6 days cycling, 1 rest day, 1039km
Pure and simple: 6 of the best possible days on a bike
This Loop offers you as many climbs as we could pack into a week. You’ll experience the variety, contrasts and epic challenges of the Pyrenees and Alps with a rest day and one quick, Provencal transition stage to recover in between.
Stages 14 and 15 in the Pyrenees allow you a mere 60km of gradual warm up before you’re off with a bang and the climbing begins. The famous Tourmalet is a perfect way to set off and get into the spirit of the Tour on a nigh perfect stage that finishes deep in the mountains. Stage 15 is one of 2024’s two monster stages (to be compared a few days later to stage 19 – we’ll let you decide which is tougher) and will be made possible by the psychological relief of knowing that tomorrow is a rest day.
After a wave at the coast and a smile to Provence, we embrace the peaks of the Southern Alps and three stunning mountain stages that you’ll remember for a long, long time. There are some killer climbs here and some astonishing scenery to go with them – everyone will have their favourite moment but it’s the variety and the company that make this week truly special.
(… then enjoy it all a second time round when you watch the pros on TV following in your tracks!)
** A limited number of Nice extensions will be available if you’d like to add on the last two stages and join us for the celebration party. Cost £590
Fri 5th July: Travel under own arrangements to Pau hotel by 7pm. Meet the team, meet your fellow cyclists, arrival briefing and dinner
Sat 6th July: Cycle stage 14
Sun 7th July: Cycle stage 15
Mon 8th July: Rest Day
Tues 9th July: Cycle stage 16
Wed 10th July: Cycle stage 17
Thurs 11th July: Cycle stage 18
Fri 12th July: Cycle stage 19
Sat 13th July: Depart after breakfast, under own arrangements from Nice hotel.
Stage 14 – Pau to St Lary Pla d’Adet – 152km/3,900m elevation
Our first Pyrenean stage includes a robust 4,000m ascent and three classic Tour climbs, including the mighty Tourmalet.
We have a relatively flat start, with no significant climbs for the first 50km as we make our way out of Pau and follow the valleys through Lourdes and Argelès-Gazost, watching the mountains get closer and closer, until they surround us completely. From here, the only way is up – for 19km, with an average gradient of 7.4%, until we stand on top of one of cycling’s most famous cols, with almost 20km of descent awaiting us.
Our next big climb is the gorgeous Hourquette d’Ancizan – a very different hill from the Tourmalet. A quiet, immaculately surfaced road winds us up through shady woodland (with gentler gradients than we’ve endured so far), then out into a peaceful landscape of sheer green hillsides and curious sheep, before shooting us down a fast, tree-lined descent into Saint-Lary (our home for the night).
We have the psychological challenge of passing our hotel before the last, and steepest, climb: a 10.6km slog (with 7.9% average gradient) up to Pla d’Adet. This is a challenging ascent, with the first 5km hovering around the 9% mark, before the gradient lessens in the final laps, leaving us a little energy to appreciate the panoramic views of La Vallée des Nestes.
Then it’s back down the hill to St Lary, a charming ski town for a night in the mountains.
Le Loop logistics
Start: Pau hotel
Finish: St Lary hotel
Stage 15 – Loudenvielle to Plateau de Beille – 198km/4,850m elevation
One way or another, today’s stage will be the ride of your life – we cross five big-name cols, gain close to 5,000m of elevation (4,850m to be exact), and finish on top of the 1,780m Plateau de Beille, where we join Tour history alongside Contador and Pantani.
We start off with an old favourite: the Col de Peyresourde, a scenic 7km climb that made its Tour debut in 1910, and has featured over 50 times since. After a final glance back into the Neste Valley, we whizz down to the pretty spa town of Luchon, enjoy a pleasant roll along the valley, and then set off up the wooded slopes of the Col de Menté. This, and the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, which immediately follows, will hold our steepest gradients of the day, with averages above 9%.
Over the next 30km we descend more than 500m, and briefly emerge from the mountains – but don’t be fooled: there’s much more to come! After turning south in the picturesque riverside town of Saint-Girons we spend another hour or so following the River Garbet back into the thick of it, regaining all the height we just lost as we approach the base of the Col d’Agnes. From here we go down only slightly before reascending to the Port de Lers – a sequence that captures Pyrenean cycling in all its remote, green, sheep-scented glory.
There now remains just the descent to Tarascon, and then our grand finale – the 16km climb up to the Plateau de Beille. This is a test of our tired legs, with an average gradient of 8%, and much steeper sections in the first 5km. But as we emerge above the treeline we’re treated to endless mountaintop views on all sides and a heroes’ welcome at the top.
Due to coach access, we descend 16km from the summit back down to Les Cabanes for dinner and transport to our hotel.
Le Loop logistics
Start: Transfer to Loudenvielle
Finish: Transfer to Narbonne
Rest day 2 – Gruissan.
A full day of bike tinkering, clothes washing and eating … lots of eating.
Le Loop logistics
Stage 16 – Gruissan to Nîmes – 187km.
This sprint stage showcases everything that’s good about Mediterranean France, as well as giving us that transition-day thrill of watching the landscape change around us, finishing our ride somewhere very different from where we started it. Leaving Gruissan, we set out for a brief look at the pan-flat Mediterranean coastline, with its salt pans and flamingos, before turning inland across flat, marshy land whose industry and wealth grew in the 1700s thanks to the Canal du Midi which brought trade from Bordeaux on the Atlantic down to the Mediterranean.
Within an hour we pass the Gothic cathedral of Béziers, marking a regional change that won’t be hard to spot from our bikes… we’ll find ourselves surrounded by vineyards, long avenues of plane trees and, if we’re lucky, a field or two of lavender. This ancient region of France has been inhabited, cultivated and fought over for millennia, so we’ll see plenty of fortified villages, overlooked by sun-baked Cathar castles, and full of winding cobbled streets.
