7 days cycling, 1 rest day, 1206km
Pure and simple: 7 of the best possible days on a bike
More profiles in June
Overflowing with big names (Galibier, Croix de Fer, Alpe d’Huez, Mur de Peguere, Aspin, Aubisque, Hautacam) as well as some new, exciting, lesser known and equally spectacular climbs, the Tour de France mountains and this Loop especially, is definitely cycling value for money!
You start with stage 12, the toughest stage of the Tour before descending from the Alps and heading west. The next two stages travel through the under-appreciated mountainous central region where the Tour often surprises with some of the most enjoyable days to ride. After a rest day, we approach the Pyrenees and appreciate the contrast of the Pyrenean rugged, craggy, wild landscape with the Alpine views we immersed ourselves in just a few days ago.
Stages 16-18 are stunning stages with a combination of routes and climbs it would be hard to beat – what a way to end this exceptional week!
The Mountains Week Loop 2022 is 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!
6th July. Arrival day
Travel to Briancon under own arrangements
7th July. Stage 12. Briançon – Alpe d’Huez. 166km. 4750m ascent
This stage has it all – magnificent scenery, four big-name cols, and a nod to the Tour’s rich history (it’s an exact replica of the 1986 stage where Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond crossed the finish line arm in arm). From Briançon we’ll double back on ourselves, retracing our path to enjoy the views from the other direction as we cycle back up the Galibier (quite a special thing to do the morning after you first summited). Then down to Valloire, back over the Col du Télégraphe, and along the valley to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. From there we’ll face a 29km ascent of the Col de la Croix de Fer. This formidable climb is most challenging in the lower sections, with several kilometres at just under 10%, but once we’re past the Sallanches Viaduct it calms down to a relatively manageable tilt for the next 8km, before ramping up again towards the top. The descent from Croix de Fer is long and luscious, with a pretty turquoise Alpine lake en route, and a couple of small uphills to keep your legs awake. And then, after a spin along the pan-flat Romanche Valley, comes the grand finale – the legendary 21 hairpins of Alpe d’Huez, where we’ll spy the names of our heroes etched on the road, pass the international legions of fans already setting up camp for the following week, and reflect on a ride that will have stretched each of us our limit.
Start: Briançon hotel
Finish: Alpe d’Huez hotel
8th July. Stage 13. Bourg d’Oisans – Saint-Étienne. 193km
This delightful stage packs a surprising variety of scenery into a single day’s riding, and will leave us with the sense of having travelled much further than 200km since breakfast. We’ll bid a fond farewell to the Alpine peaks, and roll westwards, through verdant farmland, towards the splendid city of Grenoble, overlooked by the distinctive cliffs of the Vercors and Chartreuse ranges. The quiet, leafy Col de Parmenie offers one of only two real uphill challenges of the day as we leave the crags behind us, and pass through the vineyards of the fertile Rhône Valley. As we cross the river itself, we know that we’ve left the Alps behind and can start to look forward to the rugged and remote landscape of central France. Our day ends in Saint-Étienne, a friendly former mining city, on the fringe of the Massif Central where the route rudely zips up into the punchy hills north of town, providing a sting in the tail of a stage that will surprise with its beauty.
Start: Alpe d’Huez hotel
Finish: St Etienne hotel
9th July. Stage 14. Saint-Étienne – Mende. 195km
After a night in Saint-Étienne we’ll set out across the hilly countryside that is unfamiliar to many – expect high plateaux, deep river valleys, and that far-away-from-everything feeling as we traverse one of France’s most enigmatic and thinly populated regions. We’ll pass through the pilgrimage city of Puy-en-Velay – famous for lentils, and its stunning 12th-century cathedral, pacing ourselves for a long and hilly stage that amply delivers on views. As we continue west, there’ll be brief respite from the climbing as we cycle through a truly spectacular canyon and we’ll need to rely on the chat and camaraderie of the peloton to see us through the rolling roads that follow – there is little about this region that is flat. The stage concludes with the infamous Montée de la Croix Neuve, also known as the Montee Jalabert, a super-stiff 3km climb up to the aerodrome at Mende, which is just what your tired legs will not be needing at that point.
Start: St Étienne hotel
Finish: Mende hotel
10th July. Stage 15. Rodez – Carcassonne. 200km
A day of classic Tour de France scenery, as we spin along plane-tree-lined avenues, and past fields of endless sunflowers. Christian Prudhomme promised that this stage has been designed to suit the sprinters’ teams – i.e. it should be perfectly flat (in Tour terms, that means undulations that won’t total much more than 1500m of ascent). But no Tour stage is without its trials and after lunch, we gain 500m quite quickly in what will definitely feel like a climb, making our way through the hills of Haut-Languedoc and up onto a plateau with views stretching far and wide. This stage should be a relaxed affair, and you can expect a summer holiday feel as we cruise through the beautiful countryside towards Carcassonne, where Mark Cavendish won his 34th stage in 2021, finally equalling the record of Eddy Merckx. Carcassonne itself is a medieval walled town, complete with ramparts, moat and drawbridge (although we’ll be staying in the new town to the west) – it’s a great place for some rest day sightseeing!
