7 days cycling, 1 rest day, 1146km
Pure and simple: 7 of the best possible days on a bike
Overflowing with names like the Soulor, Port de Lers, Péguère, Izoard, Galibier, Iseran, and Val Thorens this will be a Festival of the Classics, topped by some amazing French culture as the two mountain ranges are linked by a couple of Provencal stages (yay).
A quick look at any analysis of the 2019 Tour route will tell you that these 7 stages are a big celebration of what France has to offer the cycling world. With four mountain-top finishes to add to the drama (and sense of achievement), this is your opportunity to experience the show – and test your climbing legs.
The acheivement is then enjoyed for a second time as you watch the pros on TV the week after and they follow your tracks!
Note: Paris extensions will be available in your Rider Zone shop
Fri 12th July: Arrive to Tarbes hotel
Sun 21st July: Travel home from Lyon (at the end of stage 20, we will transfer to a hotel at Lyon airport)
Fri 12th July – Arrival to Tarbes
Sat 13th July. Stage 14: Tarbes – Tourmalet: 117km
It’s Tourmalet day! The Pyrenean monster has long dominated the Tour, and this year it gets a stage more-or-less to itself – though don’t underestimate the Col du Soulor, which we climb first, from its scenic northern side. It’s a little over half the length of the Tourmalet, but slightly steeper with the summit marking this stage’s half way point. We then have 20km of descent (wheeee!), followed by 19km of steady ascent, up the more beautiful western aspect of the Tourmalet for a summit finish. The climb averages 7.4% with just a couple of extra-steep bursts in the closing kms. This will feel really tough, and it’ll be no different a week later for the pros, even if they do manage it in half the time! The Tourmalet is the ‘oldest’ of all the Tour climbs, now appearing for the 87th time (although the times it has provided a summit finish can be counted on one hand). We’ll celebrate this mighty achievement with a night in a mountain hotel under the Pyrenean stars.
Sun 14th July. Stage 15: Limoux – Foix: 185km
The most challenging and very original stage of this Tour’s Pyrenean visit takes in almost 5,000 metres of ascent, via four categorised climbs. One third of the way in, at 60km, we have our first summit where we’ll be treated to the spectacular Cathar castle atop the Col de Montségur. The next third of the stage takes us to the Port de Lers at the 120km mark, which is the highest point of this stage at 1517m and is followed by a stunning lake just over the summit. It’s a sweeping 17km descent from there into the quirky little town of Massat, and immediately, without hesitation or hint of flat, it’s straight up the eye-wateringly steep Mur de Péguère. Cue legs of fire but smiles of joy and enough inspiration to fuel you on to the spectacular finale atop le Prat d’Albis, from which, on a clear day, we’ll be able to see much of what we’ve covered today.
Mon 15th July – rest day: Nîmes
Tue 16th July. Stage 16: Nîmes – Nîmes: 177km
This will be a super-scenic, gentle stage, showing off the finest features of the Gard department before doubling back for a second night in Nîmes (big treat!). This city is so full of ancient architecture that it’s known as “the most Roman city outside Italy”. And what surrounds it is pure Provence: expect sun-baked countryside, pretty stone villages, fruit markets and a flat, speedy finish. The stage never goes above 250m so this is one for for the pro sprinters to anticipate as they crawl through the Pyrenees: for us it’s a smile-making, holiday-feeling, Tour treat.
Wed 17th July. Stage 17: Pont du Gard – Gap: 206km
We’ll start the day from a Roman wonder, setting off from the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard, an aqueduct built as part of a 50km channel bringing water from the river Eure to the growing Roman population of Nimes. A gentle start (passing Orange’s amphitheatre and triumphal arch) belies the true nature of this stage because once we’ve crossed the Rhône, and skirted Vaison-la-Romaine’s ancient hilltop stronghold, we enter the hills and there’s no more pretending! For much of the day we’ll climb steadily up and east, climbing 800m over 60km, so while this is no mountain giant, your legs will feel it and the kilometres won’t be fast. This is all topped off with the very pretty Col de la Sentinelle and a short descent to Gap, marking the end of a delightful stage which, by crossing from Provence and the Rhone into the low Alps, is a beautiful stage in the Tour’s 2019 journey.
Thur 18th July. Stage 18: Embrun – Valloire: 207km
We’ll be heading into thin air on today’s ride, which takes us up above 2,000 metres on three separate occasions. First comes the 2,109m Col de Vars which is technically ‘only’ 9.3km but in reality the road climbs (very) gently for a full 50km before that! It’s a lovely road though, and a lovlier climb, followed by a great smooth descent into Guillestre. And so to the toughest and most spectacular climb of the day: the Col d’Izoard. We climb via the otherworldly Casse Deserte where you cannot but imagine the pros passing a week later. Tour history in the making! From here the Galibier takes us higher still (2642m to be precise), but mercifully via slightly kinder gradients, for which most of us will be grateful by then! The last 18km of the stage are a pedal-free downhill to Valloire where glory and high fives await.
Fri 19th July. Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Tignes: 123km
This is a relatively short mountain stage, but it still packs in plenty of climbing and will take most of us all day. The Col d’Iseran (at 85km) will be the high point of the whole Tour – and indeed, it’s the highest paved pass in Europe, at 2,764 metres. This is only the second time in Tour history that the peloton has climbed from it’s hardest (and most impressive) side – there are few places as dramatic and beautiful as this to ride one’s bike.
Before that we’ll already have gained 1,000 vertical metres via the Montée d’Aussois and Col de la Madeleine which will afford us Alpine views left and right and up and down! These mountain roads will be a feast for the eyes as we climb deeper into the Alps, finishing the day with another 8km climb to the ski resort at Tignes, itself over 2000m and a fabulous place to spend the night!
Sat 20th July. Stage 20: Albertville – Val Thorens: 131km
After a steady climb up the Doron Valley, we’ll ramp up towards the picturesque Roselend lake from Beaufort, slowing down to admire the isolated stone chapel on its northern shore which is all that remains of the village that was submerged when they built the dam in 1960. After negotiating the hair-raising descent from Cormet de Roselend, we’ll roll along the Isère Valley, before ascending the Côte de Longefoy. And then, after a sweeping descent, we have more than 30km of steady climbing, gaining over 1800m to get us up to Val Thorens for a summit finish. This climb is the last of the Tour so it’s a good thing it’s a big’un. As the temperature drops and you notice the landscape changing around you, you’ll be sure you’re ending the Alpine trilogy on a high!
Sun 21st July – depart from Lyon airport hotel
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Emily, Lead Cyclist says, “It will feel like you’ve ridden a lot of mountains (because there are a lot of mountains!) but it won’t completely kill you – the days in between under less pressure will ease you into the second challenge of the Alps.”
Sarah, Event Organiser says, “The pace of this week with a couple of shorter stages and a mega-stage in each mountain range is brilliant. 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 says, “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!!)”
Included in all Loops
- Accommodation (Mostly twin share. Single supplements are available to buy in January)
- 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!