The riding should be mostly flat (though possibly windy) in the morning, with more climbing towards the middle of the day, as we approach the Pic de Loup, an iconic limestone pinnacle that gives its name to one of the region’s most famous wines. We’re in Provence now and after descending from this natural watershed, we enjoy a predominantly flat spin through the vineyards and into the resplendent Roman city of Nîmes.
Le Loop logistics
Start: Narbonne hotel
Finish: Nîmes hotel
Stage 17 – St-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Superdévoluy – 178km/2,900m elevation
This is a stage with a lot of climbing, but you wouldn’t think it from the first 100km, during which we’ll gain elevation fairly slowly, leaving behind the white stone buildings of Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux, and setting off through the endless sunny vineyards and olive groves of Provence. The landscape will begin to cluster around us as we approach the picturesque town of Nyons, and all of a sudden we’ll be working our way up the spectacular gorges of the River Aigues, overlooked by rocky crags and bare scrubland.
Soon the hillsides open up again and we’ll enjoy a friendly false flat down to Serres, gazing at the mountains that lie ahead of us: our project for the afternoon. Another very gentle climb, and a short descent, take us to Gap, where the climbing begins in earnest – the second half of this stage contains around two-thirds of its ascent. First, we head up the Col Bayard, via a smooth, well-surfaced road that swiftly elevates us above the town, and offers wonderful views of the surrounding peaks.
A fast, mostly straight descent skirts the edge of this broad, verdant valley, then the road curves upwards again, and we tackle possibly the toughest of today’s climbs: the Col du Noyer. Yes, it averages over 8%, but it’s also a beauty: a narrow ribbon of flawless tarmac, edging its way across the scree and strata of the mountainside, with the valley falling away beneath, and a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks. You might even be a bit sorry when it ends – but then the descent takes us into a magical new world, and after a brief flirtation with the valley floor, we’ll set out on our final ascent of the day: the relatively gentle climb up to the ski resort of Super Dévoluy.
Le Loop logistics
Start: Transfer to St Paul Trois Chateaux
Finish: Transfer to Gap
Stage 18 – Gap to Barcelonnette – 179km.
Although it’s not technically a mountain stage, today’s ride will look (and quite possibly feel) very much like one, as we’ll enjoy another full day of Alpine scenery, with two beautiful lakes, and a handful of cols to add to our collections.
First up is the Col du Festre, which should warm our legs up nicely, as most of the climb consists of a gentle ascent along a river valley, with gradients rarely straying north of 5%. We skirt the glittering Lac du Sautet on a road that wriggles up and down over the spurs of the surrounding mountains, then sends us back down the other side of the valley we passed through on yesterday’s ride. Following a 6km climb up the Col de Manse, we drop down into the ancient spa town of Chorges, before setting off on another long steady climb that gains height gradually, wiggling across the hillside to the perched village of Saint-Apollinaire, with its views of the bluer-than-blue Lac de Serre-Ponçon.
From here it’s a fast descent down to the bridge that crosses the lake, and then the highlight of everyone’s day: the Côte de Demoiselles Coiffées, named after a group of rock columns that we briefly see on our left as we ascend. The descent plummets us down to the shoreline of the glorious lake, which we follow to its southern extremity, and then continue up the valley (on predominantly gentle gradients) to the finish town of Barcelonnette.
There are roughly 2,500m of climbing to enjoy over today’s 179km – so whilst lacking the HC climbs that lead to a Tour “mountainous” classification, in feel, style and enjoyment, this is very much a mountain stage in our books.
Le Loop logistics
Start: Gap hotel
Finish: Barcelonette hotel
Stage 19 – Embrun to Isola 2000 – 145km/4,600m elevation
A high point of the Tour both literally and figuratively, this stage gives us the rare opportunity to ride the superlative Col de la Bonette, on only its fifth appearance in the race.
But first we have another 2,000m+ pass to get over: the Col de Vars. Drink a strong coffee at breakfast because we hit the 19km climb within an hour of starting our ride and the steepest gradients are stacked towards the start. The hard work eases off a little between the villages of Saint-Marcellin and Sainte-Marie, and the final kilometres, during which we may be lucky enough to spot mountain wildlife like marmots and chamois, average a more civilized 4%.
There follows a swift descent and a short roll along the valley, overlooked by the imposing Fort de Tournoux, built to defend France from Italy (and now decommissioned). And then, at Jausiers, we get the big one – the 23km climb up to France’s highest and Europe’s third highest paved road: Cime de la Bonette. The gradient averages around 7%, but of course this will feel a lot harder as we get higher – remember there’s around 25% less oxygen at 2,800m.
And then, after one of the most serious (and ear-popping) downhills of your life (in which we lose two vertical kilometres in 40km), comes the final challenge of the road up to the Isola 2000 ski resort. Starting amidst the fresh greenery of the Tinée Valley, this steady climb winds its way upwards via the peaceful Vallon de Chastillon, and delivers us to our destination at almost precisely the 2,000m mark.
Le Loop logistics
Start: Transfer to Embrun
Finish: Transfer to Nice hotel (3 night stay for Grand Loop, Second Half and those cycling the Alps and Mountains Week who have bought a Nice extension)
Due end Jan
Due end Mar
|Fundraising Target||80% Fundraising
due end April
- Accommodation (Mostly twin share. Single supplements are available to buy by January)
- All 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 when the stages aren’t contiguous
- Travel to and from France (but we’ll give you advice on the best travel routes)
- Bike Transport (£40 each way if you want us to drive your bike there and back)
- Evening massage (£10 or €10 per massage if you’d like one – highly recommended)
- Beer/wine/drinks at dinner