartelli’s monument on the descent. Mountains turn back into hills as we approach Saint-Gaudens, and there’s a chance of a sprint finish for the pros, or just a nice easy ride in for us. This lovely stage features three manageably difficult climbs (at 700m, 900m and 600m respectively) and takes us to remote parts of the Pyrenees that many never get to visit; a Tour treat.
Start: Short transfer to Pas de la Case
Finish: St Gaudens hotel
Stage 17: Muret to Col de Portet. 178km. Wed 7 July
Today’s stage will be a tale of two chainrings. We have 100km of more-or-less flat riding to the foot of the Peyresourde at Bagnères-de-Luchon – where we can gear up, get into formation, and draft each other through the sunflowers and plane tree avenues of Occitanie. Then the climbing starts, and we’ll all click down into the easiest gear we can find, to haul ourselves over three massive cols in a row, with barely time to draw breath in between them. The Peyresourde may well seem familiar – it crops up in almost every Tour, and the long, sinuous hairpins towards the top are nothing short of iconic. We’ll descend to Loudenvieille, loop the lake (there’s a bit of a bump here that often catches racers out), and then zig-zag our way up the Col de Val Louron-Azet, descend carefully (this is where Sagan crashed in 2018), and embark on the magical Col du Portet, a wild, lonely road that winds vertiginously across the side of a mountain above Saint-Lary-Soulon, and finishes higher than the Tourmalet.
Start: Transfer to Muret
Finish: Transfer to Pau hotel
Stage 18: Pau to Luz Ardiden. 130km. Thurs 8 July
This is our last day in the mountains, and we’ll be going out on a high note, with two classic ascents. We’ll have a predominantly flat run-in from Pau, rolling through woodlands and fields of corn, watching the mountains grow bigger and bigger on the horizon until finally we’re among them. The real climbing begins in the small village of Saint-Marie-de-Campan, and we’ll wind our way upwards across tree-lined hillsides, battling the sheer distance of the climb, before emerging into the love-it-or-hate-it Brutalist ski resort of La Mongie. From here it’s a zig-zag across a bare, windy landscape, until you reach a notch in the horizon, pass a knot of tourists and a couple of statues, pause for photos and glory – and suddenly here you are on the extremely scenic descent. The final climb, Luz Ardiden, is slightly shorter than the Tourmalet, but also slightly steeper, and who knows what state your legs will be in by now. It’s one to savour though, recalling the history that has been made on these slopes, and celebrating what we’ve all achieved on this very special stage.
Start: Pau hotel
Finish: Transfer back to Pau hotel
Departure day: Fri 9th July
Departure under own arrangements from Pau hotel
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Emily, Lead Cyclist:
“It will feel like you’ve ridden a lot of mountains (because there are a lot of mountains!) but it doesn’t have to completely kill you – the challenge here is to ride within your comfort zone so that consecutive days become a joy.”
Sarah, Event Organiser:
“If you haven’t cycled in the big mountains before, don’t be put off. With committed training, this Loop isn’t just for the super-fast or super-experienced.”
Paul, Alumni Cyclist:
“Cycling through such diverse mountain scenery in one week was a privilege. The different looks and feels… experiencing that on a bike was amazing (pack a spare battery pack for your phone and some very thick gloves!!)”
Le Loop is known for its camaraderie and inclusiveness and we strongly believe that there’s a Loop for everyone. We have no cut off times and cyclists will always be supported as far as safety and daylight hours allow. However, there is a speed and a level of training required for some of the longer Loops and the Grand Loop because we have limited space in our support vehicles and this event is not designed for cyclists who cannot complete full stages (Click here for e-bike and non-standard bike info).
We need to be clear about how tough the Tour can be in order to help you pick the right challenge…
The Grand Loop…
You should be able to complete 200km stages with 2500m of climbing in under 10hrs (including stops). Assuming a total of 90 mins stopping, this equates to an average cycling speed of 23.5 km/h (14 m/h) or faster, day after day over relatively hilly terrain.
On a mountain stage of 180km with 4500m of climbing, we expect Grand Loopers to take between 8 and 12 hours, including stops. Assuming a total of 90 mins stopping, this equates to an average cycling speed of 17km/h (10.5 m/h) or faster.
If in any doubt, please get in touch to discuss. Or consider joining us for a shorter Loop with a view to completing the Grand Loop once you have tested yourself over 3 to 5 stages.
Whilst we have back up vehicles for injured or exhausted cyclists, this is intended as just that: a back-up plan should something go wrong. If there is a reason why you cannot complete one or two stages (injury, illness, one-off extreme fatigue), we will of course help you and offer you space in a support vehicle. But if you are not able to cycle full stages without medical or equivalent reason, we will have to ask you to take public transport or find alternative arrangements to travel between stage starts and finishes.
If in doubt, please see below for our more manageable Loop options and use that as training for the Grand Loop at some point in the future.
As with the Grand Loop, these Loops are extremely testing. You should be able to complete full stages which will sometimes involve over 10hrs cycling and we would not expect you to need to take the Lite options in the Alps or Pyrenees.
For advice on average speeds, please see the guidelines above for the Grand Loop.
Alps, Pyrenees, Alps Lite, Pyrnees Lite…
The Tour de France mountain stages are extremely tough and completing back to back mountain stages is something that requires commitment and training. However, we are not all equal: in time available, experience, natural ability or desire for the toughest challenge. Which is why we have our Lite options…
If you sign up for the Alps or Pyrenees, you will be given the option to cycle the full stage or the shortened, ‘lite’ version. We usually take numbers the night before, giving you plenty of flexibility should you wish to go long or short.
Please, please avoid the temptation to view the Lite options as a weaker challenge: they are not! The extra transfers or short-cuts serve simply to open up the Tour de France to more people, encourage more diverse groups to join us, or offer an alternative to people who would like a really great day of Tour riding, rather than an overly-epic day which leaves them broken.
As a rough guide, a cyclist who can complete an undulating 100 km sportive in 5hrs or less in March and a hilly 100 km sportive in 5hrs or less in late April/early May will be well placed to join us in France.
Middle Mountains, Grand Depart…
The variety of the Tour de France route each year means that there can be quite a variation in the difficulty and length of stage within these options. Please see the Loop descriptions for more information and get in touch if in any doubt about your ability to take part.
Often the Mountains Lite Loops can be more manageable than the longer stages involved in other Loops. And sometimes morning transfers, hotel changes and other logistical variations can affect how difficult a Loop feels. So don’t be put off by the climbing involved in the mountains – with training and commitment, we believe that there really is a Loop for everyone and we’re always happy to discuss your options with you.
Included in all Loops
- Accommodation (Mostly twin share. Single supplements are available to buy once you\'re signed up)
- Food (3 meals and the best feedstops you’ve ever seen)
- Fully signed route, the stuff of legend
- Mechanical, medical and moral support
- Luggage Transfers
- Coach transfers to the next stage start where applicable
Not included in all Loops
- Travel to and from France (but we’ll give you advice on the best travel routes)
- Bike Transport (£30 each way if you want us to drive your bike there and back)
- Evening massage (£10 per massage)
- Beer/wine/dinner drinks!