Start: Transfer to Rodez
Finish: Carcassonne hotel
11th July. Rest Day in Carcassonne
Time to sightsee, wash clothes, eat lots and clean your bike!
12th July. Stage 16. Carcassonne – Foix. 179km. 3150m ascent
It’s another day of changing scenery, as we roll southwards out of Carcassonne, through vineyards and fields of sunflowers, watching big green mountains draw closer and closer on the horizon, as we finally reach the Pyrenees. There are a couple of smaller categorised climbs earlier in the day, but the real fun begins when we set off up the Port de Lers, just over halfway through. This is a steady climb (nothing scarily steep, but you’ll definitely be glad once you’re at the top) with a quiet road winding up to windswept pastureland, well above the tree line – you’re already a world away from the sunflowers. Then it’s down to the quirky little town of Massat, and on to today’s showstopper: the Mur de Péguère. This one actually is scarily steep, with sections of 16% and 18%, but it’s also a quiet road, with minimal traffic (they don’t normally let fans line the roadsides here), and the descent to Foix that follows is a fun one.
Start: Carcassonne hotel
Finish: Foix hotel
13th July. Stage 17. Saint-Gaudens – Peyragudes. 130km. 3300m ascent
This stage packs an impressive 3,300m of climbing into a relatively short ride. There are four big-name climbs which follow a long run-in from Saint-Gaudens, gradually gaining height along the Garonne Valley, with its pretty stone-built villages. The mountains then close in around us as we follow the River Neste to Arreau, from where it’s a right turn up the Col d’Aspin, a well-loved Pyrenean giant with sumptuous views from its windswept summit. There’s only a brief descent before the climbing starts again, this time up the Hourquette d’Ancizan – another stunner. After a longer descent down to Saint-Lary, we’ll tuck into our steepest climb of the day, up the vertiginous Col de Val Louron-Azet, from the top of which we’ll see our final destination across the valley: the steep ramp of the airstrip at Peyragudes. It’s another long haul to get up there, but before that we get to enjoy descending the tightly packed hairpins of Val Louron-Azet down to the breath-taking lake at Loudenvielle for a final feedstop, cool off and energy fix. Once we reach the Peyragudes ski station, we’ll be able to gaze back towards all the other cols we’ve crossed and savour our achievements.
Start: Transfer to St Gaudens
Finish: Transfer to Lourdes hotel
14th July. Stage 18. Lourdes – Hautacam. 143km
It’s our final day in the mountains, and we go out with a bang, thanks to three massive cols, packed into the second half of the ride. After a relatively undemanding first 50km, we start the long climb out of Laruns, up the west side of the beautiful Aubisque: a taxing, but worthwhile ascent, and then dip down to follow the Cirque du Litor towards the Col du Soulor. This is one of the world’s most magnificent balcony roads, and there’s barely a kilometre of climbing to get to the next col, so you effectively get two for the price of one. After a swooping descent to Ferrières, we’re then on to the Col de Spandelles. This newcomer to the Tour seems quiet and unassuming, but its remote singletrack tarmac climbs at a fairly steady 9% gradient, which will not go unnoticed by your tired legs. And then it’s the Hautacam – the final mountain of the Tour – and whether you’re sprinting or crawling to the top, you’ll want to spend some time committing the glorious Pyrenean scenery to memory, as you reflect on the privilege of being able to see these mountains through the eyes of the Tour.
Start: Lourdes hotel
Finish: Transfer back to Lourdes hotel
15th July. Departure day
Depart from Lourdes under own arrangements
Due end Jan
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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 the Alps and Pyrenees in one week was a privilege. The two mountain ranges are so different in look and feel, and experiencing that on a bike was amazing (pack a spare battery pack for your phone and some very thick gloves!!)”
We do not accept cyclists with e-bikes or non-standard bikes on Le Loop without prior agreement. Each year we nominate one Loop for non-standard bike participation and cyclists are able to join us with a e-bike or non-standard bike for that Loop only, as long as they have prior agreement from us.
Although the use of e-bikes is increasing and we’re delighted that they have made cycling accessible to more people, Le Loop is not an e-bike event. Practically, our mechanics don’t carry the tools or charging facilities to cope with e-bikes but there’s also the question of “feel”. Our goal is to encourage as many cyclists as possible to ride Tour stages, under their own steam, as the pros do. In order to make this more achievable and open to more people, in the mountains we offer our “Lite” Loops.
There is something very special about Le Loop; we have an enormous range of cyclists (in speed, ability and experience) who achieve something incredible together every day – and we feel (for now at least) that allowing e-bikes on more than one Loop would water down this special feel.
A note on speed
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.
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.
First Half, Second Half, Mountains Week…
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, Tour de France Adventure, 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!